Skip to site navigation

Nominal Commitment to Human Rights: A Global Survey

NCHR

Nominal Commitments to Human Rights: A Global Survey

Nominal Commitment to Human Rights: A Global Survey is the first survey of its kind. It presents a global and comprehensive picture of the state of commitment to human rights through international law. Created by a team of researchers from University College London’s Department of Political Science, its aim is to document states’ legal commitment to international treaties concerned with human rights issues, as well as international oversight and judicial mechanisms. 

Nominal commitment does not mean real commitment. There are a myriad of reasons informing a state’s decision to ratify an international treaty alongside a genuine commitment to implement the provisions of a treaty. These reasons can include, among others, costs of commitment, external incentives to commit, setting an example to others, mimicking like-minded states, maintaining reputation and a genuine commitment to comply. Nominal commitment, however, is an important step towards the internalisation of international human rights commitments and the acceptance of supervision and oversight above and beyond states. Nominal commitment to human rights also creates important mobilisiation and lobbying opportunities for non-governmental organisations.

We hope that this survey will assist researchers and students of international law and international relations to analyse the global picture of legal commitments to human rights, to compare countries globally, as well as within and across regions and use the data for future research. 

The universal set of states parties is 194. This includes the 192 current members of the United Nations, the Holy See and the Cook Islands. The dataset on international treaties is up to date until August 1, 2009. The dataset on judgments and violations before regional courts is up to date until July 1, 2009.

In comparing regions, the Survey uses the regional groups of the United Nations, namely the Europe, North America and Others Group; the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC); the Middle-East & North Africa Group; the Asia-Pacific Group and the African Group.

International Treaties

  1. Core International Human Rights Treaties
  2. International Criminal Law
  3. Genocide Convention
  4. International Refugee Law
  5. International Humanitarian Law

1. Core International Human Rights Treaties

Table I covers the 8 core international human rights treaties, as defined by the United Nations and their optional protocols. The table displays the number of states party to the 8 treaties and the corresponding percentage this represents. The final column shows the number of reservations made, as well as the percentage of those states who are party to the treaty, but have entered at least one reservation.

By "reservation" we follow  the definition in Article 2 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the counting method developed initially in the working paper Reservations to human rights treaties, submitted by Ms Françoise Hampson' pursuant to Sub-Commission decision 1998/113, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1999/28, Annex, 28 June 1999, Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights. Reservations (even if named as declarations, or statements) that fit the definitial criteria are also counted. The significance of each reservation varies greatly; whilst some reservations explicitly exclude the duty to provide and guarantee particular rights, others simply refer to procedural limitations.

Table I. The ratification of core international human rights treaties

  ICCPR
ICCPR-OP1 ICCPR-OP2
ICESCR
ICERD
CEDAW
OP-CEDAW 
Ratifications
164
112
71
160
173
186
97
Ratif. %
85% 58% 37%
83%
89%
96%
50%
Reservations 204
-
-
91%
94
167
-
Reserv. %*
34%
-
-
25
 29% 32%
-
  CAT
OP-CAT
CRC
CRC-OP-AC
CRC-OP-SC
ICRMW
CRPD
OP-CRPD
Ratifications
146
49
192
128
132
42
64
41
Ratif. %
75%
25%
99%
66%
68%
22%
33%
21%
Reservations
57
-
173
-
-
29
13
-
Reserv. %*
22%
-
31%
-
-
29%
13%
-

*Percentage of those party to the treaty with at least one reservation or declaration

Note: The optional protocol to ICESCR is not displayed as it is open for signature only in September 2009.

Chart I shows the percentage of states who have ratified or acceded to each of the 8 core international human rights treaties and their optional protocols. This uses the data from Table I. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has the highest ratification rate at 99% - a treaty which only two states have failed to ratify, Somalia and the United States of America. The least ratified of the core international treaties is the International Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW) at only 22%, despite its adoption on  18-Dec-1990. Particularly noticeable here is the low ratification by European and Asian states. The International  Convenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) have similar ratification rates.

Chart I. Percentage of ratification per treaty

Core international treaties degree of ratification
Most ratified treaties
Least ratified treaties
1. CRC - 99%
15. OP-CRPD - 21%
2. CEDAW - 96%
14. ICRMW - 22%
3. ICERD - 89%
13. OP-CAT - 25%


Chart II shows the percentage of states who are party to a particular treaty and have entered at least one reservation**. The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has the highest percentage of reservations. An average of 34% of states have modified the legal effect of this treaty during ratification. The states with the highest numbers of reservations are states from the Western European and Others Group, with the United States having the highest number of reservations and interpretive declarations to a single treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

Chart II. Percentage of state parties with at least one reservation

Percentage of treaties with at least one reservation
Most reservations to a treaty
State with most reservations
Treaty with most reservations
United States -
1. United Kingdom - 44
1. ICCPR - 204
17 (ICCPR)
2. France - 30
2. CEDAW - 167
  2. Monaco - 30
3. CRC - 158
  2. United States - 30
 


**According to Article 2(d) of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties a reservation is ‘a unilateral statement, however phrased or named, made by a State, when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty, whereby it purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that State’.

2. International Criminal Law

The charts below examine states' adherence to international criminal law, and shows the percentage of states who have ratified the Rome Statute recognising the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Over fifty percent of states have now ratified the Rome Statute. 30 of these are African States, 14 Asian States, 17 are from Eastern Europe, 24 are Latin American and Caribbean States and 25 are Western Europe and Other States.

Chart III. Ratification of the Rome Statute

International Criminal Court

3. Genocide Convention

Chart IV shows  the percentage of states who have ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention). Over seventy percent of all states have  ratified the Genocide Convention, which was adopted on December 9, 1948. 42% of the non-ratifiers are from the African group and 30% of them are from the Asia-Pacific group.

Chart IV. Ratification of the Genocide Convention

Genocide Convention

4. International Refugee Law

Chart V shows adherence rates to the 1952 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, which removed geographical and temporal restrictions from the Convention to qualify as a refugee. The number of states parties to the Convention and its Protocol are the same, but the list of states is not identical. Cape Verde, the United States and Venezuela have not ratified the Convention, only the Protocol. Whereas Madagascar, Monaco and Saint Kitts and Nevis have ratified just the Convention. Of those states who have not ratified either the Convention or its Protocol, 53 % are from the Asia-Pacific region (25 States), with the Middle-East and North Africa region the next highest at 23% (11 states). 

Chart V. Ratification of the Convention on the Status of Refugees

Refugee Convention

5. International Humanitarian Law

Chart VI shows the percentage of states party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005. The 1949 Geneva Conventions are universally ratifed. Montenegro and Nauru became, in 2006, the latest states to ratify the Conventions (Montenegro in the same year that it achieved independence). The two Protocols Additional to the four 1949 Geneva Conventions were adopted in 1977. Protocol II, as the first-ever international treaty devoted exclusively to situations of non-international armed conflicts has a ratification rate closer to Protocol I, which governs international armed conflicts. Protocol II, however, has far fewer provisions and protections compared to Protocol I.  Afghanistan, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Eritrea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Kiribati, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey and Tuvalu have ratified neither Protocol I nor Protocol II.

Chart VI. Ratification of the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols

Geneva Conventions
  1949 Geneva Conventions
Protocol I
Protocol II
Protocol III
Party
194
168
164
46
Not party
0
26
  148
Party %
100%
87%
85%
24%

Regional human rights treaties

  1. Organization of the African Unity (OAU)
  2. Organization of American States (OAS)
  3. Council of Europe (CoE)

1. Organization of the African Unity (OAU)

The treaties examined for ratification in the African region are; The African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHRP), the Protocol  to the Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (ACHRP-P), The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and the AU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (OAUCR). Regional Chart III refers to the percentage of African States who have ratified a specific treaty. The ACHRP, the primary human rights document of the region, has been ratified by all members of the African Union. Regional Chart IV shows that the majority of African Union states have ratified 3 or more of the relevant African human rights treaties. The final table  below ranks the African states according to the number of relevant African human rights treaties they have ratified. Morocco ranks at the bottom with one no ratifications to date.

Chart I. Ratification rates of OAU treaties

OAU treaties ratification rate

Chart II. Percentage of states ratifying a certain no. of treaties

OAU ratification rate by country

Table I. Ranking by ratification of regional treaties - Africa

No. Treaties Countries
4
Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Comoros, Gambia, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Tanzania, Togo
3
Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Confo, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Eq. Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Namibia, Niger, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe
2
Central African Rep., Congo D.R., Djibouti, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Sudan, Swaziland, Zambia
1
Sao Tome & Principe, Somalia
0
Morocco

2. Organization of American States (OAS)

The below charts examine the ratification rates of regional human rights treaties. The first refers to the Americas and the core human rights treaties and optional protocols pertaining to human rights in the Inter-American system. The relevant treaties and protocols selected are: the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), Additional Protocol on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ACHR-OP), Protocol to the ACHR to abolish the death penalty (ACHR-P), Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture (IACPT), Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearances (IACFD), Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment & Eradication of Violence Against Women  (IACPW) and the Inter-American Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (IACPD).

The first two charts map the percentage of states who have ratified a particular treaty. The IACPW has the highest percentage ratification, with a total of 32 states parties. The second chart examines the number of treaties ratified by state. Notably the United States, Canada and Cuba have not ratified any of the human rights treaties or protocols of the Inter-American system. Regional table II shows a ranking of those states within the Inter-American human rights system by the number of ratifications of regional treaties and relevant optional protocols listed. 

Chart III. Ratification rates of OAS treaties

OAS treaties ratification rate

Chart IV. Percentage of states ratifying a certain no. of treaties

OAS ratification rate by country

Table II. Ranking by ratification of regional treaties - Americas

No. Treaties
Countries
7
Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay
6
Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, Venezuela 
5
El Salvador
4
Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Suriname
3
Honduras
2
Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago
1
Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & Grenadines
0
Canada, Cuba, United States of America

3. Council of Europe (CoE)

The below charts examine the European Human Rights System. Ten human rights documents have been selected when collecting the data. These are; The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Protocol 1 to the ECHR (covering in particular the right to peaceful enjoyment of property, the right to education and the right to free elections by secret ballot), Protocol 4 (this extends the rights of the ECHR including: right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose one's residence, prohibition of a State's expulsion of a national, probihition of collective expulsion of aliens), Protocol 7 (this includes the right of aliens to procedural guarantees in the event of expulsion from the territory of a State; the right not to be tried or punished in criminal proceedings for an offence for which one has already been acquitted or convicted; Equality of rights and responsibilities as between spouses), Protocol12 (provides for a general prohibition of discrimination), Protocol 13 (concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances), Protocol14 (amending the control system of the Convention), The European Social Charter (ESC); the Additional Protocol to the ESC providing for a system of collective complaints and the European Convention on Torture.

The ratification rate of regional human rights treaties in Europe is high, with more than sixty percent of the states ratifying 8 or more human rights treaties. Amongst these, the European Social Charter Additional Protocol creating a collective complaint mechanism for economic and social rights has the lowest number of ratifications, followed by Protocol 12 prohibiting discrimination. Russia is the only country that is yet to ratify Protocol 14, which aims to amend the working methods of the European Court of Human Rights to address the challenges of its increased workload. The final table below ranks the states according to the number of relevant European  human rights treaties they have ratified. The Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom jointly have the lowest ranking.

Chart V. Ratification rates of CoE treaties

CoE treaty ratification rates

Chart VI. Percentage of states ratifying a certain no. of treaties

CoE ratification rate by country

Table III. Ranking by ratification of regional treaties - Europe

No. Treaties
Countries
10
Cyprus, Finland
9
Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine 
8
Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova Rep., Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia 
7
Austria, Azerbaijan, Czech Rep., Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Macedonia FYRO
6
Germany, Latvia, Monaco, Poland, Turkey
5
Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom 

Individual Petition Mechanisms

Individual petition mechanisms allow individuals to bring complaints against states before a supranational human rights body. Individual petition is an important supervisory mechanism over human rights committments as they allow for a real test of states' committment to human rights provisions and respect for decisions of supervisory bodies. Individual petition is available before five of the Human Rights Bodies of the United Nations. These are: the ICCPR, the CERD, the CAT, the CEDAW and the CRPD. Provided that a state recognises the competence of the relevant UN Committee, any individual who claims that their treaty rights have been violated may bring a communication before these Committees. Complaints may also be brought by third parties on behalf of individuals provided they have given their written consent or where they are incapable of giving such consent.

Regional human rights petition mechanisms include three courts - the African Court on Human and People's Rights (not yet fully operational), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. Three quasi-legal petition mechanisms exist alongside - the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the European Social Charter Committee.

Chart I displays the number of petition mechanisms states have accepted. 28% of states have not accepted any individual petition mechanisms. Chart II shows the regional human rights mechanisms in Africa, the Americas and Europe  and the percentage of states recognising their jurisdiction. In Europe it is compulsory for members of the Council of Europe to recognise the  jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, hence the figure of 100%. In Africa, membership of the Court was only opened to signature in 1999, whereas the Inter-American Court was established in 1979.

Chart III below shows the individual petition mechanisms to United Nations Human Rights Treaties. It displays the number of states who have accepted the right to individual petition. Over half of the states party have accepted the right to indivivdual petition to the ICCRP and CEDAW. The ICERD has attracted a much lower proportion of states (44%).  

Chart I. No. of international petition mechanisms accepted by states

International petition mechanisms accepted by states

Chart II. Acceptance of regional petition mechanisms

Acceptance of regional petition mechanisms by states

Chart III. Acceptance of international petition mechanisms

Acceptance of international petition mechanisms by treaty


Table I ranks UN member states in relation to their acceptance of the individual petition mechanisms (the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter allows for collective complaints). States outside of the African, American and the European Human Rights systems have no opportunity to become party to regional individual petition mechanisms and so their total scores are inevitably lower. Nonetheless, as the petition mechanisms are broken down in the chart it provides an informative view as to which states currently accept this form of supervision. Of interest is that a total of fifty states have not accepted any international supervision. This list includes two permanent members of the Security Council - China and the United States. 

Table I. State ranking by acceptance of individual/collective petition mechanisms

Rank
State
International
Regional
Total
1
Belgium
5
2
7
1
Italy
5
2
7
1
Sweden
5
2
7
2
Argentina
5
1
6
2
Austria
5
1
6
...
...
...
...
...
8
United States of America
0
0
0
8
Vietnam
0
0
0
8
Zimbabwe
0
0
0

For the full ranking by number of individual petition mechanisms ratified, please download the NCHR Project document found here.

Judgments and Violations

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights was established in 1979, and its objective is the application and interpretation of the American Convention on Human Rights and other treaties concerning the same matter. The Court does not have complusory jurisdiction and only 22 (63%) members of the Organisation of American States had done so. Chart I below displays the states with the highest number of violation judgements before the Court up to December 31, 2008. These figures include judgements where the state accepted responsibility subsequent to the cases  referral to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Chart I. Top 10 Offenders - Americas

Top 10 Offenders - Americas


Table I and II simply outline the total number of judgements issued in relation to a state, this includes judgements on preliminary objections, costs and reparations, competence and interpretations, and the number of violation judgements. Honduras to date is the only state with a judgement where no violation was found.


Table I
and II. Top 10 by no. judgments and Top 10 by no. violations

  Country
No. Judgments
  Country
No. Violations
1.
Peru
55
1.
Peru
23
2. Guatemala 23
2.
Guatemala
12
3.
Colombia 19
3.
Colombia
10
4.
Honduras 14
4.
Ecuador
8
5.
Ecuador
12
5.
Argentina
6
6.
Argentina
9
6.
Paraguay
6
7.
Venezuela
8
7.
Venezuela
5
8.
Suriname
8
8.
Honduras
5
9.
Paraguay
7
9.
Suriname
4
10. Nicaragua
6
10. Nicaragua
3

The European Court of Human Rights was established in 1959 and has the jurisdiction to deal with applications from individuals or states complaining of violations of the civil and political rights laid out in the ECHR. Accepting the Courts jurisdiction is a compulsory requirement for entry into the Council of Europe. In Europe, only Belarus remains outside of the Council of Europe system. The graph below displays the ten states with the highest number of judgements against them in which at least one violation was found from the Courts inception until December 31, 2008.

Chart II. Top 10 Offenders - Europe

Top 10 Offenders Europe


Table III shows the states with the highest numbers of applications pending before the Court as of  Dece mber 31, 2008. The European Court of Human Rights has a high case load and the figures below only provide a snapshot of human rights judgments. There are a number of reasons for the high number of judgments. These range from a high rate of human rights violations, lack of domestic remedies, lack of domestic filter mechanisms to well-informed lawyers and citizens, and systemic problems that produce repetitive cases. 

Below table IV looks at the states with the highest proportion of non-violation judgements as compared to violation judgements. Denmark has the highest ratio with 47% of cases decided on merits where no violation was found.


Table III
and IV. Top 5 by no. pending applications and Top 5 by no. rate of non-violation judgments

  Most no. applications pending
  Ratio of non-violation judgements
1.
Russian Federation - 27,246
1.
Denmark - 47%
2.
Turkey - 11,085
2.
Germany - 32%
3.
Romania - 8,901
3.
Spain - 32%
4.
Ukraine - 8,270
4.
Sweden - 31%
5.
Italy - 4,195
5.
Ireland - 28%

Overall Rankings

The table below provides an overall ranking of states by the number of international treaties they have ratified and individual petition mechanisms they have accepted. Argentina is, at this time, the only state that has ratified all of the treaties and accepted all the individual petition mechanisms.


Table I
and II. States with the highest and lowest rankings

Rank
Country
Highest score
 Rank Country
Lowest score
1.
Argentina
24
22. Kiribati
3
2.
Chile
23
  Bhutan
3
  Costa Rica
23
21. Palau
4

Ecuador
23
  Myanmar
4

Germany
23
  Marshall Islands
4

Mexico
23

Malaysia
4

Paraguay
23
20.
Tuvalu
5

Peru
23

Singapore
5

Slovenia
23

Nauru
5

Spain
23

Micronesia
5


Note: For the full rankings please download the NCHR Project document found here.

The highest score that a state party can receive is 24. This is calculated by the number of ratifications of 22 international treaties, plus the acceptance of 2 individual petition mechanisms under ICERD and CAT. The international legal mechanisms that comprise the ranking are:

  • 8 Core United Nations Human Rights Treaties: ICCPR, ICESCR, ICERD, CEDAW, CAT, CRC, ICRMW, CRPD
  • 4 Optional Protocols to the core UN Human Rights Treaties: ICCPR-OP2, CRC-OP-AC, CRC-OP-SC, CAT-OP
  • 5* Individual Petition Mechanisms for: ICCPR-OP1, ICERD, CEDAW, CAT, CRPD
  • The 1949 Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I and II
  • The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol
  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
  • The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court


* The Optional Protocol to the ICESCR which will allow for individual complaints under the treaty has not been included in the calculation as it was only open for signature 24th September 2009 and to date it has not come into force.

The Latin American and the Carribean Group (GRULAC) has the highest number of ratifications, with 8 out of the 12 states ranking 1st and 2nd coming from the region. Western European and Others Group make up the other four states ranked second.

The bottom end of the chart is made up predominatly of Asian states or small island states. Bhutan and Kiribati have the lowest ranking at just three ratifications each. Both have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the 1949 Geneva Conventions. 

Chart I. Distribution of rankings by region

The number of countries by ranking and region



Two of the five permanent members of the Security Council - France and the United Kingdom - are in the top five and two current non-permanent members - Costa Rica and Mexico - are joint second. Of the permanent members, the United States scores the lowest with a ranking of 17.


Table III.
UN Security Council P5 (Permanent members)

Country
Ranking by no. ratifications
 
China
11
 
France
4
 
Russian Federation
8
 
United Kingdom
6
 
United States of America
17  


Table IV.
UN Security Council 2009 (Elected members)

Country
Ranking by no. ratifications
Country Ranking by no. ratifications
Austria
3
Libya 10
Burkina Faso
5
Mexico
2
Costa Rica
2
Turkey
8
Croatia
3
Uganda
6
Japan
11
Vietnam
15


The Top 5 of the United Nations Human Development Index of 2009 are also in the top five of the Ranking by ratifications list. 

Table V. UN Human Development Index Top 5

Country
Ranking by no. ratifications
 
Norway
5
 
Australia
4
 
Iceland
5
 
Canada
6
 
Ireland
6
 

Detailed information

Contact us

School of Public Policy,
The Rubin Building,
29/31 Tavistock Square,
London, WC1H 9QU.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4999,
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 4969,
Email: spp@ucl.ac.uk

Postgraduate enquiries

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4982/4950
Email: spp.pg@ucl.ac.uk

Register with us

Register at UCL

How to find us

Connect with us

Intranets

Cookies

Site feedback



¬ Back to project main page

Page last modified on 06 dec 09 16:51

Footer menu