UN Global Human Rights Index proposed by Greens
New index to measure the human rights record of every country.
An incentive to improve human rights record and ranking.
London - 10 December 2008
On the 60th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, today Wednesday 10 December, the Green Party of England and Wales will unveil an ambitious new proposal to highlight governments that abuse human rights - a Global Human Rights Index.
The index has the backing of Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas MEP, and Green Party human rights spokesperson, Peter Tatchell.
The index concept is supported by the United Nations Association (UK) and eight international green and peace movement organisations.
"Our proposal makes the case for the UN to publish an annual Global Human Rights Index (GloHRI), detailing the human rights performance of each and every government on the planet, displayed in a league table form," says lead author, Dr Richard Lawson, who is the founder of the campaign for the Global Human Rights Index.
"This will enable the relative human rights standing and trends of each country to be seen at a glance. It would add pressure on the worst ranked countries to improve their human rights record and provide impetus for action against the most serious offenders by the International Criminal Court and other human rights bodies," he said.
Key excerpts from the Global Human Rights Index proposal are listed below.
The full document can be read here:
Fellow contributor to the index, Peter Tatchell, added:
"Using a points system, the GloHRI index would measure every country, based on its compliance with a check-list of 52 human rights norms, such as whether or not it has the death penalty, torture, detention without trial, freedom of the media, the right to protest, equal rights for women and minorities and so on.
"This simple, accessible index would enable objective comparisons between the human rights records of different countries, and permit the identification of whether each individual country's human rights record was, year-on-year, improving or deteriorating.
"Published annually by the UN, the index would document where each state upholds or violates human rights; providing an incentive for all nations to improve their human rights record and ranking," he said.
Dr Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, commented:
"I hope that I will live to see the United Nations adopt the Global Human Rights Index, which is an important step towards the long term goal of a global civilisation where human rights are universally respected, and state sponsored torture and killing is consigned to the dustbin of history where they belong".
Dr Lawson concludes:
"The majority of human civilisations gave up making sacrifices to the gods in the Iron Age. Tragically, in 2008 we are still torturing and killing our fellow human beings on the sacrificial altar of 'state security'. One day this barbaric practice will pass into history. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was an important step in that direction. We hope that the Global Human Rights Index will prove to be another such step," he said.
The Green Party's proposal sets out the human rights issues that would be covered by the index and how the index would work. It also examines other attempts to establish various related indexes, which demonstrate the practicality of the proposal.
The idea of a Global Human Rights Index is supported by the following organisations:
Green Party of England and Wales
United Nations Association - UK
World Congress of Global Green Parties
European Green Party
Global Action Plan to Prevent War
World Disarmament Campaign
Arms Reduction Coalition
Movement for the Abolition of War
Dr Richard Lawson - 01934 853 606 or 0774 786 5836
Global Human Rights Index
A proposed system for measuring and ranking each country's observance of internationally-agreed human rights
The next 60 years - Holding nations to account on human rights
Sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was drawn up, it is time for the United Nations (UN) to initiate new mechanisms to encourage member states to improve their human rights (HR) record.
The Green Party of England and Wales is proposing that the UN establish a Global Human Rights Index (GloHRI), which would measure and rank each country according to its conformity with international human rights standards.
Using an objective points system, GloHRI would measure every country, based on its compliance with a check-list of agreed human rights norms, such as whether or not it has the death penalty, detention without trial, freedom of the media, the right to protest, equal rights for women and minorities and so on.
This simple, accessible index would enable objective comparisons between the human rights records of different countries, and permit the identification of whether each individual country's human rights record was, year-on-year, improving or deteriorating.
Published annually, GloHRI would document where each state upholds or violates human rights; providing an incentive for all nations to improve their human rights record and ranking.
It would help identify the most serious human rights offenders meriting the most urgent prosecution, in accordance with international humanitarian law.
The Green Party offers this proposal for wider consultation, with a view to its future submission to the UN.
The Index of Human Rights
It is proposed that in order for the UN to move from a reactive to a proactive stance in human rights, authoritative and objective reports of countries' HR records should be analysed and codified into numerical data so that they can be published as a ranked table on an annual basis.
The effect will be that all interested citizens and governments can tell at a glance the relative standing of a country in which they are interested.
Purpose of the Index
Since most countries are conscious of their international image, and do not wish to be seen as human rights (HR) abusers and international pariahs, the expected effects of the Global Human Rights Index are as follows:
Immediate release of some prisoners: Some governments will appeal against their ratings. In response, the UN could send in inspectors to review the conditions in the country. Faced with an inspection, it is likely that some regimes will release some political prisoners and improve the conditions of others. In this way the Index will have a tangible, immediate benefit for a number of individual cases.
General improvement in Human Rights: There will be a general tendency towards improved human rights performance. Governments, even tyrannical ones, are sensitive to public opinion, as shown by the success of Amnesty International's letter writing campaigns for the release of political prisoners. There will be a natural desire by governments to want to rate more highly on the Index.
Transparency: The human rights trend of individual countries will be demonstrable and transparent, which will give an important early warning signal about which states are increasing their human rights violations and are therefore likely to be of concern in the future.
Consistency: The measurement and raking of human rights abuses will give clarity to all citizens and governments. At present, tyrants are dealt with in an arbitrary and ad hoc way by politicians, often through media manipulation. The unfair demonisation of a particular country will be less easy to accomplish if the Index can show that it far from being the worst offending state.
Assistance: Some governments may accept advice and assistance in improving their human rights performance, and hence their position on the Index.
Enforcement: Finally, when the Index is established, it could be used to bring specific legal action and targeted sanctions to bear on the very worst offenders. Once this has happened consistently and without bias or exception on a few occasions, regimes near the bottom of the Index, knowing that they might be next in line for prosecution, and may decide to improve their human right record and seek international support to this effect.
It is not claimed that the Index will once and for all abolish all HR abuses, but it will apply a useful and significant upward pressure on a universal and continuous basis.
Since the Index is designed to work continuously and systemically, the question arises as to how the international community should address the immediate political challenges specifically thrown up by oppressive dictators in specific unfolding events. An approach to this problem is outlined in Appendix 3.
Any regime occupying the lowest position on the Global Human Rights Index should expect a case to be prepared against it with a view to being brought to the International Criminal Court (following amendments to widen the remit of the ICC) or to other international legal bodies. If governments or individuals refused to attend, they could be tried in absentia. Throughout this process, punishment-and-reward leverage can be applied, perhaps with the message that if human rights abusers leave office voluntarily before coming to court, they can retire to exile in a comfortable place, and perhaps with the threat that if they are overthrown and arrested, they will be tried in person and may spend a long period in prison. There are a number of sanctions that can be taken against abusive regimes who refuse to co-operate, targeted specifically on the regime and its supporters, so that the sanctions will not harm the population at large.
Both the UN and NGOs have an excellent record of reacting to HR abuses worldwide, but there is an inexhaustible supply of such abuses to which they have to react. There is a need for an instrument that will exert a continuous, systemic and world-wide pressure for governments to improve their human rights performance. The Global Human Rights Index (GloHRI) fits the criteria for such an instrument, and we hope that the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will also mark the beginning of this pro-active approach.
Appendix 1 - Draft Global Human Rights Index Proposal
There are many different human rights that could form the basis of the Global Human Rights Index (GloHRI). At this stage, we do not intend to finalise which ones should be included. The list of 52 rights and freedoms below is offered as a guide to the potential basis on which the GloHRI would be calculated. It is drawn from the values, principles and articles of the UDHR and other national and international human rights laws. This draft list is open to amendments and additions.
The GloHRI would function to award the most points to countries with the best human rights record and the least points to countries with the worst human rights record. The idea is to reward with high scores the nations that most closely conform to good human rights practice.
To allow for the fact that human rights observance often involves degrees of compliance or non-compliance, we propose a points system, where varying points are awarded according to a nation's degree of adherence to the human right in question.
One option, for example, might be a five point system for each of the human rights in the GloHRI, such as the Right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief
- 4 points for no human rights violation, 3 points for rare violation, 2 points for moderate violation, 1 point for serious violation and 0 points for total violation.
While the awarding of points under this system may involve an element of subjective interpretation, overall any subjectivity is unlikely to affect a country's general ranking in the GloHRI. Moreover, every country would have a right to appeal against its ranking.
The above proposed points system is not set in stone. We would welcome suggested alternative methods for calculating the GloHRI.
The list of human rights below is not exhaustive, but a guide to the rights that could be potentially included in the GloHRI.
We are conscious that it does not include the human rights specified in Articles 22 to 28 of the UDHR - economic, social and cultural rights.
This omission is for two reasons: some of these rights are difficult to measure and some depend on the wealth and development of a country. To include them would unfairly weight the GloHRI against poorer developing countries that do not have the same financial resources as richer developed nations. The inclusion of the right to education would, for example, compare education provision in wealthy Sweden with impoverished Mozambique. This would be an unfair comparison because the low standard of literacy in Mozambique is not based on a wilful denial of the right to education but on the poverty of the country.
We are, of course, open to proposals as to how economic, social and cultural rights might be incorporated into the Index in a way that is not biased against poorer nations.
Draft suggestions - Human rights for inclusion in GloHRI
Right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief
Right to free association and freedom of assembly
Right to freedom of speech - to hold an opinion and express it
Right of people detained or penalised to know the reasons
Right to be tried before a free and independent judiciary
Right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
Right to a fair and open trial, including independent legal representation
Right of independent appeal against any state decision or sentence by a court
Right to peaceful protest
Right to establish political parties and for these parties to participate in elections
Right to vote in regular multi-party elections with universal suffrage and a secret ballot
Right to stand for election, without discrimination
Right to form civic, self-help, campaign and voluntary organisations
Right to choice of employment - no slavery, bonded or child labour
Right to equal pay for work of equal value
Right to form and belong to an independent trade union
Right to strike and to take other industrial action
Right to own property and to not be arbitrarily deprived of it
Right to asylum for people fleeing persecution
Right to inter-racial, inter-religious, same-sex and civil marriage
Right to same-sex relations between consenting adults in private
Right to contraception and contraceptive advice
Right to conscientious objection to military service
Freedom from the death penalty or extra-judicial killing
Freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
Freedom from arrest without charge and detention without trial
Freedom from the deprivation of nationality and freedom to change nationality
Freedom of travel within one's country,
Freedom to travel abroad and to return to one's country
Freedom from state surveillance of law-abiding citizens
Freedom from political censorship
Freedom for independent media and publishing houses
Freedom of access to government information
Freedom from forced marriage
Freedom from female genital mutilation
Freedom from required membership of a political party, to secure jobs, housing etc.
Freedom to educate and publish in minority languages
Freedom to monitor, document and campaign against human rights abuses
No legal discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity or nationality
No legal discrimination on the grounds of language
No legal discrimination on the grounds of gender
No legal discrimination on the grounds of birth in or out of wedlock
No legal discrimination on the grounds of marital status
No legal discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief
No legal discrimination on the grounds of age
No legal discrimination on the grounds of disability
No legal discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity
No legal discrimination on the grounds of social or cultural origin
No legal discrimination between men and women in marriage or divorce
No legal discrimination in the provision of housing, employment, health care, education and social security
Protection in law against discrimination on the grounds of race, language, national or social origin, gender, marital status, birth in or out of wedlock, age, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.
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