Students Staff

12 December 2012

New atlas creates unique picture of human rights across the globe

Human Rights Atlas

Screenshot from Human Rights Atlas

One of the most comprehensive pictures of human rights across the world is now available online. The Human Rights Atlas, created by the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (IDCR) at the University of Essex, brings together more than 200 different measures of life in 220 different countries across the world.

Using published data from the World Bank, the United Nations, academics, non-governmental organisations and other bodies, the atlas gives a picture of the lives and rights of human beings over a 30-year period.

Users of the new website can build their own maps comparing a range of indicators. These cover different countries’ commitments to human rights treaties and membership of international organisations as well as statistics such as population, birth rates and life expectancy.

The unique range of information on the site allows for a huge range of uses – for instance, it can highlight countries which have made commitments to human rights but where practice has not kept pace with rhetoric. These include China, Russia and Sudan, all of which have signed up to the major international human rights treaties but which are still judged to have poor records.

The atlas can also indicate where countries’ records have changed over time. The UK’s record on human rights is now considered good, for instance, but fluctuated during the conflict in Northern Ireland because of criticism levelled at the treatment of prisoners.

Professor Todd Landman, Director of the IDCR, said the atlas would prove useful to non-governmental institutions, the media and education bodies.

“This is a very reductionist way of looking at the world, but it does raise awareness of human rights,” he said. “It provides a snapshot of the world since 1981.”

The concept of the atlas was created by the IDCR at the University of Essex, which also carried out the data collation. The atlas was inspired by Dr Andrew Fagan's book The Human Rights Atlas and Professor Todd Landman's book with Edzia Carvalho, Measuring Human Rights. Website design, mapping and technical development was undertaken by partner Mackman Group. This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the IDCR and the Mackman Group.

For more details or an interview with Todd Landman, please contact Fran Abrams, or 07939 262001

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