Data and human rights

What sources and methods? How reliable and helpful?

The global human rights community has access to more data, from a wider range of sources, than ever before. However, it is not always clear how reliable and helpful these data are, and how to best use them in human rights work. In this series, OpenGlobalRights authors explore the types, sources and uses of human rights data. To obtain the fullest possible picture, we recommend reading articles in other openGlobalRights series, including, public opinion and human rightsevaluation and impact assessment in human rights, social science experiments and more.


Better data can counteract soft repression

August 16, 2018
By: Katrin Kinzelbach & Janika Spannagel
Español | Français

Changing the way we document human rights abuses—such as paying more attention to soft repression—could ...

Advocacy, meet academia: connecting disciplines to improve human rights research

August 9, 2018
By: Molly Land & Theresa Harris

Human rights researchers are seeking new ways to establish facts, creating new opportunities for collaboration ...

Measuring what matters: a new database to track human rights performance

April 3, 2018
By: Anne-Marie Brook & K. Chad Clay & Susan Randolph

The launch of the Human Rights Measurement Initiative dataset promises to provide comprehensive overviews ...

Community participation in the face of gatekeeping: lessons from Kenya

March 1, 2018
By: Collins Liko

Cartels in Kenya are controlling public resources and access to information, but community mobilization ...

Collecting, preserving, and verifying online evidence of human rights violations

January 30, 2018
By: Enrique Piracés

The amount of digital information available online presents human rights practitioners with a valuable ...

Methodological choices in human rights research are political, not just technical

December 21, 2017
By: Allison Corkery 
Español | العربية

The methods human rights researchers and advocates use determine what injustices we see and prioritize, ...

Scientists and activists collaborate to bring hard data into advocacy

November 21, 2017
By: César Rodríguez-Garavito

A new collaboration in Colombia is bringing together activists, scientists, physicians and other experts ...

Measuring globally, surveying locally: A new global effort to measure civil and political rights

September 18, 2017
By: K. Chad Clay

Help nominate countries for a pilot study aiming to produce cross-national human rights data on a comprehensive ...

To strengthen digital security for human rights defenders, behavior matters

May 9, 2017
By: Michael Caster
简体中文 | Español

When approaching digital security for human rights defenders in hostile environments, we need to think ...

Discrimination in action: the value of experiments in human rights

May 5, 2017
By: Ana Bracic

A video game experiment in Slovenia reveals discriminatory practices against the Roma—what else might ...

The human rights lab: using experiments to craft effective messaging

May 3, 2017
By: Michele Leiby & Matthew Krain

Framing issues in different ways can undermine or bolster support of human rights, and experiments can ...

Using experiments to improve women’s rights in Pakistan

May 3, 2017
By: Gulnaz Anjum & Adam Chilton

Experiments on support for women’s rights in Pakistan could improve the implementation and enforcement ...

How new data can—and can’t—support academic research

April 21, 2017
By: Merrill Sovner

Human rights practitioners and researchers often ask very different questions when collecting data—how ...

Human rights datasets are pointless without methodological rigour

April 4, 2017
By: Lawrence Saez

Existing datasets on human rights have methodological weaknesses that can make them useless for any ...

Ethics, technology and human rights: navigating new roads

March 28, 2017
By: Danna Ingleton

When we incorporate new technologies into human rights work, we need to be acutely aware of agency, ...

The fine print: seeing beyond the hype in technology for human rights

March 8, 2017
By: Zara Rahman

With all the hype about new technologies for human rights, activists must think critically and strategically.

Cohesion in the chaos: uniting human rights methodologies

January 19, 2017
By: Katie Kraska

With the range of options available to document and analyze human rights, it’s important to help researchers ...

Missing torture amongst the poor

November 7, 2016
By: Steffen Jensen & Tobias Kelly
Español | Français

Documenting torture has always been problematic, but the experiences of the poor are continually left ...

No single dataset is sufficient for understanding human rights, nor should it be

October 18, 2016
By: K. Chad Clay

Yes, cross-national datasets are inappropriate for understanding the lived experience of those suffering ...

Yes, human rights scholars conceal social wrongs—when they miss the point

October 17, 2016
By: Todd Landman 

To suggest that relying on cross-national analyses perpetuates human rights abuses is simply fallacious.

How human rights scholars conceal social wrongs

October 12, 2016
By: Neve Gordon & Nitza Berkovitch

Using cross-national data in human rights research helps perpetuate social wrongs.

No data, no accountability: solving racial violence in the United States

October 5, 2016
By: Samuel L. Myers Jr.

Without adequate data, the US racial divide remains a matter of perception, rather than of careful empirical ...

Human rights data used the wrong way can be misleading

September 1, 2016
By: Meg Satterthwaite

While data is important for human rights advocacy, the risks of misleading people are also very real ...

Quantitative data in human rights: what do the numbers really mean?

May 16, 2016
By: Will H. Moore

Everyone loves numbers, but when we use them in human rights, how often are we misrepresenting the data?

Using budget analysis to confront governments: what practitioners need to know

May 2, 2016
By: Ian Allen & Megan Manion & Thandi Matthews & Robert Ralston

Millions of dollars that could address socio-economic disparities are lost through illicit financial ...

Running the numbers on ICC deterrence: when does it actually work?

March 22, 2016
By: Hyeran Jo & Beth A. Simmons

Systematic assessments reveal that the ICC can deter intentional civilian killing, but only under the ...

Violence data: what practitioners need to know

March 17, 2016
By: Amelia Hoover Green

The demand for numerical data on human rights has never been higher, but no data can be taken at face ...

Doubling down on human rights data

June 29, 2015
By: Sarah E. Mendelson
Español | Français | Русский

NGOs have often resisted social science methods, but random sampling and public opinion survey data ...

Data-driven optimism for global rights activists

June 29, 2015
By: James Ron & Shannon Golden & David Crow & Archana Pandya
Español | Français | العربية

Opinion polls across four world regions suggest that human rights activists can be cautiously optimistic—the ...

When evaluating human rights progress, focus also on the journey

June 3, 2015
By: Emma Naughton & Kevin Kelpin
Español | Français | العربية

Yes, human rights work must be measured, but we need to focus on the small steps as well as the “big ...

Where’s the evidence? Moving from ideology to data in economic and social rights

January 27, 2015
By: Octavio Luiz Motta Ferraz
Español | Português

To advance the polarized openGlobalRights debate on economic and social rights, we need more empirical ...

Open budgets, open politics?

October 30, 2014
By: Dan Berliner
Español | Français

Budget transparency has the potential to make governments more accountable, but research shows that ...

Winners and losers: how budgeting for human rights can help the poor

September 25, 2014
By: Helena Hofbauer
Español | Bahasa | Français | 简体中文

Recent research reveals the impact that international covenants could have on government taxation and ...

The state of global human rights philanthropy

November 15, 2013
By: Christen Dobson & Lucía Carrasco Scherer & Emilienne de León
Español | Français | العربية | Português

Using the first-ever data-driven effort to track global human rights funding, representatives from two ...

Universal values, foreign money: local human rights organizations in the Global South

November 13, 2013
By: James Ron & Archana Pandya
Türkçe | Español | Français | Português | العربية | עברית

Despite enjoying a fair bit of local support, local human rights organizations (LHROs) in the Global ...

The struggle for a truly grassroots human rights movement

June 18, 2013
By: James Ron & David Crow & Shannon Golden
Español | Français | العربية | Português | Türkçe

Using cutting-edge human rights perception polls, the authors explore links between social class and ...