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The Rights Track Sound evidence on human rights

Are we better at human rights than we used to be?


In this Episode of the Rights Track and on International Human Rights Day, Todd asks Professor Chris Fariss of Pennsylvania State University about the methods he uses to look at the human rights performance of countries around the world and whether over time we have become better at practising and upholding people’s human rights.

0.00-5.00 mins they discuss whether:

  • the way we measure the human rights performance of different countries has improved in recent years
  • there is more information available on people’s lived experiences of human rights abuses
  • our increased awareness of human rights problems has led to increased condemnation of countries
  • our expectations of how a country will behave are higher than they used to be

05:00-13:02 mins is a discussion of Chris’ research, specifically Respect for human rights has improved over time: modelling the changing standard of accountability. This part of the episode includes:

  • an explanation of ‘changing standard of accountability’
  • the data Chris used and the model he created to account for how the quality of his source information might change
  • mention of the Political Terror Scale
  • The Cingranelli and Richards Human Rights Data Project
  • an explanation of Item Response Theory
  • an explanation of how the model Chris developed works to measure the human rights performance of countries more scientifically

13:03-22.20 mins Todd and Chris discuss:

  • the availability of the data
  • getting students/coders to work with the data
  • dealing with possible bias in data
  • how Chris is taking his research further by updating the data, using new sources of information and applying it to different types of human rights abuse including Civil rights abuses
  • our perspectives of human rights abuses over time compared with what the evidence tells us - do events like the Paris attacks and Syria influence our perspective and make us think that human rights are less protected than before
  • the importance of putting events like these into context systematically
  • what Chris’ research tells us about what’s really happening with human rights over time

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