By Suzanne Zack
University of Connecticut Libraries
Storrs, CT – Graphic stories of torture and forced disappearances may seem more prevalent in certain parts of the world than others, based on news accounts, resolutions deliberated by the United Nations, or reports issued by watch dog organizations such as Amnesty International. But, in the larger picture, what types of human rights are most and least respected by governments in the world today and why?
The CIRI Human Rights Data Project, which tracks 15 separate human rights in 195 countries from 1981 to the present, allows this larger picture to emerge. Now, UConn will host a digital archive of the CIRI project’s data, as well as the CIRI website itself (www.humanrightsdata.org).
CIRI’s human rights data have been used by hundreds of governments and global organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, and USAID to make informed decisions. These data are also widely used by academics, think tanks, and financial institutions for a variety of purposes.
“The CIRI dataset provides highly-regarded quantitative indicators on the state of human rights worldwide. For well over a decade they have been a valuable input to the Worldwide Governance Indicators,” said Daniel Kaufmann, President of Revenue Watch and coauthor of the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators.
The CIRI project’s work spans three major research universities: the State University of New York at Binghamton (since 2004), the University of Connecticut (since 2010), and the University of Georgia (since 2012). The CIRI website allows users to either download the entire dataset, or create a custom dataset, choosing specific indicators, years, and countries. CIRI requires users to register in order to access the data, but the data are freely available upon registration. To date, CIRI counts more than 13,500 registered users.
“In this digital and data-driven age, measuring the human rights practices of governments has become an important part of the global human rights movement seeking to provide lives of dignity for all persons worldwide,” contends CIRI co-director Dr. David L. Richards, associate professor of political science and human rights at UConn. “And, having the CIRI project here at UConn helps our students make a connection between data and action in a first-hand way they would not get, otherwise. Best of all, perhaps: by taking an active role in CIRI’s work, students take a real part in world politics.” Richards notes.
Richards is co-founder and co-director along with Dr. David L. Cingranelli, professor of political science at SUNY Binghamton. Dr. K. Chad Clay, assistant professor in the Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia joined as a third co-director in the fall of 2012. The CIRI project was initially designed for use by scholars seeking to test theories about the causes and consequences of human rights violations, as well as policymakers and analysts needing to estimate the human rights effects of a wide variety of institutional changes and public policies including democratization, economic aid, military aid, structural adjustment, and humanitarian intervention.
The CIRI archives constitute the first collection of data deposited in UConn’s new digital repository, a project currently underway for the campus community and the State of Connecticut by the University Libraries’ Archives & Special Collections.
“Bringing the CIRI Data Project to Archives & Special Collections will make it possible to provide long-term preservation of the data as well as the opportunity to develop new visualization tools as part of the Libraries’ support of research data management,” said Greg Colati, director of Archives & Special Collections. Using Richard’s work, the library is developing this new visualization tool in a collaborative effort between Archives & Special Collections, the Libraries Map and Geographic Center and CIRI.
Richards says he is excited about working with Archives & Special Collections on the new data visualization tools and expects all of CIRI’s many types of users will make good use of this new feature, expected to be available in the fall of 2013.
The CIRI project, which is updated annually, provides measures of several types of internationally-recognized human rights, including: physical integrity rights, or the right not to be tortured, extra-judicially killed, disappeared, or imprisoned for political beliefs; civil rights and liberties, or the right to free speech, freedom of association and assembly, freedom of domestic movement, freedom of international movement freedom of religion, and to participate in free and fair elections for the selection of government leaders. Also tracked are: workers’ rights, such as the right to bargain collectively; and women’s rights to legal protection and equal treatment, politically and economically.
Among CIRI’s users is the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which supports and collaborates with those who seek peace by promoting understanding and respect between the world's major religions. “The Tony Blair Faith Foundation has found CIRI data to be particularly useful in gauging Human Rights information globally,” says Parna Taylor, Director of Communications. “They are a valuable resource for the world and we are pleased to be able to use their data.”
While human rights has been taught at the collegiate level for some time, interest in the field now extends to the secondary teachers of Advanced Placement (AP) Comparative Government and Politics, making CIRI a familiar resource to yet another audience. “By enabling students to look at patterns of respect and violations of human rights, CIRI’s data allow the formulation of questions about differences in respect across countries, differences in respect across time, and patterns of respect among different rights within countries.” Richards says.
“Human rights violations are frequently reported as narratives, as the stories of specific people -- which is also important for highlighting the humanity of the victims and recognizing how their rights have been violated,” observes Corinne Tagliarina, who is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and in the Human Rights certificate program at UConn. “The narrative method makes it difficult to get a comprehensive look at how often specific countries violate different human rights. CIRI offers a big picture view of human rights in the world.”