The CIRI Human Rights Data Project has released its ratings of government respect for 16 internationally-recognized human rights in almost every country in the world for the year 2011. The CIRI Project’s data stretch back, annually, to 1981 and can be freely accessed at www.humanrightsdata.org.
The CIRI data are used by governments, scholars, international organizations, businesses, think tanks, and students the world over for a variety of purposes. The project is co-directed by Dr. David L. Cingranelli (Binghamton University), Dr. David L. Richards (University of Connecticut), and Dr. K. Chad Clay (University of Georgia).
This data release has also been accompanied by a number of changes at the CIRI Project. A new country was added to the data for 2011 (South Sudan), and, reflecting the addition of a new co-director (K. Chad Clay) in Fall 2012, the project’s citation has changed. Perhaps most importantly, CIRI’s release schedule has changed. In the future, data updates will be issued annually in January to cover the year that began two years previous. As such, the 2012 ratings will be released in January 2014.
Below, we present four stories from the 2011 data:
THE BEST AND WORST OF 2011
All 14 of CIRI’s individual indicators of particular human rights can be summed into an overall human rights score for each country in the world. The best score a country can receive is 30, representing high respect for all 14 human rights; the worst score is 0, representing very low respect for all 14 human rights. The world average was 17, and the USA scored 24 (tied for the 7th highest score, but still ranking behind 37 countries). Below are the best and worst of 2011.
Top 9 Countries – Overall Respect
New Zealand 
San Marino 
Bottom 9 Countries – Overall Respect
Saudi Arabia 
Democratic People's Republic of Korea 
STABILITY & CHANGE IN RESPECT FOR PHYSICAL INTEGRITY RIGHTS
The CIRI Physical Integrity Rights Index measures government respect for the freedoms from torture, extrajudicial killing, political imprisonment, and disappearance. It varies from 0 (no respect for physical integrity rights) to 8 (full respect for physical integrity rights). Overall, government respect for physical integrity declined in 2011, as the mean score on the physical integrity rights index fell from 5.01 in 2010 to 4.82 in 2011. In particular, respect for physical integrity rights saw the following dramatic changes in 2010-2011:
Largest Declines in Respect for Physical Integrity Rights
Republic of Korea [-3]
Largest Improvements in Respect for Physical Integrity Rights
Further, as these lists suggest, it would appear that changes in government respect for physical integrity rights in 2011 were not evenly distributed across the globe. Indeed, as demonstrated below, South Asian states experienced a net improvement in average government respect for physical integrity, while some of the largest declines in government respect for physical integrity rights were concentrated in the Near East & North Africa:
Average Change in Respect for Physical Integrity Rights by Region
East Asia & the Pacific [-0.12]
Europe & Eurasia 
Near East & North Africa [-1.37]
South Asia [+0.25]
Western Hemisphere [-0.11]
THE “ARAB SPRING” & HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE NEAR EAST & NORTH AFRICA
Beginning in Tunisia in December 2010, the wave of demonstrations, protests, and conflicts known as the “Arab Spring” swept through the Arab world in 2011. What effect did this have on respect for human rights in the Near East and North Africa (as defined by the US State Department)? Table 1 displays the change in the overall human rights score, as well as in the CIRI Physical Integrity Rights Index, from 2010 to 2011.
As can be seen, most states in the region demonstrated reduced respect for human rights in 2011, particularly those states that experienced some of the highest levels of unrest that year, e.g. Bahrain, Libya, and Egypt. Of course, other states, like Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, already had extremely low scores on our indicators and thus, had little room to move down. On the other hand, Tunisia experienced a large increase in its overall human rights score, owing to the overthrow of its government early in the year and the elections held in October. However, this was not enough to overcome the high level of physical integrity rights abuse that accompanied the protests early in the year, which led to a decrease in respect for physical integrity rights from an already low score of 3 in 2010 to 2 in 2011.
STABILITY & CHANGE IN WOMEN’S RIGHTS
CIRI also annually codes two measures of internationally-recognized women’s rights: women’s political rights and women’s economic rights. The women’s political rights measure is aimed at capturing the degree to which government laws and practices ensure that women enjoy the rights to vote, to run for political office, to hold elected and appointed government positions, to join political parties, and to petition government officials. The women’s economic rights measure captures the degree to which government laws and practices ensure that women enjoy equal pay for equal work, free choice of profession or employment, the right to gainful employment, equality in hiring and promotion, job security, freedom from discrimination by employers, freedom from sexual harassment, and the right to work in dangerous professions, including working at night and working in the military and police forces.
Our two measures of women’s rights moved in opposite directions in 2011. While women’s political rights improved for the second straight year, women’s economic rights suffered a setback after two consecutive years of improvement. Indeed, this is in keeping with these measures’ performance over time. As shown in the graph below, respect for women’s economic rights has lagged behind respect for women’s political rights consistently since 1981. However, that gap has widened with time, as respect for women’s political rights has consistently grown while respect for women’s economic rights has remained relatively flat.