Crunching Numbers for Human Rights: The Promise and Perils of Data and Statistics

Last fall, Benetech was featured here for its role in the  convictions of two former Guatemalan police charged with human rights violations in the 1980s.  Patrick Ball, VP of the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) human rights monitoring, gave a talk to the Open Society Foundations last month as part of the foundation’s Information Program.

Human rights monitoring consists primarily of receiving information from witnesses and conducting investigations. The resulting information is often stored in databases. However, the statistics generated from databases collected in this way may tell us more about the functioning of the organization doing the monitoring than about the violence being monitored.

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