Tag: issue advocacy

Visualizing the Human Rights Issue Agenda

Part of the research project that is keeping me too busy to blog involves capturing, coding and visualizing the issue agenda for various transnational networks. Here is a visualization of the core human rights network on the World Wide Web, circa 2008.* (Nodes represent organizational websites and ties represent hyperlinks between them. Node size corresponds to in-degree centrality within the network.)You can click for a larger view.

It looks to me as if there are really two networks here: a human rights network and a development network, all tied together conceptually under the rubric of human rights. Whether this means that the human rights movement has been colonized by the development community or vice-versa is hard to say from this.

Now here is another visualization: of the human rights issue agenda, circa 2008, as represented on the same websites.** Here, nodes represent issues; ties between nodes represent co-occurrences of the same thematic issue on the same organization’s website.

One might think, given the predominance of development organizations in the human rights network, that economic and social rights would be front and center on the overall network’s issue agenda. But no:

1) Economic and social rights (e.g. “Water” or “Health Care”) are somewhat marginalized relative to civil and political rights issues like “Repression” or “Elections” (11.5% and 26% respectively). Economic and Civil-Political rights tend to cluster with one another, suggesting a division of labor among human rights organizations.

2) A number of new rights have been articulated that effectively cut across these archetypal categories and seem to serve as bridges between the older EcoSoc/CivPol typology. 15% of the total consists of cross-cutting isuses like “Discrimination,” “Access to Information” or “Impunity.”

3) Fourth generation group rights (“Women,” “Children,” “Indigenous,” etc) are also prominently represented on the agenda (14.5%).

4) However what’s most interesting to me is the proliferation of “rights” that fit none of these categories (the white nodes). 31% of the issues on the agenda fall into the “Other” category, which is composed of roughly four types of issues: those relating to humanitarian law (“Civilians,” “Crimes Against Humanity,” “Humanitarian Intervention”) or to war more broadly (landmines, occupation, militarization); those relating to technology (“Internet,” “Bioethics”) and those referring not to human rights problems but rather to the processes activists use (“Awareness-Raising,” “Research,” “Human Rights Education”) plus a miscellaneous category that includes things like “Drugs” and the “Environment.” The biggest proportion of the “other” category, however, has to do with war and war crimes, confirming a significant blending of human rights and humanitarian law.

Other thoughts, reactions or critiques welcome. Thanks to Alex Montgomery for helping with the visualizations, and Jim Ron for helping with the code scheme.

*We identified 41 prominent human rights organizations, as operationalized using a co-link analysis tool called IssueCrawler, with the Amnesty directory, the Choike Human Rights Directory and the UDHR60 NGO links page as starting points.
**We captured mission statements and “what we do” lists from each organization and coded them at QDAP.

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New Research on Global Agenda-Setting

A couple of years ago I wrote a post entitled the “Top Twelve Emerging Human Security Issues of the Next Decade.” Those of you who have followed my writing know I’m especially interested in candidate issues that for one reason or another get neglected relative to others that end up being more prominent in global policy networks.

As many of you know, this is part of a longer book project on the politics of issue selection in advocacy networks. Since blogging from me will be slow for the next few months as I make headway on the book version of what I’ve found on that score, I thought I’d at least leave you with the slick glossy report version of a piece of the project: our descriptive findings from focus groups with human security practitioners.

We’ve written that report so as to be fun and easy to read by non-academics, but as an academic let me just highlight an interesting finding we downplay in that report, on the composition of the human security network itself. Roland Paris some years ago critiqued human security in a classic essay, arguing that human security is nothing more than:

“the glue that holds together a jumbled coalition of ‘middle power’ states, development agencies and NGOs – all of which seek to shift attention and resources away from conventional security issues and toward goals that have traditionally fallen under the rubric of international development.”

Well, we operationalized the network empirically by studying survey citations to different organizations by individuals on human security mailing lists, and by studying hyperlinks between websites associated with the term “human security” and then coded nodes in the network according to thematic expertise and organizational type:

To me, these results suggest that Paris was both right and wrong. He was right about the human security network being a jumble of issue sub-networks. But he was wrong about development displacing security. What we are seeing is a fusion of and synergy across generally distinct global policy communities. In that sense human security creates cohesion among these disparate sectors precisely because it is a master frame, constituting a new landscape where issues at the intersections of these “silos” can be brought into relief. (Although it doesn’t always happen. More about that when the book is done…)

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