Measuring change and impact

The human rights community has long been a laggard when it comes to the empirical measurement of progress and policy impact. Nearly 30 years after the UN’s development pillar began elaborating a ‘human development index,’ the human rights pillar has made only one small foray into this space: a long-forgotten OHCHR report (2012) on human rights indicators. As a consequence, very few States proactively gather human rights indicator data as a means of measuring their progress in the area of human rights. This, in turn, has negative implications for the credibility, visibility and authority of the international human rights system, and serves to accentuate the politicisation of human rights (because of a lack of empirical evidence as a basis for policymaking). The absence of effective human rights measurement also undermines the UN’s ability to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’ in the context of the SDGs, and its ability to identify emerging crises at an early stage and prevent conflict (human rights regression is an important early warning sign of impending crisis). Finally, the scientifically robust and independent assessment of global human rights trends, especially in addition to ‘human rights stories,’ could quickly capture the imagination of the media and the general public.

In 2020-2021, URG will work with the Human Rights Measurement Initiative to develop a user-friendly web-portal called ‘The state of the world human rights report,’ covering every country that has ever been a member of the Human Rights Council. For the first time ever, the portal will allow users to look at the real-world enjoyment of a wide range of human rights across over a hundred States – to track progress or backsliding. Crucially, this will make it possible (again for the first time) to attempt to answer the following question: is the global human rights situation getting better or worse? Once a year, URG will then publish key trends from the web portal, together with case studies ‘digging down’ to understand the stories behind key trends, in an annual (printed) ‘State of the world human rights report.’ This will be published each December and launched at events in Geneva and New York.

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