Measuring human rights

Strive: Toward a more just, sustainable future

27-09-2022 • 32 min

Welcome to Strive podcast, where we chat with new voices about fresh ideas to create a more just and sustainable world. My name is Marty Logan.

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Today we’re learning about what I think is a fantastic new tool for holding governments accountable to their human rights obligations. Actually the Human Rights Measurement Initiative is six years old, so it’s not brand new, but it was a revelation to me when I came across it recently.

What I like is how the Initiative’s Rights Tracker assigns a score to a government’s record on a specific right, let’s say the right to education, based on how other countries with roughly the same level of resources have performed. As a journalist I still believe in the naming and shaming approach but as today’s guest, Stephen Bagwell of the Initiative, and the University of Missouri, St Louis, says, too often governments respond to reports of rights violations by dismissing them as exaggerated or made up. It is much harder to brush off HRMI’s scores, which are largely data-based.

I also like a comparison Stephen uses to explain why human rights should be measured: the Sustainable Development Goals. There are all sorts of updates on progress toward the 2030 SDGs deadline, when in fact governments are not legally obliged to attain the goals. But hundreds of countries have ratified the various human rights instruments, like the Convention on the Rights of the Child or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — yet no one was systematically tracking their progress on meeting those obligations.

One note on abbreviations you’ll hear in today’s episode: ICCPR is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, noted above, and the ICESCR is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Both are bedrock human rights documents. The former is considered law in 173 countries and the ICESCR in 171 countries.


Human Rights Measurement Initiative

Nepal page on HRMI's Rights Tracker

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