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Carr Center > Measurement & Human Rights

Program description

The Measurement and Human Rights (MHR) program continues its efforts towards the promotion of the generation and application of empirical evidence in the design of human rights policies.

In collaboration with associated faculty, students and fellows, the MHR Program aims to

  1. frame the discussion on the role of reliable and robust research techniques in the process of collecting solid evidence of human rights violations,

  2. generate evidence-based policies, and

  3. assess the impact of intervention more effectively.

Under the leadership of its Director, Andrea Rossi, the MHR Program addresses the lack of a systematic usage of solid research methodology, data collection and analysis in the formulation of human rights policies. The program has a tripartite objective:

  • It explores the challenges and opportunities of consolidated research designs and methods (such as hypothesis-testing and randomization) as well the principles of credibility, relevance, reliability, and validity.

  • It grapples with both the difficulties of defining what constitutes a human rights impact and how it should be measured, as well as the actuality that those in the population who are most affected by human rights violations often end up being hidden, marginal and/or excluded from policy calculation.

  • It focuses on the importance of participatory approaches and it analyses how both data collection and research methods are affected when they are become integrated with human rights principles.
Prior Year Activities

During the last year, the MHR program has expanded the involvement of students at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) in many significant ways.

First, it has incorporated students participating in their Policy Analysis Exercises (PAE) with program research activities in developing countries such as Mexico and Sierra Leone.

Second, it has organized lectures and workshops at the Carr Center on topics related to the core mission of the program.

Third, it has collaborated with such principal human rights courses as “International Childhood, Rights & Globalization” with Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, and “Human Rights and International Politics” with Professor Mathias Risse.

The MHR Associate Research Fellows program continued with new Ph.D students. Over the course of the academic year, these talented scholars have been working on developing and refining policy papers that focus on different aspects of the role of measurement in human rights.

Within the Harvard community, the MHR program continued with the Harvard University Committee on Human Rights Studies, and also began a new collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

Outside the HKS community, the MHR program has been organizing interventions in multiple international conferences, as well as directing interventions to strengthen national capacity in developing nations (this year in Mexico and Sierra Leone) towards the design of evidence-based policies on human rights. These interventions have been accomplished in conjunction with various governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local universities and United Nations (UN) organizations.

The program has also held executive workshops, lectures and training for national stakeholders as part of its primary research activities.

The MHR program intensified its collaboration network with international organizations, NGOs, and governments. It has established a greater relationship with the UN through a series of projects, such as with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on measuring compliance with the right to development; with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on evidence-based child protection policy in Sierra Leone; with the World Bank on evaluation techniques regarding hidden and marginal populations; with the UN Institute for Training Research on migration data; and with the UN Evaluation Group on integrating human rights and gender equality perspectives in evaluation methods of the UN system. New partnerships have also been promoted with governments, local NGOS and universities in Sierra Leone, Mexico, and Europe.

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