PUBLISHED:February 24, 2022

International Human Rights Clinic launches online tracker of human rights advances implemented during pandemic

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The interactive website tracks more than 200 measures that advance civil and political, equality, governance, and socio-economic rights.

Mother holding child An image from the new site

While governments around the world have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that violate human rights, other official efforts have tried to protect rights from incursion or even improve them. To track measures that advance civil and political, equality, governance, and socio-economic rights, Duke Law’s International Human Rights Clinic has launched an interactive website, “Catalyzing Rights: Index of Advances During COVID-19.”

Containing more than 200 measures across 20 categories of human rights ranging from digital rights and fiscal policy responses to racial and gender equality, the index serves as both an accountability tool and a way to help advance a more rights-centric approach to the pandemic and beyond, said Clinical Professor of Law Aya Fujimura-Fanselow, the clinic’s supervising attorney.

“While the pandemic has both uncovered and intensified human rights violations, governments have also put into place measures that not only protect but even promote and advance rights,” Fujimura-Fanselow said. “By identifying such measures, our tracker will help hold governments to account, enable a re-imagining of what is possible, and equip human rights advocates with additional strategies to achieve these goals.”

More than twenty clinic students and summer interns contributed to the project, identifying, researching, and analyzing hundreds of measures; extensively reviewing a wide range of human rights laws; and interviewing representatives of civil society groups. Rights addressed include civil and political rights (freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, technology and digital rights); equality (children, indigenous peoples, LGBTIQ+, migration, asylum, and trafficking, persons with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, reproductive rights, violence against women); governance (economic and fiscal policy responses, environmental justice, rule of law, voting and elections); and socioeconomic rights (education, employment, health, housing, water and sanitation). 

“It was incredibly valuable to be involved in the project from its inception to its final stages, as I gained experience in identifying and solving challenging legal and other issues throughout the process,” said Gaby Jassir, JD/LLM ’22. “During a time in which we were dealing with so much uncertainty, imagining a world where policies can be used to further the field of human rights is very inspiring. The global scope of the project, including centering within our research methodology strategies to identify measures from countries The global scope of the project, including centering within our research methodology strategies to identify measures from countries whose successful policies tend to receive less attention, was extremely fulfilling as well.” 

To determine which measures to include in the tracker, the clinic engaged in a rigorous process of reviewing international human rights treaties and guidance from human rights bodies, regional and international institutions, and NGOs focused on the protection and fulfillment of rights during the pandemic.  Measures were included if, on their face, they contain at least one element tracking international human rights norms. The website will continue to evolve, with additional measures to be added by the clinic and through user submissions, as well as in-depth analytical briefing papers on how certain rights can be advanced rather than undermined during a pandemic.

“The tracker fills an important gap in current human rights analyses of the pandemic,” said Clinical Professor Jayne Huckerby, the clinic’s director. “By developing and applying comprehensive criteria for what constitutes progress in rights’ protections, it provides concrete and detailed examples of where governments are moving in the right direction, even if they are not yet fully complying with all of their obligations.”

To access the website, please visit https://catalyzingrightscovid19.law.duke.edu/