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Human Rights and Governance: The Empirical Challenge

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by D. Kaufmann • Chapter in Human Rights and Development: Towards Mutual Reinforcement • Edited by Philip Alston and Mary Robinson

In this book chapter, we undertake to address some of the challenges related to the measurement and empirical analysis issues in this field, offering an exploration of the evidence and links between human rights, governance and development. We assess recent data and trends on human rights, and review the links between the first generation human rights (political and civil rights) and second generation (socio-economic) human rights. Based on the evidence, we suggest that first generation human rights have not advanced significantly worldwide in recent times, and that these first generation human rights may causally affect second generation human rights outcomes. The results pointing to the causal link from first generation human rights to improved socio-economic outcomes are apparent at the aggregate country-wide level as well as the "micro" project level.

We then explore the empirical linkages between both generations of human rights, on the one hand, and other governance dimensions, on the other. We explore how rule of law, corruption, and corporate ethics interface with civil liberties and related human rights variables. We suggest that components of governance, such as corruption, are a mediating link between first and second generation human rights issues, and a determinant of development outcomes.

These findings, if corroborated through further research, have important implications for the donor aid community and emerging economies alike. In particular, it would suggest the need to account for first generation human rights issues in enhancing effectiveness of development aid and its projects (either associated with the ‘socio-economic second generation’ human rights, or with development projects). Further, it would also point to the need to deepen the integration of the corruption and rule-of-law dimensions of governance in aid strategies.

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