NEWS of the Index
on the Global Human Rights Index
Green Party of England and Wales has adopted the Index as policy
Index is the next logical step now that the UN has adopted a Responsibility to
Index of Human Rights in the UN: Improving Governance at International
Iraq in 2007 is a tragic, bloody mess as a result of the violent
intervention led by the USA.
But for all of us who
opposed the war, this question remains:
would you have done to end Saddam Hussein's reign of terror? Or to stop the genocide
in Rwanda, or the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo?"
There is a way forward through measuring the human
rights performance of the world's governments, and applying rewards for good practice
and disincentives for bad practice.
effects of an IHR will be to:
provide a continuous motivational force for governments
to improve their human rights record.
year-on-year progress (or regress) of all states.
cause release of political prisoners as governments
seek to improve their standing.
enable low scoring countries to seek and receive
assistance in improving their performance
diminish the possibility of the UN having to
make military R2P interventions.
Lessen the tendency for political caprice to
determine who is and is not regarded as a rogue state.
pave the way for the worst
offenders to be brought to court and penalised with a tariff of smart sanctions
designed to hinder and disable the ruling elite of states that fail to protect
the human rights of their citizens.
is proposed to use a modification of the 1990s Observer
Index of Human Rights as the instrument, and to make its annual publication
an integral part of the United Nations membership process.
the worst performing governments could be tried in an international Court, and
if the human rights abuses are upheld, will experience targeted sanctions.
The problem with tyranny lies in the way
governments are accepted by the international community. Anyone who controls the
army and the police is accepted as the legitimate government. For our leaders,
the question is not, "Is this a decent government dedicated to justice?"
but "Will he align with us or with some other bloc? Will he trade with us?
He may be a wrongdoer, but is he our wrongdoer?"
is tolerated and overlooked by governments when it suits them, but when it becomes
expedient or desirable to do so, the tyrant that our leaders have been supporting
may be denounced in the UN and at home. He is described as "the new Hitler"
in our media. Full on sanctions are applied. Later, the bombing starts. His people
are killed as collateral damage, his country is reduced to rubble, and the development
process is set back by decades. All the while, our government and those of our
allies present themselves as "democratic" and therefore above reproach.
is not a good management strategy. The right way to change behaviour is through
consistency and the setting of clear boundaries.
simplistic and capricious good/bad categorisation is not a true representation
of the situation. Standards of governance range on a continuum from the reasonably
good (e.g. Scandinavian) through the indifferent to the thoroughly unpleasant
(e.g. Hussein's Iraq, Burma, Zimbabwe).
to reflect this continuum, a league table of governmental performance can be created,
so that governments could see how they match up on an objective set of criteria.
It would be a measuring rule to rate the quality of governance of any state. In
this way, what constitutes a legitimate Government would move from the de facto
towards the de jure - from deriving authority from pure power to deriving
it from justice.
Oppression Leads to War
W Bush's Operation Iraqi Liberation shows that violent overthrow of oppressive
regimes causes as many problems as it solves. The arbitrary and illegal actions
of the US-led "Coalition of the willing" have caused unprecedented hostility
and controversy world wide. Yet on the other hand few people support the idea
that the international community should sit back in a spirit of laissez faire
and watch while atrocities and genocide take place as in Rwanda and Kosovo. We
have to address the question of what to do about regimes who use torture, murder
2005 the UN Summit in New York took on board the doctrine of Responsiblity to
Protect (R2P) with the following words: "We ... intend to commit ourselves,
as necessary and appropriate, to help states build capacity to protect their populations
from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to
assist those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out...we
are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through
the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter, including Chapter VII,
on a case by case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations
as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate... "
VII enables the UN to authorise military action against a state.
the UN in a position of being prepared to use violence in which innocent bystanders
are bound to be injured and killed. This may ultimately become necessary, but
before it resorts to military action, the UN needs to put in place a non-violent
system that rewards good governance and penalises governments that are tending
towards oppression and genocide.
important lesson to be learned from Iraq is the danger of lawlessness when an
authoritarian regime is removed. It should have been anticipated because to a
lesser extent, there was a similar reaction after the fall of Communism, and after
the fall of the right wing regimes in Portugal and Spain. It might prove to be
the case be the case that gradual change, although it is slower, and therefore
prolongs the suffering under the tyrant, is better in the long run because it
may minimise the lawlessness (not to say anarchy) that follows the sudden collapse
of a repressive regime.
The Index of Governance
The performance of any institution can be measured. There are instruments in existence
which can form the basis for measuring governmental performance. The Observer
Index of Human Rights ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/rightsindex/Story/0,2763,201762,00.html
) is a good working model. (If the link above does not work, go to the observer
website and search Index of Human Rights). It was compiled in two ways. The first
- the simple ranking - represents the incidence of headline abuses of human rights
over 13 categories, including:
- the use of torture;
- scale of disappearances (these critical indicators
marked out of 30);
- use of the death penalty;
of free speech;
- political rights;
of political prisoners
- denial of free movement,
- child rights;
- fair trial;
The total for each country was then multiplied
by its score on the Human Development Index (HDI), as defined by the United Nations,
to avoid unfairly penalising less-developed countries. Some people find this kind
of weighting objectionable, arguing that torture and killing is absolutely morally
repugnant no matter who authorises it. The opposite view is based on the premise
that "To whom much has been given, from them more will be expected."
The clinching argument for this adjustment is that it removes a block on its acceptability
by the majority. It is better to have some control on torture than no control
A similar approach has been also been
developed in the Political Terror Scale which was created in 1983 by Michael Stohl
at Purdue University, and is currently maintained by Mark
Gibney. It is a graded scale for measuring human rights violation and was
adapted from work originally published by Raymond Gastil of Freedom House in 1979.
The raw information for the scale comes from the United States Department of State
(marked with an s on the tables) and Amnesty International Annual (column marked
a) reports on countries' Human Rights practices. The data is graded into categories
of 1 to 5, with best human rights practices ranked as 1 and the worst at 5. There
is no adjustment for stage of development. The scores can be viewed here.
the World Bank in 1999 published a report
which comes to the conclusion that good governance, which they measured under
the headings of
and accountability, democracy, free expression, free association, media
political stability, absence of violence
quality - permitting private sector development
will lead to economic prosperity. They also defended the measurements as
course, a variety of other factors could be added in to these instruments, for
- Non possession of weapons of mass destruction
Military/Social budget ratio
- A convergent economy,
that is, an economy in which the ratio of incomes of the highest and lowest parts
of the population are tending towards the median.
Dr Marie Besancon has reviewed
the range of instruments available to measure governance. In her report "Good
Governance rankings: the art of measurement" she lists 47 different methods
of measuring governance - although she does not mention human rights as a main
a broader approach would give a better picture of a government's performance,
the increased complexity would inevitably give rise to complex objections and
appeals that would slow the process down. The focus on human rights stands as
a simple proxy for the other actions of a government, and it is likely that it
would also be an accurate indicator of the global performance.
One of the advantages of using
human rights abuses is that we are not dependent on (possibly unreliable) government
data, since friends and relatives of detainees will be motivated to provide information
to the UN Governance agency.
As well as the Human Development Index, a weighting
or an allowance could be applied to allow for the extent to which the writ of
a regime may or may not run in the territory for which it is nominally resposible.
Some governments may not have full ability to control what goes on in their country.
However, this consideration should not be used to indemnify governments for responsibility
for their own agents.
The final form of the UN index will emerge from
negotiations at UN level, so it is not necessary to perfect them here. It is sufficient
to say that to create an Index of Governance based on human rights would not be
a difficult or expensive task, and it could be run by a modest secretariat within
the UN, on an on-going basis.
Effects of installing the Index
- The very act of
creating the Index would have a therapeutic effect. Governments, even tyrannical
ones, are sensitive to public opinion, as evidenced by the success of Amnesty
International's letter writing campaigns over individual cases. There will be
a natural desire to rate more highly in the Index.
parties know where they stand, instead of the arbitrary and ad hoc way
that tyrants are dealt with at present. The demonisation of one tyrant (prior
to waging war) will be less easy to do if everyone knows that he is only, say,
6th from the bottom on the Index.
- Governments will
doubtless appeal against their ratings. The UN can set a time to send in inspectors
to review the conditions in the country. Regimes will tend to release prisoners
and improve other conditions prior to the appeals inspection.
countries may accept advice and assistance in improving their human rights performance.
Mediation could be set up to initiate dialogue with opposition groups.
when the Index is established, it can be used to bring specific legal action and
targeted sanctions to bear on the very worst offenders.
Enforcing good behaviour
with Smart or Targeted Sanctions
This is the second phase of
the initiative, which will take a longer time to install.
The use of sanctions was successful
in the cases of South Africa and Libya, but the effects of sanctions against Saddam
Hussein caused severe suffering to the Iraqi people. In order to avoid this, sanctions
in future should be designed specifically to affect the ruling elite of the country
and not the general public. Smart Sanctions
have been examined extensively in the late 1990s, and there is a great deal of
confidence that they can be employed to curb the regime without hurting the common
people. They are primarily financial measures. It is very possible that banks
will resist the kind of interventions required by smart sanctions, so a head of
political steam will have to be created before this can go forward.
There are other measures that
can be brought apart from sanctions, such as supporting opposition groups.
The 192 or so governments
on the UN Index will be grouped into a convenient number of bands according to
their score, so that each government will belong to either a top, middle, low
or lowest band. In practice, it will be necessary to leave more than three quarters
of the UN members in their present state, and apply disincentives only to a minority
of governments. This is necessary because if the majority were to lose out under
the system, it would not be possible to vote the system into being.
A legal process will be followed
before sanctions of any level of severity are applied. The International Criminal
Court, or a branch of that Court, or another Court set up for the process, should
check out the accuracy of the data that the Index is based on. The ICC will of
course still be free to investigate cases of abuse in countries that may rank
higher in the Index; but countries in the lowest band of the Index will automatically
receive legal attention. In this way the capricious and unpredictable politically
motivated behaviour of the superpower referred to above, and exemplified in the
case of Saddam Hussein, will be avoided.
The lowest 10, say, of the
poorly performing governments should fall into the "failing state" bracket
that receives disincentives. This group might be divided into perhaps, two bands,
with the upper five receiving intensive help to enable them to escape falling
into the sanctions bracket, and the lowest 5 (or even less, perhaps starting with
one and building up as the scheme progresses) actually receiving sanctions. Or
the sanctions could be graded, with first one, then two then more being applied
as the Index score (legally ratified in the Court) falls to lower levels.
Here are some possible mild
- Loss of the right to take a seat on the UN Security Council,
or take up other responsible positions.
- Loss of
specified voting rights in UN, with diminution of the power of the country's vote
given to democratic opposition groups who support principles of good governance.
border controls, in readiness for sanctions on arms related materials.
of ability to receive loans, for instance for some state-run enterprises.
on government members' ability to use airlines.
on visa issues to members of the Government.
If the country falls further
down the scale, graduated sanctions are introduced progressively, such as:
- Prohibition of specified
- freezing of accounts of government
- ban on imports of all lethal goods
on imports of dual purpose technology
- ban on imports
of chemical weapon precursors
- ban on imports of
- ban on imports of nuclear technology
on imports of wines and spirits
- ban on imports of
tobacco, cars, oil & oil products, and luxury items. (These are often used
by oppressive regimes to buy loyalty)
For those with worse records,
or in the case of governments who fail to reform despite being under milder sanctions,
opposition groups will be supported with financial and logistical help, provided
that they support the principles of good governance.
Finally, if the regime still
refuses to improve, or if it is engaging in ethnic cleansing or genocide, these
opposition parties could be entrusted and empowered with responsibility for imports
of, and fair distribution of, necessities like food and medicines. This would
give them practice in the arts of co-operation (with each other) and administration,
enabling them to prepare for government.
If necessary, the distribution
efforts will be protected by UN forces, which would finally, and regrettably but
necessarily, lead on to the kind of "Responsibility to Protect" military
measures being contemplated by UN General Secretary Kofi Anan and the Canadian
Despite its advantages, the
second part of this proposal will be very difficult to implement, and will raise
many objections, which are set out below and on the FAQ
"The proposal runs counter to the aims and practices
of the WTO"
Agreed. The central objection of the anti-globalisation
campaign is that globalisation sets free trade above human and environmental values.
There is a direct contradiction between the aims of the World Trade Organisation
and the aims of the human rights, green and peace movements. The WTO and associated
organisations must be challenged to assent to these proposals as their contribution
towards the effort to improve the lot of humankind. There is no better time than
the present to make this challenge.
"America (or China,
or dictatorsip of your choice) would never agree to it"
The fact (or possibility)
that bad people will obstruct good initiatives is not a valid reason to give up.
America cannot remain forever in the grip of people like George W Bush. There
are signs that his regime is already beginning to run out of steam. The UN has
a good record of putting good measures in place in the teeth of opposition from
"The proposal challenges the notion
of absolute sovereignty"
The doctrine of state sovereignty
was introduced about five hundred years ago to end the meddling of the Pope in
secular affairs and is well overdue for revision. We are under no illusions as
to how difficult it will be to institutionalise this system of international standards
of governance. What leader of a country is going to let go of any degree of his
sovereign power to a council of his peers, even if it is in the cause of inhibiting
wars and terrorism? A great deal of pressure from "civil society" (citizens
and NGOs) will be necessary. There is a discernible current of thinking within
the UN that is questioning the notion of absolute sovereignty.
The political difficulty can
be overcome by the use of the Simultaneous
Policy tactic, which asks politicians if they would pledge to implement a
measure on condition that a majority of other politicians would do the same.
"This is the old
idea of World Government"
This is not the case.
World Government implies a standard regime affecting all aspects of behaviour;
this proposal is restricted to prevention of inhumane activity.
"This is not enough of itself to bring
about peace and justice"
It is not claimed that the
IoG alone is sufficient to change the political culture of oppression, tyrrany
and war. It is claimed that alongside other measures such as reform of the UN,
wider ranging powers for the International Criminal Court, and greater democratisation
of international affairs, it will play its part in bringing about a fairer and
more peaceful world. The Movement
to Abolish War has a useful overview of some of the other measures required.
Dan Plesch's Beauty Queen's Guide to World
Peace and War No More
by Rotblat and Hinde are useful texts.
regimes will simply walk out of the UN"
This is a major risk of this
strategy. It must be recognised that the UN is severely under-resourced - its
total budget is less than Britain's military expenditure, and its establishment
is less than the NHS establishment in Wales. The UN must be supported, expanded,
fully resourced and reformed. The UNA and
Action for UN Reform are organisations that are concerned with this.
One of the key reforms
needed for the UN is that it should be democratised, with UN representatives being
directly elected by each country, rather than mere appointees of the government
of that country. Many other reforms are currently being considered within the
may take years or decades to implement the full Index of Governance with the smart
sanction component in place; but the simple measure of performance alone could
be implemented in the near future, if sufficient pressure could be generated by
the green, peace and human rights movements acting together.
Opressive regimes cause suffering
to the people who fall within their power, with genocide, torture, disappearances,
ethnic cleansing and imprisonment being the worst. These actions cannot be tolerated,
but in addition, these regimes are more likely to get involved in wars. Even more,
the UN is gearing up to prosecute wars against regimes which are practicing ethnic
cleansing and genocide. At the time of writing (May 2005) there is a building
head of steam calling for intervention in Sudan because of the ethnic cleansing
and genocide being carried out in Darfur.
Modern wars are so destructive,
whether fought with high explosives or machetes, that we must create a political
framework that makes war less likely. This central reality is the motivation that
will help us slowly to overcome the self-interest of politicians.
The choice before the world
is clear: either continue as we are with absolutely sovereign states oppressing
their people and going to war with each other, or we form a community of states
who are signed up to a common set of ground rules, and in which poor governance
is inhibited by loss of privilege and trading disadvantages.
Development of the Index of Governance proposal
Index of Governance proposal has been :
discussed at the 2004
conference of the Medical
and Scientific Network, achieving majority approval.
published on the CultureChange website
owned by the environmentalist Jan Lundberg
as policy at the Green Party Conference in Lancaster
- Discussed on
the Monbiot forum and at the Green Party Conference Spring 2005
on the Global Ideas Bank site.
version of this page was published in Quaker Monthly in February
2005 and later an article in the Friend.
- A referenced article was published in July
2005 in the journal Medicine, Conflict and Survival
has gone to the FCO and Sir Emyr Jones Parry, UK Representative to the UN.
Index is currently being considered by the Boards of the UK UNA (United Nations
Association) and also Board of Amnesty International UK.
AGM of Medact on April 23rd 2005 decided
to ask the Board to look at the proposal (keeping an eye on what Amnesty decided).
is being sought from many other organisation concerned with peace and human rights.
you would like to be kept up to date with developments with this initiative, please
use the Contact link.
you would like to help, please write to any peace and human rights organisation
that you know, asking them to adopt the Index of Governance initiative. At this
stage we need to raise consciousness of this as a possibility. When a good number
of NGOs are on board, we will start lobbying national governments and within the