The Taming of the Shrill: From Indicators to Indicatorization

The Norm-Generation and Political Effects of Indicators on Human Rights

In: International Organizations Law Review

This article addresses the specific norm-generation function of indicators in a human rights context, focusing on ways that indicators foreground and legitimize as ‘truth’ particular worldviews or values. It describes the stakes of this process through elaborating on the concept of ‘indicatorization’, focusing on one moment in which the relationship between human rights and development was defined through indicators: the indicatorization of the Right to Development by a un High Level Task Force in 2010. In this initiative, different perspectives on human rights, equality, participation and development from within the un and the World Bank were brought together. This resulted in a subtle but significant re-articulation of ideas contained in the 1986 un Declaration on the Right to Development. The article argues that how indicatorization happens, matters, and has important implications for the potential role of human rights discourse within international economic relations.

  • 31

    Salomon, supra note 27, pp. 31–54. See also Sundhya Pahuja, Decolonising International Law: Development, Economic Growth and the Politics of Universality (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011).

  • 38

    Salomon, supra note 27, p. 52.

  • 43

    In 2004, the Working Group initially requested the Task Force to examine the obstacles and challenges to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, modified in 2005 to focus on Millennium Development Goal 8 — on a global partnership for development — and to suggest criteria for its periodic evaluation with the aim of improving the effectiveness of global partnerships with regard to the realization of the right to development: Marks, supra note 18, p. 6.

  • 44

    World Bank, supra note 2, p. 2. Elsewhere, in several sections, it asserts that ‘greater equity can, over the long term, underpin faster growth’: ibid., pp. 17, 70.

  • 50

    Salomon & Arnott, supra note 6.

  • 53

    World Bank, supra note 2, p. 28.

  • 62

    World Bank, supra note 2, pp. 206–207.

  • 75

    Commission on Human Rights, ‘Review of Progress in the Promotion and Implementation of the Right to Development: Consideration of the Report of the High-Level Task Force on the Implementation of the Right to Development’. Report of the High-Level Task Force on the Implementation of the Right to Development, (24 January 2005), un Doc. e/cn.4/2005/wg.18/2, para. 31 (emphasis added).

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