Report on the results of policy benchmarking
Tuvionen, Anna Kasia
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This report studies the practice of ‘policy benchmarking’ as an instrument to translate the EU’s human rights commitment into practice. Policy benchmarking is a relatively new tool to monitor processes and to assess the situation against continuously improving best practice worldwide or regional on an ongoing basis. Its effective use requires close consultation and joint work with all stakeholders involved in human rights policies and relies heavily on the use of empirical data to assess progress. It serves to assess not just well or poorly performing countries, institutions or policies compared with their counterparts, but also the factors that determine progress in achieving the protection of human rights. Benchmarking is based on the idea of centrally monitored ‘local’ performance, and the assumption is that it implies a number of elements: (i) A central monitoring agency pools information on performance and makes it available to others. (ii) This data is used to periodically reformulate and progressively refine minimum performance standards, desirable targets and preferred means to achieve them. (iii) Through constantly monitoring and evaluating performance, the model is assumed to constantly improve performance and generate learning benefits. The assumption goes as well that benchmarking can be a promising avenue for promoting human rights in a number of contexts, and this report aims to analyze the conditions for successful benchmarking policies in relation to human rights, to review a number of initiatives which have been taken by the EU to that effect, and to engage in a prospective exercise of how the EU could set up innovative benchmarking policies. The argument develops as follows. Section II presents benchmarking in general, its definition, its added value, but also the associated challenges of putting in place benchmarking policies. Section III reviews the EU history of benchmarking, focusing on the so-called ‘open method of coordination’ and related instances of experimentalist governance, and on a critical examination of past EU initiatives towards benchmarking human rights in the fields of forest management, business regulation, enlargement and trade. This section finds that, although the EU intends to rely on policy benchmarking in a number of fields, its attempts have so far suffered from a number of flaws. Section IV, on the basis of seven examples of human rights promotion initiatives by local and regional authorities (LRAs), positively assesses the potential for the EU to benchmark these initiatives so as to enhance the potential and effectiveness of LRAs in protecting and promoting human rights.