Toward Systematic Risk and Opportunity Assessment for Physical Integrity Rights

Steven C. Poe, Nicolas Rost & Sabine C. Carey. 2006. Journal of Conflict Resolution 50(4): 484-507.

AbstractEuropean Aid

In the last decade numerous quantitative social science studies have addressed the question of why human rights abuses occur. As a result, there has been an impressive accumulation of findings on contending explanations and progress toward a theoretical understanding of this phenomenon, at least where the abuse of physical integrity is concerned. Unfortunately, however, these theoretical developments have been devoid of any practical application; progress in the theoretical realm has made little, if any, difference, on the ground. In this study we begin our efforts to address this unfortunate weakness in the literature. We will explore the feasibility of applying some of the models constructed in the quantitative human rights literature (e.g., Poe, Tate and Keith, (ISQ, 1999) to create a vehicle to assess the risk of increases in personal integrity abuses, in a global set of countries. Based on methods largely borrowed from previous work by Gurr and Moore (AJPS, 1997), we will construct a risk assessment vehicle that is practically feasible in the sense that it uses data presently available to develop expectations about how likely it is that particular countries will experience increases in human rights abuses in future periods. Our preliminary results indicate that based on this year’s data we can indeed isolate a set of cases that are several times more likely to experience increases in repression in the next year. Similarly, we can isolate a set of cases in which the conditions are ripe for decreases in repression to occur. We expect this type of research to be of some interest to activists and policymakers in their efforts to more effectively use the limited resources at their disposal, in their efforts to improve human rights conditions, and though we will explain our risk assessment model to satisfy academics interested in human rights, will pitch our findings accordingly. We will close with conclusions on the various directions that human rights scholars might take this type of research in the future.