Human Rights Indicators in the Context of the European Union

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Starl, Klaus
Apostolovski, Veronika
Meier, Isabella
Möstl, Markus
Vivona, Maddalena
Kulmer, Alexandra
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Human rights indicators are an essential instrument for planning, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of human rights protection and promotion. On the international, regional, national and local levels, numerous mechanisms for measuring human rights have been developed; some of them were already applied in practice with varying degrees of success, while others remained theoretical attempts. Such mechanisms usually resort to qualitative and/or quantitative indicators to measure the current state and/or progress of particular human rights or assess the impacts of policies/measures in a defined geographical area within a given time-frame. The aim of this study is to critically assess and analyse existing human rights indicators systems, and identify their objectives, target audience and methodology. This is done in order to formulate objectives for human rights indicators to be used in the European Union’s human rights (internal and external) policies. Up until now, several EU institutions have taken initiatives to measure human rights or have at least underlined the necessity to do so. Human rights measurements may indeed be utilised by the EU to ground its policies on a solid base of evidence and further help backing EU actions with increased legitimacy. When identifying meaningful and applicable mechanisms to measure human rights, the EU may well build on the existing work on human rights indicators. However, a comparison of the EU’s attempts to develop human rights indicators reveals considerable discrepancies in the approaches taken. These differences are often closely linked with the specific purposes and objectives of the producers and users of human rights indicators. This study starts with an analysis of the current application of human rights indicators in the European Union’s internal and external action, their legal and political framework, as well as their rationale. It further assesses, through qualitative fieldwork research, the needs of key European stakeholders towards a human rights indicator system. An extensive mapping of various mechanisms for measuring human rights was done. The mapping results encompass instruments produced by a variety of actors, based on different rationales, data sources and with different areas of application. The focus has been put on those mechanisms which are developed and applied by the organisations mentioned in respective EU documents, i.e. the UN institutions and the Council of Europe. In order to find out if those mechanisms are suitable for further adaption and use by the EU, their intrinsic quality has been evaluated first. This was then finally matched with the requirements of EU bodies. The selection criteria do primarily reflect relevance, appropriateness and reliability. Therefore, established quality criteria for the identification of human rights indicators are key for the selection. Additionally, pragmatic criteria such as being already used in practice, taking into account data availability and user- friendliness are considered. Due to the variety of purposes of human rights measurement, the range of requirements that should be measured demand a comparative, but also differentiated analysis. The methodology needs to be consistent and broadly accepted. Flexible frequency of application must be ensured. The instruments need to enable the proof of causality between measure and impact. The report concludes with the selection of the structure-process-outcome model by the OHCHR. This model is designed to measure the extent to which human rights dimensions respect, protect, fulfil and promote human rights standards in any given environment. As a human rights indicator model it does fulfil all of the mentioned criteria. In order to give EU stakeholders a pragmatic tool at hand for their daily work, it is proposed that an easy to access ‘instant information tool’, i.e. an information database on compliance including a compilation of existing indicators and related data sets, should be developed.