Navigate the ocean of UN human rights recommendations in new graphical tool.

On the occasion of the 23th ILGA-Europe Annual Conference taking place in Prague 23-26 October 2019 the LGBT committee launches a new interactive tool for navigating 150.000 recommendations and observations in the United Nations human rights monitoring mechanisms: 1) the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), 2) the treaties with their associated committees i.e. the treaty bodies, and 3) the Special Procedures, i.e. independent experts and special rapporteurs.

Find the tool here

Browsing annotations

Existing browsers

UN annotations can be browsed elsewhere notably the Universal Human Rights Index (UHRI) of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (https://uhri.ohchr.org/en/).

Data is similarly available in the SDG-browser by the Danish Institute for Human Rights (https://sdgdata.humanrights.dk/en). The institute developed a classification algorithm for relating the Sustainable Development Goals to the annotations. These SDG assignments are now incorporated in the UHRI.

At both browsers you can find authoritative descriptions of the mechanisms and the dimensions.

Objective

The objective in making yet another browser is to provide a different browsing experience based on a rich graphical interface rather than filtering by drop-down menus. In the existing browsers it is easy to get a list of specific annotations you are looking for. But it is difficult to get insights from the entire body of annotations. It is the aim with the new annotation browser to open the area to a wider audience and to make annotation exploring an inspiring experience providing insights to other areas.

Content of the annotation browser

The new annotation browser is based on the data of the existing browsers, specifically the data from the SDG-browser. The data set contains more than 150.000 annotations in the form of recommendations and observations.

Unfortunately the data set does not yet contain data from the Independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Dimensions

Annotations are assigned a number of dimensions:

  • Annotating state: the state making an annotation. This is only relevant for UPR recommendations. In some cases there are more states together making an annotation.
  • Annotated state: the state which is subject to the annotation.
  • Mechanism: Universal Periodic Review, Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures.
  • Mechanism detail:
    • UPR: Accepted, Noted. This is the response by the annotated state. For some recent annotations there is no response yet.
    • Treaty Bodies: name of committee/subcommittee e.g. Committee against Torture (CAT)
    • Special Procedures: name of independent expert or special rapporteur e.g. Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons and Special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
  • Affected groups: groups recognized in the UN human rights framework e.g. Children, Women and girls, LGBTI and Indigenous peoples. Often an annotation is related to more groups.
  • Sustainable Development Goal: The Danish Institute for Human Rights did the task of associating the Sustainable Development Goals to the annotations. More than one goal can be associated with an annotation, and some annotations hasn’t yet had any SDGs assigned.
  • Year: year of the annotation.

Overview

The browsing tool is one long viz or interactive infographic. It is divided into sections as illustrated below. There are two basic methods for browsing.

  • Hovering graphical elements which will show small pop-up boxes with supplementary information
  • Clicking graphical elements which will filter the data affecting all panes in the viz – in other words: all figures are based on the same body of data and any filtering action affects all figures. Click again to undo the filter.

It is possible also to filter by clicking text objects – e.g. axis texts – but undoing this kind of filtering is a little less intuitive (must be done in the same but opposite order).

In the first section the distribution between LGBTI and non-LGBTI related annotations is shown.

Below these bars there are three squares representing the three mechanisms. The purpose of these is to have graphical elements for filtering on mechanism.

Then follows the section with mechanism details. For the special procedures and treaty bodies the different independent experts and special rapporteurs, committees and sub-committees respectively are shown. For UPR the distribution between accepted and noted recommendations is shown.

The main purpose with this upper section is to illustrate the extent to which annotations are LGBTI-related

Then follows the map section which shows the annotating states and annotated states respectively. The size of the balls illustrates the number of annotations.

The two bars right shows the distribution of annotations between affected groups and SDGs respectively. As an annotation may be associated to more groups and SDGs the totals are larger than the number of annotations.

Below the maps is a section on breakdown on mechanisms which is also broken down on year. An annotation is related to only one mechanism, and consequently the totals indicate the total number of annotations.

Thus, the maps shows the states, and bars around the map shows the main dimensions i.e. affected group, SDG and mechanism. Together these panes can be used to filter data precisely.

Having done that, you may find that you now have say 10 annotations in your selection. But what do they say. This can be browsed in the last section which shows a square or a ball for each annotation. Balls represents annotations which have only LGBTI as affected group. Color coding indicate mechanisms as in the section at the top. Hover over an object to see the actual annotation and it’s dimensions.

How to get the data

Whenever an object is selected, hovering over it will display a top menu on the pop-up box. At the right in this top-menu there is an icon for accessing data. Clicking this will open a window where the filtered data is available in tabular form and can be downloaded. Here is an example where Switzerland was selected on the map. Consequently the data now selected – according to the pop-up window 1.026 annotations – is available in tabular form using the data icon marked with the circle.

Examples of findings

Take a look at the yearly breakdown for all vs. for LGBTI-related annotations:

Two features are clearly seen:

1) The total number of annotations from Treaty Bodies and Special Procedures doesn’t vary much over time. The number of LGBTI-related annotations, however, clearly increases over time. (The lower number for the recent years is probably due to incomplete data.) Consequently, it seems that the LGBTI community and human rights proponents are learning to be more efficient in using the treaty bodies for LGBTI issues.

2) The fraction of accepted UPR recommendations is significantly lower for LGBTI-related annotations that in general.

Whereas in general all states take part in the global dialogue using the three mechanisms, it is clear, when we look only at the LGBTI-related annotations, that the world is divided: Annotating states are with few exceptions from Europe, the Americas or Israel, Australia and New Zealand.

Go explore

There are many ways to explore the data. Take a look at your own country – did it do LGBTI annotations? Did it receive any? What treaties were useful for your countries of interest? Which affected groups are often assigned together to annotations? Which SDGs are associated to LGBTI annotations? And so on and so forth.

It is the hope that the annotation browser will inspire more use of annotations. Each annotation is the product of many efforts by activists, organisations and institutions. The formal UN dialogue, however, is for highly specialized – i.e. small – audiences. Maybe we can get more out of it. This is an attempt to inspire new approaches.

Find the tool here