SECTION 6: MONITORING AND ASSESSING THE ENJOYMENT OF ESC RIGHTS
MONITORING AND ASSESSING THE
ENJOYMENT OF ESC RIGHTS
The Purpose of Module 19
The purpose of this module is to review strategies and tools that can be used to monitor and assess, from different perspectives, the enjoyment of ESC rights by individuals and groups. The module discusses
Section IV focused on defining the content of specific ESC rights and the corresponding obligations of governments. The section focuses on determining the extent of the enjoyment of those rights through the process of monitoring and assessing the situation in a country. The information gathered in this process forms the essential basis for any type of education or advocacy on behalf of ESC rights.
In the context of this manual, "monitoring means the process of systematically tracking the actions by institutions, organizations or governmental bodies. "Assessing involves analyzing the information gathered, and comparing it to domestic and international standards related to human rights to determine what the information says about the extent of a governments compliance with its obligations.
Purpose of Monitoring
When an organization decides to monitor ESC rights compliance, it is essential that it first be clear about its own purpose, strategies and objectives. All monitoring and assessing should be undertaken within this framework, and should be designed to further the organizations purpose, strategies and objectives.
Take, for example, a primary school in a rural area where an organization works, in which one third of the students in the first form are girls, but by sixth form only 15 percent are girls. Depending upon the organizations goals and objectives, it may undertake different forms of monitoring and assessing. If the organization sets as a goal maintaining the level of girls enrollment, it may investigate the reasons why a large number of girls do not continue in school through interviews with girls and their parents, teachers and administrators, and local educational authorities whose policies may affect enrollment. On the other hand, if the organization is primarily concerned with improving the quality of rural schooling generally, it will not tackle the discrepancy between boys and girls within a single school, but instead it will learn what it can about national-level policies related to and funding allocated for rural schools as opposed to urban schools.
Difficulties in Monitoring ESC Rights
Monitoring and assessing governments actions to determine the extent of enjoyment of ESC rights can, in some cases, be simple. More often, however, it will be quite complex, for a number of reasons.
Human rights work involves monitoring governments actions and assessing them against established human rights standards. As was discussed at some length in Module 8, in many cases the relevant ESC rights standards have not yet been fully developed. Activists may thus find themselves more involved in a process of defining the content of rights as part of their monitoring and advocacy work than would generally be the case with, for example, civil and political rights. While investigating a case, they may have to undertake research to arrive at a fuller elaboration and deeper understanding of specific standards in order to argue the application of the standards to the specific case. These arguments, in turn, may serve as the basis for a court to make a decision that lends greater precision to the parameters and dimensions of the specific right. This back-and-forth process can be complex and drawn out, but it is essential for the development of more precise understanding of ESC rights at the national and international levels and, in turn, for more focused and effective monitoring.
The governments obligations with respect to ESC rights are multifaceted, as has already been described in Module 9.
A government has an obligation of conduct and an obligation of result. This means that activists seeking to monitor and assess governments actions must look not only at what the government is doing, but also at the results of its actions.
A government must also respect, protect, promote and fulfill its ESC rights obligations. These requirements will involve a four-part assessment of the governments actions.
Finally, the government has to fulfill its obligations progressively and to the maximum of its available resources.
"Progressively implies that activists will need to monitor the governments actions over time, to ensure that progress is being made with respect to the particular right. This, in turn, will necessitate a familiarity with the use of indicators and benchmarks (see below). Activists may also need to look at expenditures of government resources to determine whether the government is devoting the "maximum of its available resources to meeting its obligations. This necessitates an understanding of budget analysis (see below).
A governments failure to meet its ESC rights obligations affects individuals. It is individuals who are denied access to education, a safe job or a healthy environment; an individual may be denied a job, for example, or admission to a school, because of discrimination based on race or another factor. It is important to document such cases carefully in order to prove a violation of the individuals right. This type of documentation will generally involve more traditional types of fact-finding on cases or situations (see below).
In the majority of situations, activists will be working with groups of people, rather than simply individuals, because large numbers of people are normally affected by a governments policies or plans in the ESC area. As a result, monitoring and assessing the impact of a governments policies and plans may necessitate a review and analysis of complex data, such as statistics related to mortality or morbidity, levels of education, or numbers of unemployed, whether produced by the government or by independent institutions and organizations. This, in turn, will require skills in the area of collection and analysis of primary and secondary data (see below).
Fact-finding/Investigation and Documentation of ESC Rights Cases
When communities or individuals approach an organization with a complaint about a case or situation that they believe amounts to a violation of their rights, it may be necessary for the organization to gather "on-the-ground facts. If, for example, people in a community have been forcibly displaced from their homes, the organization may want to secure its own determination as to what happened, how many people were affected, who was responsible, and so on. In such a case, an organization will be involved in fact-finding or investigation.
The principles that apply to fact-finding on civil and political issues such as torture, arbitrary killings or arbitrary detention also apply to fact-finding on ESC rights issues.
Placing the people and the community in the center
Organizations should bear the interests of the people in mind when they do fact-finding work.
They should remember that the work they do constitutes a substantial intrusion into the lives of the people who provide them with information. In many instances, people risk their lives and their well-being to provide information.
As much as possible, an organization should consult with the people affected about any plans that it may have. It should inform them of the ways in which the information given will be used, and it should explain the possible consequences of their cooperation.
Confidentiality as well as prior consent for future use of the information should be established early on.
The need to establish credibility and reliability of human rights information
Frequently, the data organizations gather, the analyses they undertake and the conclusions they arrive at are challenged by those who disagree with their work. This is particularly true because NGOs take their issues to the media and the public at large. It is thus essential that the information and reports that organizations generate and disseminate be reliable and credible.
Establishing the credibility and reliability of information requires a certain amount of rigor and objectivity in collecting information and making reports.
Once gathered, facts need to be stored in a way that ensures consistency in record-keeping and facilitates easy retrieval of information. This requires the development of a manageable and efficient documentation system.
The basic tools used to ensure accuracy and consistency in investigating and documenting violations of civil and political rights cases will need to be systematically adapted by activists to the differing specifics-types of acts, actors and victims-of ESC rights cases. A few resources currently in use with respect to civil and political rights are listed at the end of this module and provide a useful framework for thinking through the elements of investigation and documentation of ESC rights cases.
When the ESC issue impacts a large number of people or a whole community, what may be needed is not so much the documenting of a large number of individual cases as the development of indicators that make it possible to evaluate the observance of a particular ESC right.
Development and Use of Indicators
Generally speaking, an indicator is a tool that shows the direction of something or serves as a sign or symptom. Indicators are very useful for analysis, even without a consensus definition of their content. The precise and systematic use of indicators can contribute in several ways to the realization of ESC rights. Indicators
However, there is a lot of confusion in the discussion about human rights indicators. It is not a term that is commonly used in civil and political rights work, although for those who come to ESC rights work from such fields as public policy, sociology or health research, the term will not be new.
There are many indicators already used by various intergovernmental agencies, such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations Development Programme, to measure the status of economic and social conditions within countries. These indicators, however, are not exhaustive, nor are they necessarily linked to human rights concepts. The existing indicators for socioeconomic development must therefore be evaluated and redesigned from a human rights perspective.
Similarly, human rights indicators should not be limited to compilations of statistical data. In addition to numerical data, "it is equally important to develop criteria, principles, and estimates of the realization of the ESC rights3 that can be convertible into indicators.
The following distinction between "outcome or "results indicators and "process indicators provides for two substantial ways to develop human rights indicators. On way focuses on the content of the right, the other looks at implementation by the state:
Results indicators: Results indicators refer to the core content of the right and make it possible to gauge the status of the right. For example, with respect to the right to health, the proportion of children who have suffered mortality or morbidity from childhood diseases preventable by immunization is a results indicator.
Process indicators: Process indicators are constructed based on the respective states obligations. They make it possible to measure the degree to which the state is complying with its general obligations. For example, the extent to which universal coverage of basic immunizations has been accomplished, measured as the proportion of children completely immunized against childhood diseases, is a process indicator.
In other words, while process indicators help assess and monitor a governments fulfillment of its obligation of conduct, results indicators help assess fulfillment of its obligation of result with respect to ESC rights. (See chart in Module 8, p. 153.)
At the same time, the indicators should facilitate a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the performance of the general obligations of the state (legislative recognition, adoption of measures to the maximum of available resources) as well as of the specific obligations attaching to each right.
Quantitative indicators are made up of numerical data. Qualitative indicators allow for an evaluation of the quality of enjoyment of the right. This includes assessing the performance by the state both in adopting measures and in terms of its programmatic positions, as well as analyzing nonquantifiable aspects of public policies (e.g., forms of participation or receptivity of the judiciary to proposals for the realization of ESC rights).
Once process and results indicators have been developed with respect to an ESC right, the next step is the development of benchmarks. Benchmarks as used in human rights parlance are, in essence, targets established by governments, on the basis of appropriately consultative processes, in relation to each of the ESC rights obligations that apply in the state concerned. Those targets will be partly quantitative and partly qualitative. They will be linked to specific time frames, and they will provide a basis upon which "progressive realization, as mandated in the ICESCR, can be measured. Benchmarks will initially differ significantly from one country to another, reflecting both the "available resources and the priority concerns in each country. Over time, however, one would expect a gradual coming together of the approaches.
Benchmarking is a very useful approach to overcoming a lack of action at the national level in relation to ESC rights. Establishing benchmarks for the realization of ESC rights serves to emphasize some aspects of the interrelationship that exists between these rights and civil and political rights. A program, to begin moving towards the realization of the right to food, the right to education or the right to housing, cannot be envisioned solely in terms of technical, bureaucratic or even economic solutions. The civil and political dimensions are vital. Individuals must be empowered to participate in decisions on the steps to be taken towards meeting those rights and must be given the opportunity to contribute to the monitoring and evaluation processes. In this sense, civil and political rights can be seen not only as ends in themselves, but also as a vital means by which to facilitate the realization of ESC rights.
While governments might be reluctant to involve individuals and groups in the broader political process relating to ESC rights, it is clear that there are significant advantages, particularly in situations in which resources are scarce and difficult decisions must be made as to priorities. Community involvement carries with it the potential to make such decisions more palatable, more equitable and more sustainable.
The Collection and Interpretation of Quantitative Data and Qualitative Information
In order to use indicators and benchmarks for monitoring, activists need quantitative data and/or qualitative information pertaining to the indicator under consideration. In the South African example above, the indicator used is the "number of people who do not have adequate supplies of potable water, while the benchmark or the target set is "supplying 50-60 liters of water per person per day for all. The data pertaining to the indicator is 12-14 million people (who do not have adequate access to potable water).
Primary and secondary data sources
There are two broad categories of sources for obtaining data or information pertaining to the indicators developed for monitoring a specific ESC right.
Primary: Primary data or information is collected firsthand by a research team.
Secondary: Secondary data or information is that which has already been gathered by others, for the same or another purpose. Secondary sources may be published or unpublished, and include both quantitative and qualitative information.
Let us consider the example of collecting data for the indicator "proportion of population completing primary education, corresponding to the states obligation to provide education for all its population. This is a results indicator. Examples of process indicators corresponding to the same right include "proportion of children in the age group 6-11 years enrolled in primary school, or "the number of primary schools per 1,000 population.
Collection of primary data on these indicators would usually involve carrying out a community survey of households. The survey could provide data on the proportion of population who have completed primary schooling, the proportion of children who are currently enrolled in primary school, and the number and distribution (in terms of distance from the households where children live) of primary schools in the community being studied.
The survey could also provide causal explanations. For example, if the proportion of children enrolled in a given village is much lower than that in another, is this because of the distance from the primary school? Because of the poverty of the households, with the result that children leave school and become wage earners? Or is it because of the poor quality of education provided in one school as against another?
Differentials in educational attainment within the community-for example, between boys and girls, may also be detected by such a community survey.
Community surveys are complex tools, and groups that do not have experience with surveys will need to consult with other organizations-such as womens health groups, development organizations, etc.-which more typically use survey techniques. They can also educate themselves through calling on the expertise of social scientists and others in their community who might have experience with surveys. Finally, they can refer to written resources on surveys. (See Resources, pp. 580-81.)
Community surveys typically provide quantitative information. The collection of qualitative information from communities and individuals may be equally or more important from the activists point of view. It can help in identifying barriers to educational attainment and strategies for overcoming these, and in making appropriate policy recommendations to governments.
Collection of qualitative information in the above example may include in-depth interviews with illiterate persons and dropouts to find out the reasons for not entering school or for dropping out. It may also include a series of focus-group discussions with different sectors of the community-men and women, young and older members, across socioeconomic groups-to determine the value placed by the community on education, their perceptions as to why children drop out from school, and how this could be prevented.
When information is needed on a national or subnational population group, secondary data must be used. This is because undertaking a large national sample survey for the collection of primary data would be beyond the means of most institutions
Governments, for example, often produce annual statistical reports on such spheres as work, health and education. In addition, some NGOs produce statistical reports on ESC issues, as do academic institutions and international organizations like the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme. While statistics produced by these institutions will usually not have been generated within a rights framework, they may nonetheless be helpful in filling in specific human rights-related indicators. They may also be useful in providing activists with an overall picture of particular sectors and in enabling them to cross-check government information.
In order to make the best use of existing information, organizations must be able to understand what the data mean, and they must develop a way of assessing their accuracy, reliability and limitations. Some of the problems in using existing data are the lack of reliable data and the use of different methods to collect data. As a result, divergences occur between the real situation and what the data suggest.
Many organizations working on civil and political rights have generated data on violations (e.g., the number of arbitrary killings each month in a country) and have analyzed data and information generated by others. They can bring this experience to bear on their ESC rights work. Data Analysis for Monitoring Human Rights, a clear and accessible publication on statistical analysis for human rights work, is a useful reference for those who feel they do not have adequate knowledge and experience in data analysis.6
Some guidelines on gathering and using secondary data and information are presented in the following section.
1. This summary is based on Jerome Scott, Paul Terranova, and Svati Shah, "Economic Development-Olympic Style, As the South Goes: Project South 3, no. 1 (Winter 1996): 8-9, and discussions with Jerome Scott.
2. Jean-Michel Collette, "Empirical Inquiries, National Income Measurement and the Assessment of Social Progress in Western Europe: A Historical Perspective (paper presented to the Copenhagen Seminar for Social Progress, September 1999), excerpts.
3. United Nations, Seminar on appropriate indicators for measuring progress made in the progressive realization of ESC rights, preliminary version (mimeographed), para. 20.
4. Progress Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Danilo Türk, Realization of economic, social and cultural rights, UN ESCOR, Commission on Human Rights, Forty-second Sess., Agenda Item 7, UN Doc. E/CN.4/Sub.2/1990/19 (1990), paras. 1-105.
5. Paul Hunt, "State obligations, indicators, benchmarks and the right to education, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, E/C.12/1998/11.
6. Herbert F. Spirer and Louise Spirer, Data Analysis for Monitoring Human Rights (Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993).