This week, the world celebrates Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a critical opportunity for the global justice and rule of law community to reflect on the current status of human rights around the world. During this time of reflection, it is important to consider what data sources say about the protection of human rights around the world.
As an essential component of the rule of law, the World Justice Project publishes country-level data on respect for fundamental rights, which measures the protection of human rights, through the WJP Rule of Law Index. To better understand and measure how the rule of law is experienced by ordinary people, WJP Rule of Law Index scores are based on data collected from two sources: a General Population Poll (GPP), administered to the public through household surveys, and a series of Qualified Respondents Questionnaires (QRQs) administered to rule of law experts. Country scores are scaled from 0.00 to 1.00, with 1.00 representing the strongest adherence to the rule of law.
The WJP Rule of Law Index is comprised of eight factors that together provide a disaggregated picture of the rule of law in a country. The map below displays country scores for Factor 4: Fundamental Rights from the 2017-2018 report.
Protections of Human Rights Weakening Worldwide
Worryingly, since the publication of the 2016 WJP Rule of Law Index, 71 out of 113 countries saw a decline in their fundamental rights score. The map below charts the change in score for the 84 countries whose scores remained stable or declined.
Closing Civic Space a Key Driver of Decline
One of the main drivers of this drop was a marked decline in freedom of assembly and association, a right enshrined in Article 20 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and measured in sub-factor 4.7 of the WJP Rule of Law Index. Around the world, 72 out of 113 countries saw a decline in this area, with notable cases such as Poland (-0.11) and Hungary (-0.06) seeing some of the largest declines among high-income countries. Turkey and China, two other headline grabbing countries, saw their scores remain stable, but continued to rank among the lowest of upper middle-income countries.
Data from the WJP Rule of Law Index 2017-2018 lays bare a troubling trend: citizens believe that human rights protections within their country are in decline. This is a dangerous shift that requires a unified response from the global justice and rule of law community.