Human Rights in 2011: The CIRI Report

The CIRI Human Rights Data Project, which I co-direct with David Cingranelli and David Richards, 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

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 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.

Without furthre ado, here are four stories from the 2011 data:



All 14 of CIRI’s 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

Luxembourg [30]
Netherlands [29]
New Zealand [29]
San Marino [29]
Andorra [28]
Australia [28]
Denmark [28]
Iceland [28]
Norway [28]

Bottom 9 Countries – Overall Respect
Iran [1]
Eritrea [2]
Saudi Arabia [2]
Burma [3]
China [3]
Libya [3]
Yemen [3]
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [4]
Syria [4]



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

Bahrain [-5]
Djibouti [-3]
Egypt [-3]
Republic of Korea [-3]
Libya [-3]
Mauritania [-3]
Oman [-3]

Largest Improvements in Respect for Physical Integrity Rights
Panama [+4]
Croatia [+3]
Belarus [+2]
Nepal [+2]
Togo [+2]

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

Africa [-0.04]
East Asia & the Pacific [-0.12]
Europe & Eurasia [0]
Near East & North Africa [-1.37]
South Asia [+0.25]
Western Hemisphere [-0.11]





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.



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.

Note: The shapefile used to construct the above map comes from Weidmann, Kuse, and Gleditsch’s cshapes, version 0.4-2.  The map was made using Pisati’s spmap package in Stata 12.1.  Another version of this post can be viewed at the CIRI Human Rights Data Project Blog.
K. Chad Clay

About K. Chad Clay

K. Chad Clay is an assistant professor in the Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia and co-director of the CIRI Human Rights Data Project. His research focuses on the impact of international factors on human rights practices, political violence, and economic development. He received his PhD in political science from Binghamton University in 2012.

Leave a Reply