Data Reveal Human Rights Ratings for Governments Around the Globe

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CIRI Human Rights Data Project measures government respect for human rights including physical integrity rights, civil rights and liberties, workers’ rights, and women’s rights. New data released Human Rights Day 2011.
The CIRI dataset provides highly-regarded quantitative indicators on the state of human rights worldwide.

Year after year, the findings of the CIRI Human Rights Data Project have been used by a wide range of governments and global development agencies, including the United Nations, The World Bank, and USAID to make informed decisions. It has also helped guide grassroots efforts to demonstrate how individuals can become agents of change.

Today – Human Rights Day - CIRI (pronounced sear-ree) directors Dr. David L. Richards at the University of Connecticut and Dr. David L. Cingranelli at SUNY Binghamton released their annual ratings of government respect for human rights in nearly every country in the world, showing which countries had the best – and worst – records in 2010, as well as trends in respect for human rights over time since 1981.

The CIRI data are an input to the widely-used Worldwide Governance Indicators produced by researchers at the World Bank and the Brookings Institution. The CIRI data are combined with information from 30 other global sources to measure six broad dimensions of governance, including Voice and Accountability, and Rule of Law.

"The CIRI dataset provides highly-regarded quantitative indicators on the state of human rights worldwide. For well over a decade they have been a valuable input to the Worldwide Governance Indicators,” said Daniel Kaufmann of the Brookings Institution and coauthor of the Worldwide Governance Indicators.

The project provides measures of several types of internationally-recognized human rights, including:
Physical integrity rights: The rights not to be tortured, extra-judicially killed, disappeared, or imprisoned for political beliefs.
Civil rights and liberties: The rights to free speech, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of domestic movement, freedom of international movement freedom of religion, and to participate in free and fair elections for the selection of government leaders.
Workers’ rights such as the right to bargain collectively.
Women’s rights to legal protection and equal treatment, politically and economically.

Top 13 Countries:
[score out of a possible 30 points]

Denmark [30]
Iceland [30]
Austria [29]
New Zealand [29]
Norway [29]
Australia [28]
Belgium [28]
Finland [28]
Liechtenstein [28]
Luxembourg [28]
Netherlands [28]
San Marino [28]
Sweden [28]

Bottom 10 Countries:
[score out of a possible 30 points]

Congo, Democratic Republic of [5]
Nigeria    [5]
Saudi Arabia [4]
China [3]
Korea, Democratic People's Republic of [3]
Yemen [3]
Zimbabwe [3]
Burma [2]
Eritrea [2]
Iran [2]

Globally, 2010 saw a reversal of some gains in respect for physical integrity rights made in 2009. This result was driven by an increased use of torture in 2010 over 2009. For example, in 2010 the use of torture increased in seventeen countries, while only eight countries saw a decrease.

“The decline of respect for this physical integrity right, globally, actually began in the early 1980s, not just post-9/11,” Richards said. “The continent of Africa has experienced the greatest increase in the use of torture, since 1981, followed by Asia.”

Imprisonment for political beliefs, however, has decreased over the years; this is particularly true for Latin America.

“One important thing to keep in mind is that the fight to attain full government respect for all human rights is never-ending – a score of full respect for a right this year does not mean that full respect will necessarily continue or threats to respect for that right will not arise in the following year,” said Richards. “Likewise, a bad score, even if persistent over time, does not imply that better respect is impossible. Knowing those countries with the worst human rights records is indeed to know where the most work is to be done.”

Ethical Consumer Research Association uses the CIRI data, alongside other sources, to rank countries on human rights and generate a list of oppressive regimes, which feeds into their research regarding Corporate Social Responsibility.

“The CIRI Human Rights Data project is a vital and unique resource,” said Leonie Nimmo, writer and research manager for Ethical Consumer Research Association. “In addition to the utility of its data, CIRI's robust research and transparent methodology positions the project as a truly ground-breaking initiative.”

“CIRI’s goal is for our data to provide governments, global development agencies, businesses, nonprofits and individuals with reliable annual information helpful for making informed decisions towards doing their part in the fight to attain human dignity worldwide,” Richards said. “We encourage everyone reading this material to share this news to raise awareness and take action.”

The CIRI project was created in 2004 to provide data for the research of the project directors and others who conduct quantitative studies of government human rights practices. Its data now are also widely used by governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, think-tanks, and private businesses. CIRI requires users to register in order to access the data, but the data are freely available upon registration. CIRI has more than 10,500 registered members.


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Jessica Lyon