There is growing interest in the application of quantitative methods and indicators as a basis for evaluating compliance with human rights standards. This article contributes to the emerging body of literature in this area by examining how quantitative methods and indicators are being applied as a basis for evaluating human rights compliance in England, Scotland and Wales. Using the Human Rights Measurement Framework (HRMF) as an entry-point I illustrate how quantitative methods and indicators can be systematically combined with qualitative information and case law analysis in order to build up a comprehensive information base for evaluating human rights. The limitations of quantification are also discussed. I suggest that quantitative evidence should often be regarded as a partial rather than a complete information base for human rights evaluation and judgement.
Over the past 60 years, the global community has developed an increasingly comprehensive framework of international agreements to protect human rights around the world. Every UN member state is a signatory to at least one of the major human rights treaties,1AF Bayefsky, The UN Human Rights Treaty System: Universality at the Crossroads (Report) (Transnational publishers 2001). and has therefore agreed to report on their compliance with the obligations the treaty contains. However, much remains to be done when it comes to ensuring national compliance and accountability with international human rights instruments. If the first decades after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) were characterised by an emphasis on constructing a legal and normative framework for human rights, more recently the focus has shifted to implementation of this framework and the question of how to ensure government compliance with ratified human rights conventions.2P Alston, ‘Towards a Human Rights Accountability Index’ (2000) 1 Journal of Human Development 249.
Countries that ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR, commit to utilise the ‘maximum of [their] available resources with a view to achieving progressively the full realization’ (art 2) of the economic and social rights enumerated in the Covenant. The Social and Economic Rights Fulfillment Index, SERF Index developed by Randolph, Fukuda-Parr and Lawson-Remer (Fukuda-Parr et al 2009, Randolph et al 2010) utilises a unique methodology that benchmarks a country’s level of obligation by rigorously mapping what is feasible to achieve using best practice for countries with different resource capacities. This paper adapts the SERF Index to track countries’ progress over the past several decades in meeting this commitment. The analysis shows there has been an overall improvement in the extent to which countries are fulfilling their economic and social rights commitments, albeit with setbacks for many countries. This paper then addresses the question of whether countries face a trade-off between fulfilling economic and social rights today and stimulating per capita income growth and accordingly, their capacity to fulfil economic and social rights in the future. Our results show that there is considerable compatibility between fulfilling economic and social rights and promoting economic growth.
Significant progress has been made over the last two decades in clarifying the normative content of article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and this has been followed by the development of new methodologies seeking to monitor state compliance with economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) obligations. New tools and techniques that adapt both quantitative and qualitative approaches have started to give operational meaning to complex concepts such as “progressive realisation” and “maximum available resources”, making it possible to translate these concepts into measurable standards against which to judge the adequacy of actions taken by states.
In this article, we briefly analyse the range of new methodologies which have been developed to monitor the positive obligation to fulfil ESCR. We argue that each methodology has strengths in measuring a distinct aspect of the obligation but, as yet, no single methodology provides an overall picture of compliance. We suggest then that a more holistic approach be adopted that combines a range of methodologies and tools—both quantitative and qualitative—to address the multidimensional factors affecting the fulfilment of ESCR and to help gather the evidence to demonstrate how poor human rights outcomes (a failure to meet an obligation of result) may be linked to deficiencies in social and economic policies and programs (a failure to meet an obligation to conduct). In order to combine these different methodologies in a systematic way, this article also discusses how one approach—the OPERA framework developed by the Center for Economic and Social Rights—provides an overarching analytical framework within which multiple tools and techniques can be eclectically integrated to allow for a more holistic assessment of states’ compliance with their obligation to fulfil ESCR. The ultimate aim of this approach is to hold states to account for their obligations to fulfil ESCR by combining the strengths of a broad range of new methodologies; quantitative and qualitative.
The sole reference to sexual and reproductive health in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is in MDG 5, which relates to improvement in maternal health. A great deal of attention has been focused upon measuring achievement of this goal, which called for a 75% reduction in maternal mortality ratios from 1990 by the year 2015. Although no scenario suggests that MDG 5 will have been reached by 2015, a number of new comprehensive estimation exercises have shown varying calculations. We fully concur with the need to systematically assess progress on maternal health in order to hold governments and other actors accountable. However, in this article, we agree with others that it was inappropriate for the MDGs to become national planning targets and argue that in the case of MDG 5, this elision was exacerbated by the principal indicator chosen: maternal mortality ratios (MMRs). Second, we explain why MMRs are inappropriate indicators to measure national progress from a human rights perspective and, in turn, set out criteria derived from human rights principles to apply in selecting indicators to measure maternal mortality, and provide the example of process indicators related to emergency obstetric care. Third, we go on to note that the debate about measuring maternal mortality in the context of the MDGs has in many ways displaced the larger and more important political debate, highlighted at the Cairo Conference in 1994, about what societal reforms are required to advance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Finally, we argue that real progress on women’s health and rights pre- and post-2015 requires reopening that debate, and we call for engagement by the SRHR communities in this process.
Nearly all written constitutions in the developing world contain one or more economic and social rights. However, some rights are more commonly enshrined than others, and there is wide variation in terms of whether such rights are identified as justiciable – enforceable in a court of law – or merely aspirational. The most interesting variations occur along three dimensions: time, region, and legal tradition. Most constitutions are new, and the contemporary constitutional model affords greater standing to economic and social rights than the previous post-War model. There are significant regional differences in the relative prevalence of such rights, and some regions exhibit a clear regional norm with respect to economic and social rights. Finally, the constitutions of common law countries are significantly less likely to include economic and social rights, and to identify them as justiciable, than those of civil law countries. This article reports some of the initial findings of a new dataset measuring the constitutional entrenchment of economic and social rights.