This post was written by Anita Gohdes, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Department of Political Science at the University of Zurich. Since 2009, she has been a consultant for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). Find her on Twitter @ARGohdes.
Measuring human rights is hard. In many cases, perpetrators have an incentive to cover up their repressive actions, for example when they want to evade accountability. Comparison across different countries, cultures, regions, and time periods is challenging and brings with all kinds of issues regarding representativeness, completeness, and bias.
There is a lively and ongoing debate in the social sciences surrounding what constitutes a good measure of human rights, what certain measures can and cannot tell us, and how data and methodological innovations can help us achieve a better understanding of human rights standards and practices across the world.
This reading list offers an introduction for those interested in exploring these debates. This reading list is far from comprehensive, and heavily biased towards measuring physical integrity rights violations from a political science perspective – but it’s a start.
I divided the readings up into short blog posts that stuck with me, useful books I’ve consulted across the years, and some useful articles on debates human rights surrounding measures and measures of conflict violence.
I am sure I have left out many important references – so feel free to email research[at]theengineroom.org with your additions!
Selected blog posts (on both human rights and conflict statistics)
- Amelia Hoover Green: Violence data: what practitioners need to know
- Will H. Moore: Quantitative data in human rights: what do the numbers really mean?
- Megan Price and Anita Gohdes: Searching for Trends: Analyzing Patterns in Conflict Violence Data
- Zara Rahman: Recognising uncertainty in statistics
- Jay Ulfelder: The Fog of War Is Patchy
- Todd Landman and Edzia Carvalho (2009) Measuring Human Rights
- Andreas, Peter, and Kelly M. Greenhill (eds) (2011) Sex, drugs, and body counts: The politics of numbers in global crime and conflict.
- Asher, Jana, David L. Banks, and Fritz Scheuren (2008) Statistical methods for human rights.
- Jabine, Thomas B. and Richard P. Claude (eds) (1992) Human rights and statistics: getting the record straight.
- Taylor B. Seybolt, Jay D. Aronson, and Baruch Fischhoff (eds) (2013) Counting civilian casualties
- Sally Engle Merry (2016) The Seduction of Quantification
Discussion of Standards-based Human Rights Data
- Steven C. Poe, Sabine C. Carey, Tanya C. Vazquez (2001): How are These Pictures Different? A Quantitative Comparison of the US State Department and Amnesty International Human Rights Reports, 1976–1995
- Christopher J. Fariss (2014): Respect for Human Rights has Improved Over Time: Modeling the Changing Standard of Accountability
- Keith E. Schnakenberg and Christopher J. Fariss (2014) Dynamic Patterns of Human Rights Practices.
- Ann Marie Clark, Kathryn Sikkink (2013) Information Effects and Human Rights Data: Is the Good News about Increased Human Rights Information Bad News for Human Rights Measures? [response by David Richards], [response by Clark and Sikkink]
- Maria Green (2001) What We Talk About When We Talk About Indicators: Current Approaches to Human Rights Measurement
- Kenneth A Bollen (1986) Political Rights and Political Liberties in Nations: An Evaluation of Human Rights Measures, 1950 to 1984
- Todd Landman (2004) Measuring Human Rights: Principle, Practice and Policy
- Jon Ring and Mark Nieman (2015) The construction of human rights: accounting for systematic bias in common human rights measures
- Christian Davenport and Patrick Ball (2002): Views to a Kill: Exploring the implications of source selection in the case of Guatemalan State Terror, 1977-1995
- Nils B. Weidmann (2015) On the accuracy of media-based conflict event data, and (2015) A closer look at reporting bias in conflict event data
- Megan Price and Patrick Ball (2015) The Limits of Observation for Understanding Mass Violence, and (2015) Selection bias and the statistical patterns of mortality in conflict, and (2014) Big Data, Selection Bias, and the Statistical Patterns of Mortality in Conflict
- Idean Salehyan (2015) Best practices in the collection of conflict data
- Françoise Roth, Tamy Guberek, and Amelia Hoover Green. “Using Quantitative Data to Assess Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Colombia: Challenges and Opportunities.”
- Anita Gohdes (2010) Different Convenience Samples, Different Stories:
The case of Sierra Leone
- Oliver, Pamela E., and Daniel J. Myers (1999) How events enter the public sphere: Conflict, location, and sponsorship in local newspaper coverage of public events
Law and Human Rights Measures
- Margaret L. Satterthwaite (2016) Coding personal integrity rights: assessing standards-based measures against human rights law