UCL assesses states' human rights commitment
10 December 2009
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Argentina has come top of a ranking of nation states according to their ratification of the world's principle international treaties on human rights, humanitarian law and international crimes.
Asia-Pacific states have the lowest ranking on average, whilst the USA has the lowest ranking amongst the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
These are among the findings of the first survey to present a global and comprehensive picture of the commitment of states to human rights through international law, published today by the UCL Department of Political Science to mark International Human Rights Day.
"Nominal Commitments to Human Rights: A Global Survey" is an initiative that documents states' legal commitment to international treaties concerned with human rights issues, international oversight and judicial mechanisms. The survey focuses on core international legal mechanisms related to the protection of human rights and provides an international ranking of nation states according to the number of treaties each one has ratified.
Key findings of the survey include:
· Argentina is the single highest ranked ratifying nation, with 24 out of a possible 24 points. The states with the lowest number of points - 3 - are Kiribati and Bhutan;
· France is the highest ranked member of the permanent UN Security Council (fourth), with the UK sixth, Russia eighth, China 11th and USA 17th;
· The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has the highest ratification rate at 99%, and is a treaty that only two states have failed to ratify, Somalia and the United States of America
· The least ratified of the core United Nations human rights treaties is the International; Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which has been ratified by only 22% of nation states;
· Only 8% of states (16 in total) accept individuals to bring human rights violations complaints against them before all core United Nations human rights treaties. 10 of these states are from Europe, five from Latin America and only one (South Africa) from Africa;
· 57% of states have ratified the Rome Statute, recognising the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Of the 110 states who have ratified the Rome Statute, 30 are African, 14 Asian, 17 East European, 24 Latin American and Caribbean and 25 Western Europe and other states (Australia, New Zealand and Canada).
· The USA shares the same overall ranking as Somalia, Guinea-Bissau and Eritrea.
The treaties surveyed are: eight core United Nations human rights treaties and their optional protocols, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its protocol, the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court and the Genocide Convention of 1950. The survey also details commitment to global individual complaint mechanisms, regional human rights systems in the Americas, Africa and Europe and the judgements delivered by the two regional Human Rights Courts in the Americas and Europe.
Dr Başak Çalı (UCL Political Science), lead author, said: "The survey recognises that nominal commitment does not mean real commitment and that there are a myriad of reasons informing a state's decision to ratify - or not - an international treaty in addition to a genuine commitment to implementing the provisions of a treaty.
"Issues states consider include costs of commitment, mimicking like-minded states and reputation. States which emerge from authoritarian pasts, such as Argentina, show a stronger commitment in order to signal future democratic and human rights-respecting intentions. Regional factors also play an important role. Europe and South America are far more committed than the rest of the world. The USA and China are less committed than other members of the Security Council or, indeed, the G8.
"Nominal commitment, even though it is not a smooth path to real commitment, is a central focus of international NGO campaigning. It creates important opportunities for the mobilisation of civil society groups, enforcement by domestic courts and attitude change amongst politicians and the public at large towards human rights issues."
To access the survey, use the link at the top of the article.
Media contact: Dominique Fourniol
The treaties considered by the survey are:
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- The International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
- Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers (ICRMW)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Second Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the Death Penalty
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
- Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment 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
- Four optional protocols establishing Individual Complaint Mechanisms for ICCPR, ICERD, CEDAW, CAT and CRPD.