Advancing Human Rights in the Age of Data

In honor of Human Rights Day on December 10th, this blog features some important developments in the field of human rights. Measuring human rights allows us to assess progress, effect change, and improve human rights worldwide. What does the advent of new technologies mean for the observance of human rights? Does more data lead to a greater respect for human rights?

“Due to technological advances, it’s becoming easier to get more data on human rights, including from rightsholders directly.  And the increase in supply chain regulations and push for ESG reporting create more demand for more data,” says Shawn MacDonald, the Executive Director of Verite. “Yet, more data does not automatically lead to better decisions or significantly changed supply chain practices.  We need more data about verifiably improved worker conditions and not just more data about risks that have been known for many years.”

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Anne-Marie Brook, the Founder of the Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HMRI). Based in New Zealand, HRMI is pioneering in several areas of human rights with important lessons for leaders around the world, including the private sector.

HRMI is the first global initiative to track the human rights performance of countries. HRMI produces data on human rights through its tool Rights Tracker which is available for free. Rights Tracker provides data on five economic and social rights for 199 countries. In addition, HRMI provides data on eight civil and political rights for 41 countries. Founded in 2016, HRMI convenes human rights experts and defenders, researchers, and academics to create data and data visualization tools to understand the human rights constellation in countries and regions. While it is not an activist organization directly, HRMI produces tools which are indispensable to activists.  

One of HRMI’s pioneering elements is their use of ambassadors from different countries to provide assessments of human rights from different perspectives. This gives voice to a wide range of people whose perspectives may not have been integrated into data before.

How does HRMI address the needs of vulnerable populations? HRMI addresses the needs of 39 groups of people who most often suffer abuses of human rights, including, women and girls, children, indigenous people, LGBTQI+ people, journalists, older people, human rights advocates, and the disabled, to name a few.

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