Nominal Commitment to Human Rights: A Global Survey
The purpose of the Survey is to document the commitment of states to core human rights
and humanitarian law treaties across the globe.
However, while the main rankings offer an absolute dimension of this commitment by counting the total number of treaty ratifications, they do not reflect the influence that joining individual petition mechanisms and ratifying treaties with reservations have on a state's nominal commitment to human rights.
As a result, we propose an alternative ranking system in the form of an index to include these factors - the NCHR Index.
NCHR Index - Methodology
We have constructed the NCHR Index by putting together three sub-indexes: the Ratifications Index (T), the Petitions Index (P) and the Reservations Index (R).
These are computed using the formula:
- Index = [x - min(x)] / [max(x) - min(x)]
This formula produces an index on a scale from 0 to 1, and enables the resulting indices to be added.
Note: max(x) and min(x) are the highest and lowest possible values for x in a given range. For example, max(x) for the T index is 24, the maximum number of treaties that could be ratified by a state at the time when the index was computed.
The NCHR is the result of subtracting a tenth of the Reservations index value from the weighted average value of the Ratifications and Petitions indexes using the formula:
- NCHR Index = (T+P)/2-R/10
Due to the varied nature of reservations, which may not always imply a reduction or limitation of a state's obligations, we have decided that the weight carried by the Reservations index should not be as significant as the Ratifications and Petitions indexes. Therefore, states are penalised for treaty reservations, but not as significantly as they are rewarded for accepting individual petition mechanisms. The latter count as treaty ratifications in themselves, and are added to the index separately because they constitute the most concrete form of commitment by a state, which submits to the authority of an international human rights mechanism, such as a court. The resulting ranking will not only help differentiate between states who have ratified the same number of treaties, but also reflect the role of individual petition mechanism and reservations on their nominal commitment to human rights.
For the first phase of the project the Reservations index will include only those reservations made in relation to the 8 core UN human rights treaties. In the second phase the Reservation index will include all reservations made to those treaties found in the Ratifications index.
Index values are labeled as follows:
- 0.000 to 0.359 | Low commitment (red)
- 0.360 to 0.667 | Medium commitment (yellow)
- 0.668 to 1.000 | High commitment (green)
Click the PDF map below and zoom to 400% for a detailed overview, or download the full ranking by NCHR Index and high-resolution map here.
The NCHR Index could prove useful for comparisons with other indexes in the sphere of human rights, international relations and international law. The following may be of interest to researchers and students:
Observer Human Rights Index:
Freedom House Nations in Transit Survey:
Freedom House Press Freedom Index:
Freedom House Religious Freedom Index:
The World Justice Project Rule of Law Index:
International Press Institute, Annual World Press Freedom Review:
The Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom:
KOF Index of Globalisation: