Global human rights getting better and worse

The 2015 Human Rights Risk Atlas (HRRA) reveals a divided world. More nations are now safer – while more are at “extreme” risk of violations.

Mapping tool reveals an increasing polarisation in the global human rights landscape.

Lauren Booth Last updated: 03 Dec 2014 13:00

The 2015 Human Rights Risk Atlas (HRRA) reveals a divided world. More nations are now safer – while more are at “extreme” risk of violations.

Drawing on a combination of expert research and annual human rights reports, the HRRA is a mapping tool which assigns a rank from one to 198 (one being the lowest ranking) according to the overall risk a country’s citizens face to their human rights.

Maplecroft, who specialises in GIS mapping and qualitative research, evaluates risk based on four rights “groups”: human security; civil and political rights; labour rights and protection; and access to remedy.

The 2015 atlas data reveals that, perhaps surprisingly, the number of “low risk” countries (where human rights are more likely to be recognised and/or respected) has increased in the past 12 months from 42 to 47.

Sung In Marshall, principal analyst at Maplecroft tells Al Jazeera: “We conclude on the basis of data for this year an increasing polarisation between the low risk countries and extreme risk countries. This is the first year we have identified this trend. It is possible this will continue over the next five years as some countries take note of popular demands for change. However, at the other end of the spectrum, we are likely to see a possible rise in the drivers such as entrenched corruption, extreme security force violation and increasing restrictions on basic civil liberties.”

According to the date, human rights abuses have seen a marked increase in Ukraine (44), currently experiencing the world’s biggest deterioration in human rights as a result of conflict, and Thailand (34). Thailand is also rated as an “extreme risk” country for the first time.

The region registering the largest improvement in human rights risk is South America. According to the data, between 2008 and 2015, notable changes such as good governance and the security of institutions, have improved aspects of life for millions in the region with Uruguay (155), having attained a “low risk” category for the first time.

Professor Todd Landman, Executive Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Essex, draws attention to the long term outlook of recent HRA mapping data.

“Over the last half century the protection of human rights has actually improved. If you look at the period of the Cold War until now, the trends across the world, things are actually going in a very positive direction. We would expect those trends to continue. There is less conflict on aggregate in the world, fewer military coups and it looks like human rights protection is improving, as far as we can tell, over the past 20 to 25 years.”

Conflict and the impact of hardliner groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Boko Haram, are exacerbating the risk of slavery and trafficking in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria.

Conflict is also exacerbating conditions in the Middle East and North Africa, with researchers not expecting any immediate change in the conditions there.

Eastern Africa is the region which, according to the HRRA mapping tool can now be classified as “extreme risk”. A combination of entrenched corruption and conflict resulting in 5 of the 11 countries ranked in the bottom 25 nations with the worst human rights risks, including: Sudan (2), Somalia (94), and South Sudan (10).