Conceptual and methodological framework for human rights monitoring
Conceptual and Methodological Framework for Human Rights Monitoring1 IntroductionThe conceptual and methodological approach to human rights monitoring should be informed by: – best experience among international, regional and national human rights organizations with particular attention to treaty monitoring bodies, and National Human Rights Institutions; – the international and regional human rights normative framework; – the national human rights framework (i.e., the FDRE Constitution, the UDHR, and other international human rights instruments duly ratified by Ethiopia); and, – the mandates of the body seeking to undertake the monitoring initiative (as defined under its establishment proclamation if it is a public body or its organizational objectives if it be a non-state actor) as interpreted by its high level management.Accordingly, the author has conducted a review of relevant literature, legislation and practice on thebasis, nature, structure and scope of monitoring by a range of actors, and human rights monitoringapproaches applied by international, regional and national human rights institutions.2 Conception of Monitoring 2.1 Meaning and PurposesMonitoring means the close observation of a situation or individual case over a long period of time,with reference to accepted norms, with the purpose of providing an assessment as basis for furtheraction.1 The following elements constitute monitoring:2 It is carried out over an extended period of time. It involves collecting or receiving a large quantity of data. Close observation of the situation is done through constant or periodic examination or investigation and documentation of developments. Standards or norms are used as reference in objectively assessing the situation or case in question, especially in determining what is wrong with it.1 United Nations Development Programme, Indicators for Human Rights Based Approaches to Development in UNDP Programming: A Users’ Guide, Bureau for Development Policy Democratic Governance Group, March 20062 Manuel Guzman and Bert Verstappen, Human Rights Monitoring and Documentation Series, Volume 1: WHAT IS MONITORING, HURIDOCS, 2003
Tools or instruments are used in identifying how the situation compares with established standards or norms. The product of monitoring is usually a report about the situation. The report embodies an assessment of the situation which provides a basis for further action.The most common general purpose of monitoring is to be able to pinpoint what is wrong with asituation or a case and to indicate what steps can be taken to remedy it. Monitoring is alsoundertaken to see whether steps that have been taken to improve a situation are working. Humanrights monitoring has the following particular purposes, among others:3 – To ensure compliance with international and domestic human rights law by government authorities and citizens;4 – To provide remedies for the victims of human rights violations and address impunity for human rights abuses by collecting evidentiary material for court cases, investigations by national human rights institutions, etc … – To identify patterns of human rights abuses and violations in terms of the types, frequency, and causes of human rights violation with a view to systemic solutions for addressing them; – To inform and educate the public about human rights situations5 and ensure transparency for government and individual actions by establishing the human rights situation in a particular context thorough documentation; and, – To offer validation to victims of human rights violations by amplifying the voices of victims and providing opportunities for those voices to be heard.While sharing similar purposes, monitoring is distinct from investigation and documentation ofhuman rights abuses. Monitoring involves the repeated collection of information often involvinginvestigating and documenting a large or representative number of human rights events.Investigation, on the other hand, refers to the process of fact finding focused on an event whichcarries or is suspected to carry one or more human rights violations. The final stage in human rightsinvestigations is documentation or the systematic recording of the results of the investigation as abasis for advocacy or comparison.6 Data documented over a period of time and covering a largenumber of specific cases can be analyzed so as to get a fuller picture of the human rights situation inthe context of a monitoring process.3 Mona Nicoara, Human Rights Observation and Monitoring, Independent Consultant, Columbia University, Monday, June 28, 20044 This is often referred to as the preventive aspect of human rights monitoring since the aim is to ensure that human rights safeguards are implemented.5 This is the public education aspect of human rights monitoring6 United Nations Development Programme, Indicators for Human Rights Based Approaches to Development in UNDP Programming: A Users’ Guide, Bureau for Development Policy Democratic Governance Group, March 2006
2.2 Human Rights Monitoring BodiesMonitoring may be conducted by a wide profile of human rights actors among which three actors,namely inter-governmental bodies, NGOs and government organizations – especially national humanrights institutions, take important roles.Intergovernmental Treaty monitoring bodies; Set standardsOrganizations (IGOs) The Commission on Human Rights Monitor compliance of Special Rapporteurs and Working governments with their treaty Groups, obligations Specialized agencies (e.g. ILO, WHO, Monitor certain situations UNDP, …), involving violations Regional IGOs, and The Sub-Commission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights7Governmental Government agencies or sector Encourage own governments toOrganizations (GOs) ministries responsible for treaty-based adopt international standards reports, Monitor compliance of own National human rights institutions, governments with treaty Policy monitoring executive bodies, obligations Specialized commissions/ agencies Monitor violations (e.g. anti-corruption commissions)Non-Governmental International advocacy groups and Lobby with IGOs toward settingOrganizations (NGOs) organizations, standards National human rights NGOs Lobby with governments toward adopting international standards Monitor compliance of governments with their treaty obligations Monitor violationsA national human rights institution is usually any of the following: Human rights commission – a body composed of several members usually from diverse backgrounds which discharge various functions (usually different from one commission to another) that range from human rights education to investigation of complaints. Ombudsman – an individual or group of persons generally appointed to protect the rights of individuals who believe themselves to be the victim of unjust acts on the part of the government Specialized commission – a body composed of several members which function to protect the rights of a particular vulnerable group such as ethnic and linguistic minorities, indigenous populations, children, refugees or women.National human rights commissions are generally mandated to study international standards,encourage their governments to adopt these, and call the attention of their governments if the7 previously known as the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
adopted standards are not met. One way through which they monitor the compliance of theirgovernments with obligations is by making contributions to the required periodic reports.Another common duty of national human rights commissions as well as specialized commissions is tocall the attention of the government to areas of violations and instances of discrimination in thecountry. Many human rights commissions, either national or specialized, and certainly the nationalombudsmen, are mandated to monitor violations, especially if a complaints procedure is in place. 2.3 Approaches to Human Rights MonitoringThe approaches adopted by various actors in monitoring human rights may differ as a factor of whatis monitored, thematic scope or focus, and the intended purposes.Situation vs. Performance of Duties: The perspective adopted by a monitoring initiative may fall intoone of three general categories: a situation monitoring; or a duty-bearer analysis. A situation reportseeks to monitor progress in the realization of human rights, i.e., whether and the extent to whichthe rights are enjoyed by the rights-holders. As such, the focus is on the status of human rights andthe situation of vulnerable groups. While such reports abound at the national level, the reportsprepared under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism8 within the framework of the UNHuman Rights Council are also a good example. On the other hand, a duty-bearer analysis report,such as most of the treaty-based reports, monitors the fulfillment of obligations to realize humanrights. Such a process thus focuses on mapping human rights actors, and examining actions taken bythe State and other legal and moral duty-bearers to realize human rights. In some cases, these twoperspectives may come together in a multi-perspective monitoring report dealing with the status ofrights, situation of vulnerable groups and fulfillment of legal/moral duties by the duty-bearers.Comprehensive vs. Specialized: Human rights monitoring processes and reports are also different interms of the range of issues/rights to be covered. Some reports comprehensively cover the wholerange of rights while others opt for a more in-depth coverage of selected thematic issues/rights.Most national human rights reports, however, have an overview section dealing with the wholerange of rights/issues as well as specific sections for more in-depth discussion of selectedissues/rights.Situation vs. Case Monitoring: Human rights monitoring can be of two general kinds, depending ontheir focus: situation monitoring and case monitoring. Under each kind, there can be various forms,as summarized below:Situation monitoring monitoring human rights violations monitoring the drafting and passing of legislation monitoring the implementation of laws and policies monitoring the establishment and progress of human rights institutionsCase monitoring monitoring the legal process undergone by a case monitoring relief and rehabilitation services provided to a client monitoring other forms of intervention in a caseSituation monitoring focuses on a situation in general in terms of the recurrence of violations,progress in relevant human rights legislation and the performance of human rights institutions. This8 United Nations Human Rights Council: Institution Building, Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 of 18 June 2007
form of monitoring is useful for the purpose of monitoring government compliance with treatyobligations as well as for domestic monitoring. Case monitoring, on the other hand, is very focusedand victim-oriented and involves work for or on behalf of an individual victim or a group of victims.Follow up and documentation of developments in the case is an essential and integral part of casemonitoring.3 Human Rights Monitoring MethodologiesTwo dominant methodologies in monitoring human rights situations are the "events" (or acts-based)methodology and the indicators-based methodology.9The “events methodology” for monitoring involves identifying the various acts of commission andomission that constitute or lead to human rights violations. In other words, it is a concrete form bywhich the “violations” approach takes shape. This methodology involves investigating anddocumenting an event that is suspected of or confirmed to be consisting of one or more actsconsidered as violations.A limitation of the “events” methodology is that it usually does not aim, or often fails, to arrive at acomplete picture by giving the total number of violations, much less the proportion of actual victimsto the whole population. There are two problem areas identified in this regard: – The monitoring body does not hear of all events involving the violations covered by its mandate; and, – Even if the monitoring body learns of events that are likely to contain violations, it is unable to investigate and document these for reasons such as ongoing military actions, hesitation of witnesses to come forward, and lack of resources.Indicator based human rights monitoring, on the other hand, involves the use of performancestandards for the core components of specific rights in the form of indicators and benchmarks todetermine patterns and trends. The advantages of this methodological approach have been noted interms of enabling the identification of problems and potential major violations, expressing themagnitude of the problems, comparisons over space, determination of the status of groups within acountry, and facilitating the evaluation of trends over time.10 However, indicators and benchmarksmay not be appropriate in addressing grave violations since they tend to aggregate the situation ofindividuals. Indicators-based methodology is especially weak in situations were victims require directand individualized assistance.In short, the combination of the “events” methodology and the indicators-based methodologyshould result in a comprehensive and detailed picture of a situation. 3.1 Identifying, Selecting and Benchmarking IndicatorsAn indicator is a tool that shows where something is, what direction it is leading to, and how far it isfrom that objective. It serves as a sign or symptom that tells what is wrong in a situation and helps in9 Hans-Otto Sano & Lone Lindholt, Human Rights Indicators: Country Data and Methodology, Danish Center for Human Rights, 2000, p. 5710 Audrey R. Chapman, Indicators and Standards for Monitoring Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Science and Human Rights Program, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2000, p. 1
pointing out what needs to be done to fix the problem. A human rights indicator may be defined as“a piece of information used in measuring the extent to which a legal right is being fulfilled or enjoyed ina given situation.”11 Indicators may be based on quantitative or qualitative information and mayassess inputs or outputs. Quantitative indicators measure change through numerical or statisticalfacts of physical outputs. A more accurate description would thus identify indicators as “quantitativeor qualitative statements that can be used to describe situations that exist and to measure changesor trends over a period of time”.12 In this definition, indicators are seen as both qualitative andquantitative descriptions of situations and as elements that are employed to define a particularprocess.International, regional, and national human rights institutions have developed widely acceptedindicators for a range of rights. At the international level, UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNESCO, andWHO, Special Rapporteurs such as Paul Hunt on the Right to Health, and inter-agency workinggroups have developed rights-based measurement systems in their respective spheres of expertise.Most notable among these are the detailed CESCR Guidelines,13 the draft harmonized reportingguidelines, the human development indicators and indices of UNDP, the national context-specificbenchmarks under the Common Country Assessment (CCA) framework of UNDAF, 14 and indicatorsdeveloped for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).15 Generally, three kinds of rights-basedindicators have been identified for human rights monitoring.16 These are: structural, process andresult indicators measuring commitment, efforts and results, respectively.17Structural indicators measure whether or not appropriate legal, regulatory and institutionalstructures considered necessary or useful for the realization of a human right18 are in place as anindicator of the extent to which human rights are guaranteed through ratification and adoption oflegal instruments and existence of basic institutional mechanisms deemed necessary for facilitatingrealization of human rights (such as court systems, human rights commissions and ombudsmen, and11 Maria Green, When We Talk about Indicators: Current Approaches to Human Rights Measurement, report written for the Human Development Report Office, United Nations Development Programme, July 199912 Hans-Otto Sano & Lone Lindholt, Human Rights Indicators: Country Data and Methodology, Danish Center for Human Rights, 2000, p. 5513 UN, “Revised general guidelines regarding the form and contents of reports to be submitted by states parties under articles 16 and 17 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” E/C.12/1991/1, 17 June 199114 UN, Common Country Assessment and United Nations Development Framework: Guidelines for UN Country Teams (Geneva: July 2004) 6 (http://www.undp.or.id/mdg/documents/Guidance%20for%20CCA%20and%20UNDAF.pdf)15 United Nations Development Group, Indicators for Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals: Definitions, Rationale, Concepts, and Sources (New York: United Nations, 2003). (http://millenniumindicators.un.org/unsd/mispa/Metadatajn30.pdf)16 Paul Hunt, Interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, United Nations General Assembly, Fifty-eighth session, Agenda item 117 (c), 10 October 200317 Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, Report on Indicators for Promoting and Monitoring the Implementation of Human Rights, HRI/MC/2008/3, Twentieth meeting of chairpersons of the human rights treaty bodies, Geneva, 26-27 June 200818 This refers to national law, constitutions, regulations and legal, policy frameworks and institutional organization and mandates.
formal complaint mechanisms).19 They capture commitments or the intent of the State inundertaking measures for the realization of the concerned human right to monitor the stateobligations of conduct, i.e. the effort the government has put forth towards the realization of ahuman right. Structural indicators have to focus foremost on the nature of domestic law as relevantto the concerned right, i.e. whether it incorporates the international standards, and the institutionalmechanisms that promote and protect the standards. Structural indicators also need to look at policyframework and indicated strategies of the State as relevant to the right. Most structural indicatorsare qualitative in nature, and a number of structural indicators may be evaluated by a simple “yes“ or“no“ answer, e.g. if a particular law or policy is in place or not. However, sometimes these yes/noanswers need follow-up questions and additional clarification, to capture qualitative dimensions ofthe law or policy.A process indicator on the other hand measures the degree to which the state is complying with itsobligations as well as the effectiveness of the structural realities, the laws and institutions that exist.In most cases, process indicators relate State policy instruments20 with benchmarks that cumulateinto outcome indicators, which in turn can be more directly related to the realization of humanrights. Process indicators capture: – quality of a process in terms of its adherence to the key human rights principles (is the process non-discriminatory, accountable, participatory and empowering, and can duty bearers be held accountable?), and – type of policy instruments, and public resource allocations and expenditures invested to further the progressive realization of a specific right.Examples of process indicators include the amount of government spending on female primaryeducation, and the degree of independence of the judicial system.A result indicator measures the outcome of efforts, or the lack of them, to meet a particularobligation and success in bringing about greater equity and wellbeing.21 It is therefore an indicationof the current status of the enjoyment of a certain right and a more direct measure of the realizationof rights. Outcome indicators capture attainments that reflect the status of realization of humanrights in a given context. For instance, a result indicator may relate to whether and to what extentindividuals and groups enjoy freedom of religion and free speech, or an increase in governmentspending on female primary education actually yield improvements in the literacy rates of girlsrelative to boys. Salient features of the OHCHR indicators framework19 The existence of institutions of civil society, including the independent media, universities, and human rights organizations is also considered a structural indicator.20 State policy instruments refers to all such measures including public programmes and specific interventions that a State is willing to take in order to give effect to its intent/commitments to attain outcomes identified with the realization of a given human right.21 A human rights inquiry is ultimately interested in the way people actually experience their rights, so it is important for us to measure outcomes
– A common approach to identifying indicators for monitoring civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights, thereby strengthening the notion of the indivisibility and interdependence of human rights; – The framework translates the narrative on the normative content of human rights (starting with the related provisions of international human rights instruments and general comments by treaty bodies) into a few characteristic attributes and a configuration of structural, process and outcome indicators. – The identified indicators bring to the fore an assessment of steps taken by the State party in addressing its obligations – from acceptance of international human rights standards (structural indicators) to efforts being undertaken by the primary duty-bearer, the State, to meet the obligations that flow from the standards (process indicators) and on to the outcomes of those efforts from the perspective of rights-holders (outcome indicators); – The framework makes it is easier to identify contextually meaningful indicators for universally accepted human rights standards. It seeks neither to prepare a common list of indicators to be applied across all countries irrespective of their social, political and economic development, nor to make a case for building a global measure for cross-country comparisons of the realization of human rights; – The framework focuses on two categories of indicators and data-generating mechanisms: (a) indicators that are or can be compiled by official statistical systems using statistical surveys and administrative records; and (b) indicators or standardized information more generally compiled by non-governmental sources and human rights organizations focusing on alleged violations reported by victims, witnesses or NGOs; and – The framework also focuses on quantitative as well as qualitative indicators to assess the implementation of human rights effectively. Efforts have been made to keep the identified indicators simple, based on objective and transparent methodology and, to the extent feasible, there is an emphasis on the disaggregation of identified indicators by type of prohibited discrimination (e.g. sex, ethnicity, disability, etc) and by vulnerable or marginalized population groups. UN- OHCHR’s work on indicators for human rights assessments, Status Note August, 2007Most existing frameworks, such as treaty body guidelines,22 focus on structural and process-levelindicators rather than outcomes due to ease of measurement, and emphasis on governmentobligations. One visible exception is the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR)whose Guidelines require states to provide specific outcome level statistics disaggregated by socialgroup, sex, geographical location and other criteria, and supplemented with information about therates of change over the past five and ten years.23 However, the principle of interdependence amongthe whole spectrum of human rights requires that a system of rights-based measurementincorporate indicators for both enforceability (structure and process) and actual rates of enjoyment(outcome). As Craig Mokhiber of OHCHR has noted,2422 See for instance: General Guidelines Regarding the Form and Contents of Periodic Reports to be Submitted by States Parties under Article 19, Paragraph 1, of the Convention , United Nations Committee Against Torture, revised 1998, Document C/14/Rev.1.23 UN, “Revised general guidelines regarding t he form and contents of reports to be submitted by states parties under articles 16 and 17 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” E/C.12/1991/1, 17 June 199124 Craig G. Mokhiber, “Toward a Measure of Dignity: Indicators for Rights-Based Development,” The Statistical Journal of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe 18 (2001) 159
“… simply measuring status, or degree of realization, is not sufficient. There is a need to ensure the existence of an express right, and to monitor and measure effectiveness of institutions and mechanisms of redress and enforcement as well”.Moreover, the use of structural, process, and outcome level information gives us a morecomprehensive picture of the human rights situation as well as a clearer indication of accountability.These would in turn lay the basis for more relevant recommendations to realize human rights.The various frameworks developed through the above indicated efforts provide us with a choice ofindicators. Yet, there are a few more challenges that have to be addressed to ensure the contextualrelevance and effectiveness in addressing the objective(s) for which the indicators are to be used. Amajor general concern in this respect is the fact that almost all available attempts were principallygeared towards treaty-based reporting by States; a point that may give us pause in applying thesame indicators for a report developed by an independent national human rights institution.Moreover, concerns relating to validity, reliability and transparency in terms of triangulation/cross-confirmation among data sources, capturing the essential aspects of the normative framework, andappropriate methodology have to be addressed.25 More specifically, the selection of human rightsindicators is also necessitated by the following methodological considerations: Simplicity, timeliness and number of indicators: Indicators that are too complex, take too much time to measure or are too numerous would be useless in practice in light of inherent limitations of expertise, time and other resources; after all, indicators are expected to indicate; Objectivity: indicators should be directly observable and independently verifiable based on objective information and data-generating mechanisms following relevant international statistical standards, rather than perceptions, opinions, assessments or judgments made by experts/individuals Comparability: monitoring indicators should be suitable for temporal and spatial comparison since we are interested in measuring changes and differences; and Disaggregation: monitoring indicators should be amenable to disaggregation in terms of sex, age, and other vulnerable or marginalized population segments.26In general, indicators should be produced and disseminated in an independent, impartial andtransparent manner and based on sound methodology, procedures and expertise.Finally, the indicators we have selected have to be benchmarked to make them open to regularmonitoring of progress over successive time spans that takes into account the current situation. Abenchmark is the level that is aimed to be met when using a certain indicator. An example of abenchmark, when using adult literacy rate as an indicator, is 75% literacy among adults nation-wide.25 Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Workshop on Measurement and Human Rights, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, July 6-8, 200626 General Comment No. 19 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights sets out an exhaustive listing of grounds for non-discrimination, which may require disaggregation of data, if feasible.
Unlike human rights indicators which measure human rights observation or enjoyment in absoluteterms, benchmarks generally refer to targets established by particular governments in relation tospecific rights. The primary use of benchmarks is to offer a tool to assess the performance of statesin reaching the goals they have set for a particular interval of time as part of the process of fulfillingtheir obligations. 3.2 Identification and Selection of Sources of InformationHuman rights monitoring reports generally focus on two complementary sources of quantitativedata: socio-economic and other administrative statistics; and, events-based data on human rightsviolations.Socio-economic statistics refers to quantitative information compiled and disseminated by the State,through its administrative records and statistical surveys, usually in collaboration with nationalstatistical agencies and under the guidance of international and specialized organizations. The use ofa standardized methodology in the collection of information, whether it is through censusoperations, household surveys or through civil registration systems, and usually with high level ofreliability and validity, makes indicators based on such a methodology vital for the efforts to bringabout greater transparency, credibility and accountability in human rights monitoring.Events-based data, on the other hand, is information relating to alleged or reported cases of humanrights violations, identified victims and perpetrators. The most important sources are casesentertained by national human rights institutions and UN special procedures both of which normallyprocess allegations in a standardized manner. While such data does not provide comprehensiveinformation on violations and precludes comparison over time or across regions, such indicative datahas significant potential in terms of elaboration. Other sources of qualitative information used inhuman rights reports include household perception and opinion surveys and data based on expertjudgments.27One should however be cautious and selective in the use of available secondary sources be aware ofthe possible limitations. At the outset, comprehensive information consistently covering allcategories and dimensions of human rights is not available due to reasons attributable to limitedobjectives, scope and coverage. Moreover, the data sources often manifest problems relating tosource biases, validity, reliability, transparency, variance truncation, and aggregation.28Information source bias relates to the availability of information and the possible biases stemmingfrom the type of organizations that produce the information. Most available reports by human rightsorganizations, having access only to those violations that are reported, are based on reported casesof violation rather than a comprehensive database. Moreover, the very nature of the organizationsmay entail inherent bias in the way information is collected, compiled, analyzed and reported. Forinstance, foreign government reports such as those produced by the US State Department and theUK Foreign and Commonwealth Office will necessarily have certain biases and differ from27 Rajeev Malhotra and Nicholas Fasel, “Quantitative Human Rights Indicators: A Survey of Major Initiatives,” draft for discussion at Turku, 3 March 2005. (http://www.abo.fi/instut/imr/indicators/Background.doc)28 United Nations Development Programme, Indicators for Human Rights Based Approaches to Development in UNDP Programming: A Users’ Guide, Bureau for Development Policy Democratic Governance Group, March 2006
information provided by international governmental and non-governmental organizations. There arealso differences in reporting and interpretation among different human rights NGOs, such asAmnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House as well as between governmentagencies and CSOs. In relation to narrative and qualitative reports, there will be varying degrees ofbias and uncertainty associated with differences in source material, ideological influences, and thefact that there are many incentives not to report human practices and problems accurately or at all.29Validity concerns the degree to which an indicator actually measures what it purports to measure.There may be some ‘distance’ between the category and/or dimension of a particular human rightand the indicator that is being used to measure it. Certainly the use of proxy measures runs upagainst this problem.Reliability concerns the degree to which the indicator can be produced consistently across differentcontexts by different groups at different times. Can the indicator be produced by different peopleusing the same coding rules and source material?Transparency concerns the degree to which the coding rules and procedures for producing anindicator are publicly available. For example, while some human rights data websites are explicitabout its coding rules and sources for coding its different indicators, other are less transparent aboutthe sources that are used for each country and how its checklists are used to produce their differentscales.Variance truncation concerns the degree to which information on human rights at the national level isforced into limited categories, such as those found in the standardized scales derived from expertjudgments. These standardized scales, which fail to show changes over shorter periods, are onlyuseful for those countries in which there has been great variation in human rights protection overtime.Aggregation concerns the ways in which indicators are combined as well as the degree to which theyprovide information on different groups of people in a country. For example, the HDI, which employsdifferent aggregation and weighting rules for the various components, rarely provides informationthat helps identify the rights conditions for significant sub-populations within countries.29 Human Rights Watch, for instance, relies heavily on communication with a network of “local human rights activists and civil society members” throughout all stages of its research. As such, there is always a risk that HRW reports channel the institutional and methodological biases inherent in using secondary sources as the principal basis for monitoring. Moreover, such selective approach is by definition non-responsive to comparisons across time and space.