Measuring Democracy – The US Department of State’s Reports on Human Rights

The American Department of State issues an annual report on the state of human rights in each country that is a member of the United Nations. Although these country reports acknowledge the cultural diversity of each country, the basic principle underlying them is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. First the study focused only on the countries that were receiving assistance from the United States. Later on it was developed to cover all the UN member countries.

Since the reports contain qualitative information only, they cannot be directly used for the purposes of the Global Democracy Award. However, they are a uniquely rich source of information on exactly those matters that, as we argued above, should be most relevant for this project. With some investments of additional labor, the information contained in the reports could be subjected to a content analysis and thus yield quantitative information that can usefully supplement and precise the much rougher information provided by the Freedom House scores. We estimate that, depending on the depth and aspired to standards of the content analysis, this extra labor amount to anywhere between 100 and 600 hours of skilled labor for the coding of approximately 200 countries for a particular year. The required qualification is approximately that of a social science post-graduate student. The investment of additional labor could help countering the charge that the quantitative data gained this way simply reflects the opinion of the US administration. To further dissipate such charges, similar reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International can be used as checks and/or additional pieces of information on the same issues.

Using their raw material it may be possible to develop a set of indicators, each measured on a rather simple scale, perhaps as mere presence or absence of particular kinds of events, or perhaps operationalized by 0 (absent), 0.5 (somewhat present) and 1 (present). Since the country reports are not conducted by a single methodology and have different focus for different categories of countries, a more sensitive scale could be problematic, mainly because they register only present violations and rarely talk about improvements. Also, if something like extrajudicial execution, disappearances or torture exist then the number of victims is not so relevant for the state of democracy as the fact that those things do happen. The issue that can be important is whether those events are part of the system, whether they are policy instruments in some way and sanctioned by the government, or whether they are consequence of the unaccountable actions of individual government officials or agencies, and consequence of the lack of control over them. This could be distinction between 1 and 0.5. Maybe a higher score can also be added to indicate particularly frequent and big events that signify significant deterioration in conditions.

A similar content analysis was already carried out for 1980-1987 by Poe and Tate (1994), and the data set was later updated to include the years between 1988 and 1993. Two coders independently coded the State Department data on five-point scales and their coding showed a high degree of agreement (gamma .98), which suggests that the conversion of the State Department data into quantitative scores can indeed be done fairly reliably. Analyses reported by Poe and Tate (1994) show that the State Department reports tend to paint a somewhat less favorable picture about systems with left-wing governments than the parallel reports by Amnesty International, but it is certainly hard to tell which of the two sources have and exactly what kind of bias in evaluating the human rights record of different regimes.

The methodology of the reports themselves is as follows. Each year, the Secretary of State issues a press release on the state of the human rights in the world. The reports are prepared by each embassy of the United States. The embassies corroborate and gather information on human rights violations, state of democracy and the rights of workers. The sources are from all over the political spectrum including government officials, jurists, armed forces sources, journalists, human rights monitors, academics and labor activists.

The embassy issues a first draft that is sent to Washington and reviewed by the Bureau of Democracy. Human Rights, and Labor, together with the other State Departments corroborate analyze and edit the reports. This information is corroborated with sources from U.S., other human rights groups, foreign government officials, representatives from the United Nations and other international and regional organizations, experts from the media and academia. The principle is to ensure that all relevant information is included and objectively and thoroughly evaluated. That is why consultants on workers issues, military and police, women’s rights issues and legal ones are all taken into consideration.

There are no indexes to evaluate the performance of a country from one year to another. There are mostly descriptions of human rights situation as well as the state of democratic process. There are some guiding issues that are present in each evaluation and provide a basis of comparison between countries from one year to another.

First there is a description of the political institutions and general features of the countries. Then each of the following issues is discussed with explanations, examples and evaluations:

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life – includes murder with the government involvement, killing by police forces or unintended killings made by police without due process of law.

b. Disappearance: this section covers cases where there is a political reason in which victims and perpetrators have not been found.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – this section takes into account physical, mental pain caused with intent. It also covers prison conditions.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile: covers situations when detainees are held by police without being charged or there is no public hearing before being charged.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial – describes the judicial system and assesses the degree of independence the courts enjoy. It also takes into account whether trials are public and correct.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence – covers the right to receive foreign publications and to be free from state coercion like forced abortion and sterilization.

Section 2 covers Respect for Civil Liberties, including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press – sees whether these freedoms exists and it describes them.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association – evaluates the ability of individuals to exercise these rights.

c. Freedom of Religion – describes the extent of government interference in the right of free worshipping any religious belief.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration and Repatriation – discusses the status of “refugees” and it includes the forced resettlement.

Section 3 covers Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government – this covers the freedom of political choice and citizens’ ability to affect changing of laws.

Section 4 covers Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Non governmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights – discusses whether the state permits free functioning of human rights groups and whether there is any pressure on these groups.

Section 5 covers Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status, addressing discrimination and abuses existent in regulations and laws and societal violence of women. It has subsections on homosexuals, women and children.

Section 6 covers the state of Worker Rights in the following fields:

a. The Right of Association
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
f. Trafficking in Persons

In each section there is a description of the legal framework as well as events that violated human rights. The report also contains how the legislation changed regarding human rights. It mentions the presence or absence of the legal framework on a human rights issue or human rights violation.

The 1999, 2000 and 2001 reports are currently accessible at the address. The main problem is that there is no coding procedure that can be used in quantitative analysis. The reports offer simple descriptions of different human rights violations. To compare one country to another by reading the whole material is a difficult task. Each year 5000 pages of reports are released. The analysis is qualitative and it catches the diversity of each context properly. The data could be used for a fine measurement tool of democratic performance. A major advantage is the predictable and prompt availability of the information: according to US federal law the country reports have to be submitted to Congress by February 25th each year.

The countries covered include the following:
Africa: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Democratic Republic of the, Congo, Republic of, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

In East Asia and the Pacific: Australia, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, China (Includes Hong Kong and Macau), China (Taiwan only), East Timor, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of, Korea, Republic of, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Federated States of, Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Vietnam.

In Europe and Eurasia: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, The, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

In the Western Hemisphere: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela.

In the Near East and North Africa: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the occupied territories, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara, Yemen.
In South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka.
Sabung Ayam
Mountain-Flying in Papua, Susi Air

3 take-offs and 3 landings. Ilaga, Bilogai and Mulia.
I’m only taking off due to landing back in the lowlands base, while the captain always does the highlands strips.
I’ll add a lowlands movie soon.
See if you can see the wrecked airplane just before the runway at Ilaga

Sabung Ayam