Conceptual and Methodological Framework for Human Rights MonitoringHuman rights monitoring by CSOs/NGOs has been an issue ...
The most common general purpose of monitoring is to be able to pinpoint what is wrong with asituation or a case and to ind...
4   Approaches to Human Rights MonitoringThe approaches adopted by various actors in monitoring human rights may differ as...
monitoring involves identifying the various acts of commission and omission that constitute orlead to human rights violati...
10. Paul Hunt, Interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights       on the right of everyone t...
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Conceptual and methodological framework for human rights monitoring updated for muhaz 8 1


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Conceptual and methodological framework for human rights monitoring updated for muhaz 8 1

  1. 1. Conceptual and Methodological Framework for Human Rights MonitoringHuman rights monitoring by CSOs/NGOs has been an issue of contention with governments,including in Ethiopia. In my humble opinion, the underlying cause is traceable to the nature ofhuman rights obligations per se. Since it is the State that signs international human rightsagreements, it is considered the legal duty bearer for the realization of human rights principlesand standards. As such, human rights monitoring is tantamount to monitoring the performance ofthe State in keeping its promises and commitments. However, this is only part of the story. Theother, often more important, factor relates to the conception of human rights monitoring itselfby the individuals and institutions who take it upon themselves to do the monitoring.Oftentimes, the „monitoring‟ is done in such a way that it amounts to blame assignment and itsresults are used as inputs for „shaming‟ the State for its perceived or actual failures. As theOHCHR handbook on human rights monitoring so helpfully puts it, the ultimate purpose ofmonitoring is to improve the human rights situation in a country. Obviously, this cannot be doneby upsetting the legal duty bearer and most capable human rights actor, i.e. the State.This article is intended to serve as an input for individuals, groups and institutions interested inengaging in human rights monitoring or preparing a human rights monitoring report as well asinforming discussion on the assessment of existing or future human rights monitoring reports.While the Ethiopian charities and societies registered to work on human rights are the primarytargets, others including institutions of the State may also find it useful.1 IntroductionThe conceptual and methodological approach to human rights monitoring should be informedby: best experience among international, regional and national human rights organizations; theinternational and regional human rights normative framework; the national human rightsframework (i.e., the FDRE Constitution, the UDHR, and other international human rightsinstruments duly ratified by Ethiopia); and, the mandates of the body seeking to undertake themonitoring initiative (as defined under its establishment proclamation if it is a public body or itsorganizational 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 onthe basis, nature, structure and scope of monitoring by a range of actors, and human rightsmonitoring approaches applied by international, regional and national human rights institutions.2 Meaning and Purposes of MonitoringMonitoring means the close observation of a situation or individual case over a long period oftime, with reference to accepted norms, with the purpose of providing an assessment as basis forfurther action. The following elements constitute monitoring: It is carried out over an extendedperiod of time; It involves collecting or receiving a large quantity of data; Close observation ofthe situation is done through constant or periodic examination or investigation anddocumentation of developments; Standards or norms are used as reference in objectivelyassessing the situation or case in question, especially in determining what is wrong with it; Toolsor instruments are used in identifying how the situation compares with established standards ornorms; The product of monitoring is usually a report about the situation; The report embodiesan assessment of the situation which provides a basis for further action.Ghetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisE-mail: Page 1
  2. 2. 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.Human rights monitoring has the following particular purposes, among others: to ensurecompliance with international and domestic human rights law by government authorities andcitizens; to provide remedies for the victims of human rights violations and address impunity forhuman rights abuses by collecting evidentiary material for court cases; to identify patterns ofhuman rights abuses and violations in terms of the types, frequency, and causes of human rightsviolation with a view to systemic solutions for addressing them; to inform and educate the publicabout human rights situations and ensure transparency for government and individual actions byestablishing the human rights situation in a particular context thorough documentation; and, tooffer validation to victims of human rights violations by amplifying the voices of victims andproviding 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 humanrights investigations is documentation or the systematic recording of the results of theinvestigation as a basis for advocacy or comparison. Data documented over a period of time andcovering a large number of specific cases can be analyzed so as to get a fuller picture of thehuman rights situation in the context of a monitoring process.3 Human Rights Monitoring BodiesMonitoring may be conducted by a wide profile of human rights actors among which threeactors, namely inter-governmental bodies, NGOs and government organizations – especiallynational human rights institutions, take important roles.Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) Treaty monitoring bodies; Set standards UN Human Rights Council Monitor compliance of governments with Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups, their treaty obligations Specialized agencies (e.g. ILO, WHO, UNDP, …), Monitor certain situations involving Regional IGOs violationsGovernmental Organizations (GOs) Agencies/ministries responsible for treaty reports, Encourage own governments to adopt National human rights institutions, international standards Policy monitoring executive bodies, Monitor compliance of own governments Specialized commissions/agencies (e.g. anti- with treaty obligations corruption commissions) Monitor violationsNon-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) International advocacy groups and organizations, Lobby with IGOs toward setting standards National human rights NGOs Lobby with governments toward adopting international standards Monitor compliance of governments with their treaty obligations Monitor violationsGhetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisE-mail: Page 2
  3. 3. 4 Approaches to Human Rights MonitoringThe approaches adopted by various actors in monitoring human rights may differ as a factor ofwhat is monitored, thematic scope or focus, and the intended purposes.Situation vs. Performance of Duties: The perspective adopted by a monitoring initiative may fallinto one of 2 general categories: a situation monitoring; or a duty-bearer analysis. A situationreport seeks to monitor progress in the realization of human rights, i.e., whether and the extentto which the rights are enjoyed by the rights-holders. As such, the focus is on the status of humanrights and the situation of vulnerable groups. While such reports abound at the national level, thereports prepared under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism within the frameworkof the UN Human Rights Council are also a good example. On the other hand, a duty-beareranalysis report, such as most of the treaty-based reports, monitors the fulfillment of obligations torealize human rights. Such a process thus focuses on mapping human rights actors, and examiningactions taken by the State and other legal and moral duty-bearers to realize human rights. Insome cases, these two perspectives may come together in a multi-perspective monitoring reportdealing with the status of rights, situation of vulnerable groups and fulfillment of legal/moralduties by the duty-bearers.Comprehensive vs. Specialized: Human rights monitoring processes and reports are also differentin terms of the range of issues/rights to be covered. Some reports comprehensively cover thewhole range of rights while others opt for a more in-depth coverage of selected thematicissues/rights. Most national human rights reports, however, have an overview section dealingwith the whole range of rights/issues as well as specific sections for more in-depth discussion ofselected issues/rights.Situation vs. Case Monitoring: Human rights monitoring can be of two general kinds, dependingon their focus: situation monitoring and case monitoring. Under each kind, there can be variousforms, 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.This form of monitoring is useful for the purpose of monitoring government compliance withtreaty obligations as well as for domestic monitoring. Case monitoring, on the other hand, is veryfocused and victim-oriented and involves work for or on behalf of an individual victim or agroup of victims. Follow up and documentation of developments in the case is an essential andintegral part of case monitoring.5 Human Rights Monitoring MethodologiesTwo dominant methodologies in monitoring human rights situations are the "events" (or acts-based) methodology and the indicators-based methodology. The “events methodology” forGhetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisE-mail: Page 3
  4. 4. monitoring involves identifying the various acts of commission and omission that constitute orlead to human rights violations. This methodology involves investigating and documenting anevent that is suspected of or confirmed to be consisting of one or more acts considered asviolations. A limitation of the “events” methodology is that it usually does not aim, or often fails,to arrive at a complete picture by giving the total number of violations, much less the proportionof actual victims to the whole population.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 notedin terms of enabling the identification of problems and potential major violations, expressing themagnitude of the problems, comparisons over space, determination of the status of groups withina country, and facilitating the evaluation of trends over time. However, indicators andbenchmarks may not be appropriate in addressing grave violations since they tend to aggregatethe situation of individuals. Indicators-based methodology is especially weak in situations werevictims require direct and individualized assistance. In short, the combination of the “events”methodology and the indicators-based methodology should result in a comprehensive anddetailed picture of a situation.Sources 1. 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 2. 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, 2006 3. 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 4. 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. 5. Hans-Otto Sano & Lone Lindholt, Human Rights Indicators: Country Data and Methodology, Danish Center for Human Rights, 2000 6. Manuel Guzman and Bert Verstappen, Human Rights Monitoring and Documentation Series, Volume 1: WHAT IS MONITORING, HURIDOCS, 2003 7. 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 1999 8. Mona Nicoara, Human Rights Observation and Monitoring, Independent Consultant, Columbia University, Monday, June 28, 2004 9. 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 2008Ghetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisE-mail: Page 4
  5. 5. 10. 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 2003 11. Rajeev Malhotra and Nicholas Fasel, “Quantitative Human Rights Indicators: A Survey of Major Initiatives,” draft for discussion at Turku, 3 March 2005. ( 12. 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 1991 13. UN, Common Country Assessment and United Nations Development Framework: Guidelines for UN Country Teams (Geneva: July 2004) 6 ( F.pdf) 14. United Nations Development Group, Indicators for Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals: Definitions, Rationale, Concepts, and Sources (New York: United Nations, 2003). ( 15. 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 16. United Nations Human Rights Council: Institution Building, Human Rights Council resolution 5/1 of 18 June 2007Ghetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisE-mail: Page 5