Human Rights Indicators across Institutional Regimes

In: International Organizations Law Review

This paper aims to investigate what human rights indicators are, and what role they play within international organizations. In particular, this paper argues that human rights indicators, far from having similar structures and posing similar problems, are created and live within frameworks, through processes, and for purposes that might significantly diverge from indicator to indicator. The central claim is that the pluralism underlying the world of human rights indicators reflects, among other things, the variable structures, objectives and modes of operation of the international organizations inhabiting that world. This paper thus explores how the massive production and extensive use of human rights indicators in recent years has not only been influenced by, but has also shaped, the missions, internal structures and operational practices of the international organizations that produce and use them.

  • 10

    Bodin, supra note 9, p. vii.

  • 14

    De Beco, supra note 9, p. 25.

  • 23

    McInerney-Lankford and Sano, supra note 19, pp. 1, 14, 18–21; Rosga and Satterthwaite, supra note 2, p. 257; A.-M. Fröberg and M. Scheinin, ‘Report of Turku Expert Meeting on Human Rights Indicators’ (2005) p. 1, available at: ; R. Malhotra and N. Fasel, ‘Quantitative Human Rights Indicators – A Survey of Major Initiatives’ (2005), p. 1, note 3, available at: .

  • 25

    Davis, Kingsbury, Merry, supra note 9, p. 10; S. Kalantry, J. E. Getgen and S. Arrigg Koh, ‘Enhancing Enforcement of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Using Indicators: A Focus on the Right to Education in the icescr’ (2010) 32 Human Rights Quarterly p. 253, at p. 289; M. Ignatieff and K. Desormeau, ‘Measurement and Human Rights: Introduction’ in Carr Center (ed.), supra note 22, pp. 3–4.

  • 29

    Merry, supra note 6, p. 88; Rosga and Satterthwaite, supra note 2, p. 302.

  • 30

    Merry, supra note 6, pp. 83–95; see also the contributions of R. Urueña, C. Stone, A. Rosga and M. L. Satterwaithe, A. T. Gallagher and J. Chuang, M. Zaloznaya and J. Hagan in Davis et al., supra note 5.

  • 31

    Ignatieff and Desormeau, supra note 25, p. 3; Barsh, supra note 9, pp. 100–102.

  • 34

    Rosga and Satterthwaite, supra note 2, pp. 285–286.

  • 36

    Merry, supra note 6, p. 11.

  • 40

    Merry, supra note 6, p. 86. Phenomena of such a mimetism are far from unusual in the global world: see B. Kingsbury, N. Krisch, R. B. Stewart, ‘The Emergence of Global Administrative Law’ (2005) 68 Law & Contemporary Problems pp. 15–61.

  • 44

    Malhotra and Fasel, supra note 23, p. 2; Fröberg and Scheinin, supra note 23, p. 2; more recently, ohchr Human Rights Indicators Guide, supra note 12, p. 16; un System Task Team on the Post-2015 un Development Agenda, Statistics and Indicators for the Post-2015 Development Agenda (2013), pp. 34–35, available at: .

  • 45

    Malhotra and Fasel, supra note 23, p. 2.

  • 53

    Rosga and Satterthwaite, supra note 2, pp. 280–281; Fukuda Parr, Lawson-Remer, Randolph, supra note 50, p. 1; Welling, supra note 19, pp. 941, 945.

  • 55

    Halliday, supra note 5, pp. 210–1 (on international financial institutions); Restrepo Amariles, supra note 6, pp. 11–14 (advocating a ‘legal pluralistic’ approach to global indicators); see also G. A. Sarfaty, ‘Why Culture Matters in International Institutions: The Marginality of Human Rights at the World Bank’ (2009) 103 American Journal of International Law p. 647, at pp. 667–676 (on the World Bank’s many organizational sub-cultures).

  • 56

    Merry, supra note 6, p. 88.

  • 58

    Davis, Kingsbury, Merry, supra note 6, pp. 3 et seq.

  • 59

    Rosga and Satterthwaite, supra note 2, pp. 280–281; Merry, supra note 6, p. 88; Carr Center, supra note 22, pp. 25, 26; Welling, supra note 19, pp. 937, 957.

  • 60

    Merry, supra note 6, p. 88; Rosga and Satterthwaite, supra note 2, pp. 280–281.

  • 62

    High-Level Task Force, supra note 61, p. 8.

  • 63

    Media Development Indicators, supra note 42, p. 7.

  • 64

    Mendel, supra note 54, p. 3.

  • 81

    Mendel, supra note 54, p. 1.

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