Human Rights, Development and Economic Growth – Metrics, New Ways of Thinking, and New Strategies

April 7 12:30-7:00 & April 8 8:00-5:00


The George Washington University
Washington, DC 20052

Since the members of the UN negotiated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the world has made great human rights progress. But that progress is not easy to measure. The Universal Declaration has over 30 distinct human rights. Moreover, as Albert Einstein once warned “not everything that counts can be counted.” Policymakers, activists, and scholars do not agree on how to count -e.g. whether they should measure progress (as evidenced by new laws) or outcomes (as in educational outcomes).

But in recent years, three developments have helped increase our understanding of the relationship between human rights and development. First, Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen established a scholarly bridge between economics and human rights. He taught us that poverty, hunger, and a lack of education are conditions that restrict freedom and therefore respect for human rights provides a platform for economic growth (Vizard: 2005). Influenced by Sen, the UNDP produced the Human Development Index which focuses on state performance on capabilities. Second, in 2000, officials from 181 nations agreed to collaborate to cut global poverty in half by 2015. They also agreed to set targets and measure their progress towards achieving global human rights and development goals. Thus, the Millennium Development Goals made the question of how to measure progress more visible. Building on these insights, scholars and activists began to develop new metrics. Some designers focused not only on human rights but also on measures of governance and economic growth. For example, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), published for the first time in the 2010 Report, redefined poverty as not simply the absence of money, but the variety of deprivations with which poor households typically contend. It can be deconstructed by region, ethnicity and other groupings as well as by dimension (living standards, education and health). The Human Opportunity Index (HOI) is a measure of society’s progress in equitably providing opportunities for all children. HOI takes into account how the personal “circumstances” for which a child cannot be held accountable, like location or parental wealth, affect his/her probability of accessing basic services that are necessary to succeed in life, like timely education, vaccination, safe water or electricity. The index was first applied in the World Bank publication “Measuring Inequality of Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean” in 2009 and has since been used in a number of countries.

This conference, organized by Dr. Susan Aaronson, will examine these new metrics and how scholars, business leaders, and government officials are using them to devise cost-effective approaches to stimulating economic growth while advancing human rights.


April 7, 2011

Location: Lindner Family Commons
1959 E St NW Suite 602

12:30-1:00 – Lunch

1:00-1:15 p.m. – Opening Remarks and Overview
Opening Remarks – Stephen Smith (GWU-IIEP)
Overview of conference objectives – Susan Ariel Aaronson (GWU-IIEP)

1:15-2:35 p.m. – Panel 1 – Multidimensional Poverty Measurement: Uses for a new understanding of the meaning of poverty and deprivation.

Jeni Klugman (UNDP), “UNDP’s Multidimensional Poverty Metric”
Shabana Singh (Vanderbilt University) – “Towards a Multinational Measure of governance” Presentation
Ricardo Aparicio (Director for Policy Analysis at Coneval, Mexico) – ” Multidimensional poverty measurement: a human rights based approach. The case of Mexico” Presentation
Discussant: Ambar Narayan (World Bank)

2:35-3:45 p.m. – Panel 2 – Measuring Inequality of Opportunities Among Children: the Human Opportunity Index

Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi (Acting Director, Poverty Reduction and Equity, World Bank) – “Equality of Opportunity: Analytical Challenges and Policy Implications” Presentation
Javier Escobal (GRADE, Peru) – “Is the Playing Field Leveling in Peru? The Evolution of Children’s Opportunities” Presentation
Discussant: Dena Ringold (Senior Economist, Human Development Sector, Europe and Central Asia, World Bank)

3:45-4:00 – Coffee Break

4:00-5:30 p.m. – Panel 3 – New Metrics for Assessing Human Rights and How These Metrics Relate to Development and Governance

David Cingranelli (Professor of Political Science, SUNY – Binghamton) – “CIRI Human Rights Data Set” Presentation
Sabine Donner (Senior Project Manager, Bertelsmann Foundation) – “Transformation Index” Presentation
Nathaniel Heller (Managing Director, Global Integrity Index)
Moderator: Siobhan McInerny-Lankford (Senior Policy Officer, Nordic Trust Fund, OPCS, World Bank)

5:50-6:00p.m. – Coffee Break and Schmoozing
(Please note change of Conference Location to Harry Harding Auditorium, 2nd Floor)

6:00-7:00 p.m. – Evening Keynote – “Human Rights Within a Governance Empirical Framework: Some Unorthodox Observations from a Non-Expert”
Daniel Kaufmann (Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Brookings Institute)

April 8th

Please note change of Conference Location to 805 21st Street, NW, B07

8:00-9:00 a.m. – Continental Breakfast

9:00-10:20 a.m. – Panel 4 – Caveats on Metrics

Hans-Otto Sano (Senior Policy Officer, Nordic Trust Fund, OPCS, World Bank)“Human Rights Compliance and Performance Indicators”
Siobhan McInerny-Lankford (Senior Policy Officer, Nordic Trust Fund, OPCS, World Bank)
Elizabeth Eagen (Program Officer, Human Rights Data Initiative, Open Society Foundations) Presentation
ModeratorCharles Kenny (Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development)

10:20-12:00 p.m. – Panel 5 – Using Datasets to Examine Human Rights and Economic Change

Robert and Shannon Blanton (Professors of Political Science, University of Memphis) – “Rights, Institutions, and FDI” Presentation
Rod Abouharb (Lecturer in International Relations, University College, London) – “Can the WTO Help Nations Clean Up and Improve Human Rights?” Presentation
Jean-Pierre Chauffour (Lead Economist, International Trade and Development Group, World Bank) – “On the Relevance of Positive and Negative Rights in Economic Development – New empirical evidence (1975-2007)” Presentation
Daniel Meija (Associate Professor of Economics, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia) – “Is Violence Against Union Members in Colombia Systematic and Targeted?”
Moderator: Emmanuel Teitelbaum (Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, GWU)

12:00-1:30 p.m. – Lunch and Lunch Keynote
Introduction: Sabine Donner (Senior Project Manager, Bertelsmann Foundation)
Keynote Presenter: James Foster (Professor of Economics and International Affairs, GWU-IIEP) – “Finding Meaningful Numbers”

1:30-3:05 p.m. – Panel 6 – NGO and Business Perspectives on Metrics to Assess Human Rights

Gerard Pachoud (Special Advisor, UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights) – “The Ruggie Guidelines and Use of Metrics to Assess Business Human Rights Performance”
Panelists will discuss how business can and does use metrics to assess human rights
Bennett Freeman (Senior Vice President, Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments)
Chris Jochnick (Director, Private Sector Department, Oxfam America)
Faris Natour (Director of Research, Business for Social Responsibility)
Olav Ljosne (Senior Manager, International Operations, Shell Oil Company)
ModeratorHans J. Hogrefe (Senior Policy Officer, Physicians for Human Rights)

3:05-3:15 p.m. – Coffee Break

3:15-4:45 p.m. – Panel 7 – New Governmental Strategies That Use Metrics and Link Economic Growth and Human Rights

Ginny Bauman (Director of Partnerships, Free the Slaves) and Jane Sigmon (Senior Coordinator, International Programs, Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Office) – “Metrics to Assess Progress in Reducing Trafficking” Presentation
Raymond Gilpin (Associate Vice President, USIP) and Mike Dzniec (Senior Program Officer, USIP) – “Measuring Progress with Reconstruction and Human Rights in Conflict Environments: A Metrics Framework” Presentation
Tom Kelly (Managing Director, Millenium Challenge Corporation, US Government) – “How the MCC uses Metrics”
Moderator: Michael Moore (Professor of Economics and International Affairs, GWU-IIEP)

4:30-5:30 p.m. – So, What do you think? Are these metrics useful? Can they be improved?
Moderator: Susan Aaronson (Associate Research Professor of International Affairs, GWU-IIEP)

GW is committed to digital accessibility. If you experience a barrier that affects your ability to access content on this page, let us know via the Accessibility Feedback Form.