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Global human rights report card: 60% of countries got an F

A research team at the University of Rhode Island has produced a comprehensive report grading human rights practices across the globe. 

The Global Rights Project (GRIP), led by researchers in URI’s Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, utilized an extensive human rights dataset to evaluate each country on a 100-point scale. 

The results indicate that civil rights violations are widespread. Overall, 60% of the world’s nations received a failing grade (F), while only 20% earned A or B grades.

How countries ranked

Finland topped the list with a score of 98 points (A). Australia, Estonia, Sweden, and Austria rounded out the top five, each receiving an A. 

In the Americas, Canada had the highest grade with an 88 (B). The bottom five scores were Iran (0, F), Syria (6, F), Yemen (8, F), Venezuela (12, F), and Egypt (14, F). 

United States

The United States ranked 59th globally with a score of 64 (D). According to the researchers, the U.S. had strong scores for several civil and political rights, but continues to violate many labor rights and women’s rights.

“Given what we know about the way a country’s characteristics correlate with human rights, the U.S. falls about where we’d expect it to be,” said Professor Skip Mark.

“However, if the U.S. is no longer a democracy and democratic backsliding continues then human rights are likely to significantly decline in the near future.”  

Basic rights 

“We show that most countries of the world are failing to protect their citizens’ most basic rights,” said Professor Mark.

“We think these findings make it clear that there’s a lot of work to do in terms of ensuring that all people have a chance to live a life of dignity and respect.” 

“We hope objective measures of human rights practices in this report will be a resource for policymakers, nongovernmental organizations, researchers, and anyone else interested in improving human rights around the world.”

Human rights dataset

GRIP’s grading system draws from the CIRIGHTS Data Project, the world’s most extensive quantitative human rights dataset.

The data integrates reports from various authoritative sources, including the U.S. Department of State and Amnesty International.

“It’s been at least 40 years since there has been an annual human rights report card for all nations of the world,” said David Cingranelli, a professor at Binghamton University. 

“This report gives us an objective measure of human rights using a methodology that’s transparent and replicable.”

Key insights

The experts found a significant correlation between government type and human rights, with democracies faring better than autocracies.

Smaller, wealthier nations tend to score higher, highlighting the influence of economic and demographic factors on human rights.

The U.S. is a wealthy country, which correlates with better rights. But it also has a large population, which is associated with worse rights, noted the researchers.

Civil vs economic rights 

Worldwide, civil and political rights are more protected than economic rights, suggesting a critical area for global improvement.

The pandemic 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated human rights issues, particularly in the context of human trafficking and labor rights.

Declining standards

There has been a notable decline in respect for human rights globally over the past two decades.

Study implications 

The GRIP researchers aim to continue their assessments and release yearly reports. This is crucial for comprehending the challenges to human dignity and shaping efforts to enhance quality of life on a global scale.

“This report makes uniquely clear the human rights footprints left by governments in every part of the world,” said David Richards, a professor at the University of Connecticut. 

“Since there’s no helping human dignity without fully understanding the nature and extent of threats to its respect, the information these data bring to light couldn’t be more important.”

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