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The Metrics of Human Rights: Complementarities of the Human Development and Capabilities Approach

Listed author(s):
  • Sakiko Fukuda-Parr

    (The New School)

Capabilities and human rights are closely related and share common commitments to freedom and justice as central political objectives. Much of the literature on this relationship has focused on defining the overlaps and differences between them as theoretical concepts. This paper explores a different aspect of the relationship, namely the overlaps and differences in their respective measurement approaches. The paper argues that human development indicators that are used to evaluate policies for capability expansion, or human development, cannot substitute for human rights indicators because of the differences in them as concepts as well as the way that these concepts are used and applied. Human rights indicators are used to assess the accountability of the state in complying with the obligations that are codified in international and domestic law. However, the literature of development economics and the methods of empirical analysis and aggregative summary measurements extensively used in the human development and capabilities (HD/C) approach can overcome some of the constraints of conventional methods used in human rights assessments. These possibilities are illustrated in the Economic and Social Rights Fulfillment Index, recently developed by Fukuda-Parr, Lawson-Remer and Randolph that conceptualizes an empirical model of ‘progressive realization’ and provides an empirical basis for setting benchmarks.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute in its series Economic Rights Working Papers with number 14.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2010
Handle: RePEc:uct:ecriwp:14
Note: I am grateful to comments from the coeditors of this special issue, two anonymous reviewers, and for research assistance from Kelly Gannon. This paper has also benefitted greatly from collaborative work with Susan Randolph and Terra Lawson-Remer over the last 3 years on human rights measurement. The usual disclaimers apply.
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  1. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, 2003. "The Human Development Paradigm: Operationalizing Sen'S Ideas On Capabilities," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2-3), pages 301-317.
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