Measuring Human Rights
Claims of unjust treatment and demands for policy reform are increasingly being couched in the language of human rights. In order to define human rights more precisely, various efforts are under way to create measurements, or human rights indicators. Creating these instruments for measuring human rights is not just a technical exercise: indicators have long played important roles in social policy evaluation and are central to turning human rights concepts into useful policy tools. To assess human rights effectively, however, indicators must hold the state accountable for its policies, help to guide and improve policy, and be sensitive to local contexts without sacrificing the commitment to the universality of rights. Can indicators be developed to do this? The answer will largely determine the success of human rights claims in moving beyond rhetoric and changing real social and political conditions.