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Assessment of Human Rights Action Plans and Use of Its Results from a Global Perspective
October 18,2019   By:CSHRS

Assessment of Human Rights Action Plans
and Use of Its Results from a Global Perspective

XU Yao*

Abstract: Since the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, more than a quarter of the participating countries have developed National Human Rights Action Plans (NHRAPs) to promote human rights. An assessment of the NHRAPs can help to understand the realities of the implementation, improve the quality of the follow-up plan, and improve the effectiveness of the plan in the implementation process. From the texts and practices of the NHRAPs, such an assessment includes the “self-assessments” of the plans’ implementers, comprehensive assessments of inter-departmental committees (groups), and evaluations of policy objects, social organizations and human rights experts. The assessment methods include field research, qualitative evaluation, indicator measurement and process monitoring, among other things. The results of the assessment can promote the cohesion between the NHRAPs in different periods, promote the accumulation and transmission of the implementation experience of the plan, and promote the optimization and adjustment of related matters during the implementation period.

Keywords: National Human Rights Action Plans ; human rights policy ; policy assessment

Since the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action called on all countries to draw up national human rights action plans, at least 57 countries have promulgated and implemented 78 human rights action plans.1 Since 2009, China has formulated and implemented three phases of national human rights action plans, and evaluated the first and second phases of the plans. 2019 is the 10th anniversary of the formulation and promulgation of the human rights action plan in China, and it is also the key point for the third phase of the human rights action plan to enter the countdown of evaluation. At this important point, it is of great academic and practical significance to review and summarize the main practices of human rights action plan assessment around the globe, to improve the human rights policy-making system in China, and to enhance the scientific and effective formulation and implementation of human rights action plan.

I. Assessment is of Great Significance in the Policy of the Human Rights Action Plan

From the perspective of policy research, the National Human Rights Action Plan, as a state-led policy, can be divided into three key phases: formulation, implementation and evaluation. The assessment of the human rights action plan is of great significance.

First, the assessment can promote a comprehensive grasp of the policy effectiveness of the action plans. National Human Rights Action Plans can be regarded as a kind of human rights commitment of a government to citizens, expressing a positive attitude towards human rights construction. The formulation and implementation of a National Human Rights Plan of Action needs a large amount of human and financial input, but this does not mean that the human rights situation will inevitably develop in the desired direction. In reality, there are often inconsistencies between policy objectives and policy effects. Systematic evaluation of the implementation and effects of the action plan is a necessary step for the country to understand the implementation of the plan as a whole, and also a necessary measure for the people to understand the actual effects of the human rights action plan.

Second, evaluations can promote quality improvements in the follow-up plans. The role of policy assessment is not only to understand the effectiveness of existing policies, a more positive aspect is to examine the pros and cons of existing policies more comprehensively and to provide a basis for policy improvement or termination, to “improve policies by evaluating policies”. This policy orientation, which focuses on the value of evaluation results, is also known as “utilization-centered evaluation”. The statistical results of the coverage time of the existing human rights action plan show that the average coverage time of each plan is five years, which also means that the continuous improvement of the human rights situation needs sustained policy support and the evaluation of the action plans can promote the improvement of the quality of policies.

Third, evaluations can promote the “materialization” of the implementation process of the plan. Whether or not to accept strict evaluation of an action plan will affect the expectations and behavior of policy enforcers in the process of implementation. In this sense, evaluation can transfer the pressure of strict implementation to policy enforcers as early as possible, so that the enforcers can complete all kinds of projects according to the requirements of the plan. On the contrary, the absence of evaluation is likely to lead to the implementation link “to be conducted as a mere formality” due to the lack of necessary pressure, for example, the Thai National Human Rights Commission expressed during its Universal Periodic Review that “due to the lack of effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism (in Thailand), those government departments that did not take responsibility for their inaction did not strictly implement the action plan”. 2

Fourth, the assessment helps to share experiences and lessons with the international community. It is a matter of great concern to the international community that countries promote human rights protection through human rights plans. The experience and lessons gained through the assessment can provide reference for other countries human rights action plans.

From the relevant practice of various countries, Sweden, China, Tanzania, Finland, Brazil, Mexico and other countries have put forward clear requirements for the realization status of systematic assessment of the implementation of action plans; meanwhile, most of the action plans lack instructions or specific provisions on how to evaluate the plan, and the weak evaluation mechanism is considered to be a common shortcoming of the existing National Human Rights Action Plans. 3

II. Assessment Subjects and Framework Mechanisms

The implementation of policy evaluation should first clarify the main body of the evaluation and the framework mechanism. Different from specific policies in a single field, the national human rights action plan has the characteristics of extensive policy content, diversification of implementation subjects, and strong correlation between projects. These characteristics make it difficult to identify a single subject (organization) which excels in specific areas to evaluate the overall plan, and a more comprehensive evaluation framework is needed. From the point of view of the regulations and practices of various countries’ assessments, they mainly include the following:

A. Self-assessment of the implementation subjects of the plan

The plan implementation subjects know the actual progress of the plan best, and the ultimate goal of the evaluation is to systematically and comprehensively understand the cohesion between the implementation effects of the plan and the goals of the plan, and summarize the experience and lessons of a plan’s implementation. In these aspects, the plan implementation subjects have obvious advantages. In the process of plan evaluation in Tanzania, China and other countries, the self-assessment report provided by the implementation subjects is an important basis for the evaluation.

Case 1: Monitoring and assessment of human rights implementation in Tanzania.4 The National Human Rights Action Plans are expected to be implemented within five years, and the Commission on Human Rights and Good Governance, as the central monitoring body, will assume the responsibility of ensuring the full implementation of the plans. Each implementing entity and the organs responsible for the implementation of a part of the plan shall submit a report to the Commission on Human Rights and Good Governance, which shall conform to the format established by the Commission, set general objectives, specific objectives and performance indicators, and clarify the actions taken by the implementing entity to achieve these objectives, and the compliance of these actions with performance indicators.

Case 2: China evaluates the plan based on the self-assessment report of the implementation subject. In the process of planning and evaluation, China clearly requires relevant departments and units to self-evaluate the implementation and completion of the tasks of the National Human Rights Action Plans and submit written assessment materials. In the process of evaluation, the joint meeting mechanism of the National Human Rights Action Plans and the evaluation group have held several working meetings to verify and study the self-assessment of various departments and units in accordance with the indicators of the National Human Rights Action Plans, and to solicit the views and suggestions extensively from the members of the joint meeting mechanism and all sectors of society through letters, telephone calls and other means, and finally formed the National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) evaluation report.5 The same approach was adopted for the evaluation of the second National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015).

B. Comprehensive assessment of inter-departmental committees (groups) in the government

Human rights are highly politicized in all countries, because it directly relates to the rights and obligations of citizens and governments, the legitimacy of state power and a country’s international image, which determines that the government will be more inclined to take the lead in the evaluation of the human rights action plans, thereby strengthening the actual control over the topic by the government. Therefore, countries generally adopt an interdepartmental joint meeting (groups) mechanism to implement the evaluation of action plans. Case 3 to case 6 illustrate the comprehensive evaluation mechanism adopted by different countries with different names but similar structures.

Case 3: Sweden’s “Interdepartmental Working Group on Human Rights” evaluation mechanism.6 Sweden has formulated and implemented two National Human Rights Action Plans. At the end of the implementation of the first plan, a systematic assessment of its implementation was carried out. The assessment was conducted by Thomas Hammarberg, then secretary-general of the Palme International Centre. Sweden has set up an interdepartmental working group on human rights, to which all the government ministries sent representatives. The group carries out a continuous assessment of the implementation of the plan and requests that a summary report should be submitted after the completion of the action plan. If a plan is not implemented, the reasons need to be explained in the memorandum.

Case 4: Indonesia’s “Joint Secretariat” Assessment Mechanism. In the process of implementing the fourth phase of the human rights action plan, Indonesia has established a Joint Secretariat to monitor and evaluate the plan. The Joint Secretariat includes members such as the State Secretariat, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of National Development Planning and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are also improved assessment and monitoring mechanisms at all levels of government. 7

Case 5: China’s evaluation mechanism of Joint Meeting of National Human Rights Action Plans. In the first phase of China’s Human Rights Action Plan, it is stipulated that “the joint meeting mechanism of the National Human Rights Action Plan, led by the Information Office of the State Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, composed of legislative and judicial organs and relevant functional departments of the State Council, shall be responsible for overall coordination of the implementation, supervision and evaluation of the Action Plan.”8 This practice is continued in the Second National Human Rights Action Plan: “The joint meeting mechanism of the National Human Rights Action Plan led by the Information Office of the State Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Action Plan”.9 In the national report for the third round of the UPR in 2018, it was once more clearly stipulated that “China has established a joint meeting mechanism for the National Human Rights Action Plan, which is composed of more than 50 departments and is responsible for the formulation, implementation and evaluation of the action plan”10.

Case 6: Finland’s evaluation mechanism of “Basic Rights and Human Rights Network”. In participating in the Universal Periodic Review, Finland committed itself to more effective and systematic monitoring of the implementation of human rights. As part of this commitment, the newly established network of basic rights and human rights, comprising contacting personnel representing all ministries, will monitor the implementation of the national human rights action plan and compile government human rights policy reports. The network will analyze Finland’s basic rights and human rights situation, including the implementation of Finland’s human rights obligations and commitments, and also analyzing relevant periodic reports. 11

C. Participation of policy targets, social organizations and human rights experts

The participation of policy targets, human rights experts and social organizations in the assessment is an important factor to ensure the objectivity, neutrality and authority of the assessment results. The target groups of policy, who are the most direct and sensitive to the perception of social status, are the most qualified to evaluate whether human rights policies meet the needs and expectations of the public. However, the policy targets are huge and varied, and can only be evaluated through some form of representation or indirect participation in the assessment as the respondent; social organizations can express the structural influence of relevant policies on behalf of a certain group of people. Its shortcoming is that it is easy to see parts while failing to analyze the problem from the perspective of the whole of society; human rights experts can contribute more systematically, professionally and authoritatively to the evaluation of plans, but they are not deeply aware of the richness and diversity of social practice. The above three types of subjects have their own advantages and disadvantages in the evaluation of an action plan. In the existing evaluation of a plan, most of them emphasize the comprehensive role of the relevant subjects in the evaluation.

Tanzania, for example, requested that “civil society organizations will be involved in the monitoring process to improve the transparency and objectivity of assessments, and that they will be invited to participate in the discussion of progress reports and to make thematic reports so as to draw attention to shortcomings in the implementation of plans”.12 In its third round Universal Periodic Review, South Korea stated that “in 2013, the external advisory body responsible for monitoring and assessing the progress of the implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plans was restructured to include representatives of social groups and experts.”13 In the report on the evaluation of the first phase of the plan, China stated that “the joint meeting mechanism organizes relevant departments and units of central and state organs, people’s organizations, non-governmental organizations and human rights experts from Nankai University, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Party School of the Central Committee of CPC and other universities and scientific research institutions to set up an evaluation team, to collect all kinds of information and make a serious assessment and summary of the implementation of the action plan.”14 For the third National Human Rights Action Plan, it is requested that “the joint meeting mechanism of the Human Rights Action Plans should conduct periodic research, inspection and evaluation, introduce third-party evaluation mechanisms and publish evaluation reports in a timely manner”.

III. Ways and Means of Assessing Human Rights Action Plans

The assessment of the human rights action plans involves the ways and means to obtain, analyze and verify information, and the structure to measure and express the effectiveness of the implementation of the plan and other issues.

A. Field investigation and cross-validation of information

Assessment needs a lot of information about the status of the implementation of the plan, and field research is the most commonly adopted approach to obtain a sub-information. It involves a variety of specific information acquisition and processing methods, such as questionnaires, in-depth interviews, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups.

Lithuania, for example, specified in detail the measures and methods for monitoring and promoting the implementation of its action plan. Field research was to be carried out from October 2002 to October 2003. It also stipulated the investigation methods and number of samples and questions for each type of subject, such as for the investigation of the disabled, it adopted the form of in-depth interviews, the sample numbers are 20, including 20 semi-structural problems; in 2002, typical survey methods were adopted in the survey of the general public, with samples numbering 1,000 people, including 60 indicators; focus groups and typical surveys were used to investigate the elderly.15

In November 2010, China’s joint meeting mechanism launched the final evaluation of China’s first action plan. The Information Office of the State Council organized news organizations and human rights experts to conduct research in Shanghai, Sichuan and other places to obtain opinions and suggestions from people from all walks of life. The China Society for Human Rights Studies has organized human rights experts and representatives of non-governmental organizations to conduct field research in Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong, Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang.16 In July to December 2015, in order to objectively evaluate the second action plan, the Information Office of the State Council organized news outlets and human rights experts to visit Beijing, Liaoning, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Qinghai, the Guangxi Zhuang and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions and other places for interviews and investigations, and obtain opinions and suggestions from people from all walks of life and the public. The China Society for Human Rights Studies has organized human rights experts and representatives of social organizations to visit Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing, Dalian, Jinan and Wuhan many times to investigate the implementation of the plan.17 This approach helped to obtain a true understanding of the effectiveness of the implementation of the plan, avoided over-reliance on the self-assessment report of the implementation subject, and obtained a comprehensive and objective understanding of the reality through cross-validation.

B. Combining qualitative evaluation with index measurement

The expression of various projects in the human rights action plans largely determines the evaluation method in the later stage. The content expressed digitally can easily be measured in the later stage by digital measurement and comparison; plans involving institutional changes, legal amendments and treaty signatures are also easy to be judged directly in the later stage; some vague expressions can only continue to adopt qualitative assessment methods, such as “accelerate...process”, “support...project”, “perfect…program”, “strengthen...ability”, “improve... state”.

Most countries with clear assessment requirements require a combination of qualitative and quantitative assessment methods. The digital quantitative expression can accurately indicate the actual progress of a specific project, but there are such defects as the need for higher costs to obtain the digital information and the inability of set indicators to truly and comprehensively reflect the actual level of protection of specific rights. Finland emphasized in its plan that the measurement of human rights and the evaluation of the implementation of the plan needed not only qualitative judgement, but also comprehensive and accurate information on the implementation of plans and quantitative and indicative measurement of human rights. The indicators include structural indicators, procedural indicators and outcome indicators.

In the application of qualitative and quantitative indicators, countries have diversified practical exploration. Case 7 — Case 9 cites three typical countries and practices.

Case 7: Finland has refined the evaluation indicators to each specific project. Finland’s National Human Rights Action Plan is extremely detailed, and in each specific project, the project name, content, legal basis, responsible department and evaluation index are defined.18 Some of these indicators are quantitative indicators, some are qualitative indicators, which express the “success or failure evaluation criteria” of each project.19 Specifying evaluation indicators for each project as a measure of the implementation of the action plan, this structural arrangement fully indicates the great importance of the effective implementation of the action plan by the country, and also helps the enforcers to enhance the target orientation in the implementation process.

Case 8: Brazil has developed and uses a human rights indicator system.20 The main coordinating body for the development of indicators is the Commission on Social Statistics, which integrates standpoints of human rights into different social indicators in order to improve the quality of official statistics. There are a large number of reference index databases in policy formulation, including DATASUS, the family allowance registry and school census office. Since 2008, studies conducted by the government have adopted a perspective of human rights. In 2010, in order to devise the National Human Rights Indicators System, the federal government, in cooperation with Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other United Nations agencies, launched an international cooperation project to place appropriate components of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in accordance with the methodology recommended by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Case 9: Mexico carried out indicative measurement of partial contents. In order to assess the effectiveness of “the mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists”, an index was included in its National Human Rights Programme, which showed that the actual level of effectiveness was 92% in 2013, 92.2% in 2014, 92.75% in 2015 and 92.94% in 2016.21

In addition to the above, many countries explicitly require that indicative evaluations should be adopted in their plans as far as possible. For example, Australia, in its action plan formulated in 2012, called for the development of assessment indicators for national anti-racial discrimination strategies.22 Malawi stated in its plan that “appropriate data statistics and indicator records will be identified and developed for better evaluation of progress and improvement in the application of human rights treaty provisions”23. Tanzania requests that “both interim and final reports should include a series of indicators on the effectiveness of human rights guarantees, some of which are included in the national human rights action plan, and some are determined through joint consultation between the Commission on Human Rights and Good Governance and the executive bodies”.24 Since 2011, Bolivia has developed indicators for the right to education, labor, health, adequate food, housing and women’s exemption from violence. 25

C. Process reporting and dynamic monitoring

The implementation of National Human Rights Action Plans is a process spanning several years. In order to realize the dynamic management and continuous high-quality promotion of an action plan, it is necessary to adopt a certain dynamic monitoring and evaluation method in the implementation process. There are a number of ways to do this.

First, annual reports are issued. It is a common way to urge the main body of implementation to report progress in accordance with the passing of the years. For example, in its first National Human Rights Action Plan, South Korea required each relevant ministry to submit an annual report to the National Human Rights Policy Committee on the results of its implementation of the National Human Rights Action Plan. The National Human Rights Policy Committee will then publish these annual reports for the public.26 Brazil institutionalized its commitment to write and publish annual reports on the situation of national human rights in its third National Human Rights Action Plan, and the online monitoring system enabled government agencies to keep up-to-date on the implementation of recommendations for the promotion of human rights.27 In its plan of action, Iraq stipulates that an annual report on the implementation of the plan should be issued, and that the assessment of the plan should provide recommendations for the follow-up phase of project implementation.28

Second, the progress of some key monitoring projects should be evaluated. For example, the Australian National Human Rights Action Plan 2012 calls for an assessment framework for action to resort to justice and an assessment of the progress of specific projects on community safety and justice at different stages. 29

Third, mid-term or periodic assessments should be conducted. For example, China makes mid-term assessment of its plans.30 Iraq regularly publishes human rights reports after 2010.31 Finland combines human rights progress with elections. At the end of the electoral period, the government will submit a human rights policy report to parliament to evaluate the implementation of the action plan.32

IV. Utilization of the Results of the Assessment of Human Rights Action Plans

Systematic assessment of an action plan can provide a basis for sustained, improved and completed human rights action plan policies in a country. If the plan achieves the desired results, it will also prove the effectiveness of this tool, and new plans can be formulated in the future to continuously promote the improvement of the human rights situation. If some defects are found, the corresponding policy can be improved to promote the enhancement or renewal of this tool; if it is found that this method is not suitable for the national conditions, or the cost is far greater than the benefits, then the policy can also be decisively terminated.

A. Promoting linkages concerning project content among human rights action plans

As a time-bound public policy measure, human rights action plans are generally targeted at specific period objectives and human rights issues. Therefore, it is necessary to formulate a new human rights action plan according to the changes of social conditions. In reality, 13 countries have developed two or more human rights action plans (see table 1).

Table 1  Countries and time for formulating and implementing

human rights action plans of phase II and more
 

 

Country Plan I Plan II Plan III Plan IV
         
Mexico 1998 2004-2008 2008-2012 2014-2018
         
Indonesia 1998-2003 2004-2009 2011-2014 2015-2019
         
Australia 1993 2004 2012  
         
Thailand 2001-2009 2009-2013 2014-2018  
         
China 2009-2010 2012-2015 2016-2020  
         
Philippines 1996-2000 2012-2016    
         
Brazil 1996 2009    
         
Bolivia 1999 2009-2013
         
Sweden 2002-2004 2006-2009
         
Moldova 2004-2008 2011 -2014
         
Nigeria 2006 2009-2013
         
South Korea 2007-2011 2012-2016
         
Finland 2012-2013 2017-2019
         

Generally speaking, the more the continuity in a country’s human rights action plans, the more importance they attach to the evaluation of plans. Because effective evaluation can promote the coherence of human rights action plans on project content. Case 10 to case 12 are demonstrations of this.

Case 10: Utilization of the evaluation results of the first phase of the Swedish Action Plan for the second phase. The views derived from evaluation of the first action plans have become an important source of material for a subsequent action plan. The views of the assessment bodies are based on the views and suggestions of actors such as NGOs, researchers, experts and national institutions. For example, the assessment of the first action plan might suggest that the next national human rights action plan should develop a broader strategy in terms of language and human rights, including Braille and sub-languages. In its action plan, a government may introduce in detail the contents of strengthening the status of language organizations and research institutes in investigating sub-languages and reforming proposals for public human rights information and knowledge publicity, and strengthening the translation and dissemination of international human rights documents for persons with disabilities by adjusting government human rights websites.33

Case 11: The focus of Finland’s second National Human Rights Action Plan. Finland has implemented two national human rights action plans. In assessing the first human rights action plan, the assessment criticized the inconsistency of the action plan, and suggested that in formulating the second phase of the action plan, priority should be given to selected basic rights and human rights themes in order to better promote the realization of these rights. Based on this criticism, the second action plan focused on the basic rights and equality of human rights education and the right to self-determination without discrimination against individuals and groups, as well as basic rights and digitalization. 34

Case 12: Linkages among the contents of Indonesia’s action plan. As a way of continuing to promote national efforts and policies on human rights, the implementation of the national action plan should be regularly reassessed to ensure the continuing role of the plan in the full implementation of human rights laws and the justice and civilization of Indonesian society. Given Indonesia’s full commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, those elements that are not included in the current “Human Rights Action Plan 1998-2003” will be put on the agenda when the plan is updated, which will be scheduled after an assessment of the initial implementation of the plan.35

B. Providing possibilities for the accumulation and transmission of experience in the implementation of human rights action plans

The most typical significance of using the evaluation results of human rights action plans is to help improve the quality of follow-up human rights action plans. First, the evaluation of the implementation effect of the early stage plan can become the “foundation” and “starting point” for the formulation of a follow-up plan, help to clarify the key issues to be solved, grasp the progress and the remaining obstacles to solving specific problems, and form more specific and targeted programs. Second, through the evaluation of a plan, a the specific mechanism of policy formulation, implementation and evaluation can be improved so as to enhance the pertinence and effectiveness of the policy mechanism. Third, assessment of the plan can promote the more skilled use of the form of the plan by the country implementing the plan, and improve the guiding principles, macro-structure, text expression and content arrangements. For example, South Korea drew on the evaluation of the implementation results of its first plan of action in the formulation of its second action plan.

Case 13: South Korea drew lessons from its first action plan for its second. Following the first national action plan for 2007-2011, in March 2012, the government launched its second national action plan for the protection and promotion of human rights for 2012-2016. The national action plan incorporates the evaluation of the implementation of the first national action plan, the recommendations made by the Korean Human Rights Commission, the recommendations made by international human rights institutions to the government since the adoption of the first national action plan in May 2007, and written comments made by civil society.36 The National Human Rights Policy Committee will make a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of the action plan and reflect the results in the next action plan.37

C. Promoting the optimal adjustment of relevant matters in the implementation cycle of an action plan

The evaluation during the implementation of a plan can also provide suggestions for the subsequent implementation of the plan, and play the role of rectification and adjustment. Case 14 to case 15 show that in specific policy practice, the content and priority of the plan are adjusted according to the evaluation.

Case 14: Monitoring and assessment of human rights implementation in Tanzania38. In each implementation year, the Human Rights and Good Governance Commission receives and reviews annual reports from various implementing agencies and government departments. Once deficiencies and gaps are identified, the executing agencies will be reminded to pay special attention and be urged to make extra efforts to achieve the planned objectives.

Case 15: Indonesia’s dynamic assessment and adjustment of the plan. Indonesia has formulated and implemented four national human rights action plans, and in the fourth action plan covering the period 2015-2019, Indonesia has given the plan more flexibility. This shows that priorities and agendas can be adjusted based on the results of an assessment.39

Adjustment of the content or the time and manner of implementation of a plan of action can make the plan conform to a new social situation, thus enhancing the flexibility and adaptability of the plan.

V. Conclusion

Globally, since the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, at least 57 countries have formulated and implemented 78 National Human Rights Action Plans. It has become an important policy practice to systematically promote human rights protection in the form of national human rights action plans.

If we measure it from the perspective of public policy, to enhance the effectiveness of a National Human Rights Action Plan, the evaluation is an essential link. Assessment of the effectiveness of an action plan can help ensure full understanding of the “policy effectiveness” of action plans and promote the “materialization” of the implementation process by transmitting the assessment expectations; but also provide the necessary benchmarks for the formulation of follow-up plans and promote the “quality improvement” and “mechanism optimization” of follow-up plans.” At the same time, an assessment can also sum up the experience and lessons gained in the implementation of an action plan, and further expand its influence and acclaim on the international human rights arena through sharing with the international community.

But in reality, it is difficult to see a detailed description of the evaluation process and results in the existing plan text and related implementation, which may be due to the high cost and high risk attributes of the evaluation itself. Not only is the evaluation process itself time-consuming and laborious, but also it does not rule out that a considerable number of countries lack sufficient willingness to assess, or at least the willingness to publish the results of their assessments.

The following conclusions can be drawn through the interpretation of the national plan texts related to the evaluation of human rights action plans and the analysis of the relevant contents of national reports of countries participating in the United Nations Universal Periodic Review system.

First, in terms of the subject of evaluation and the corresponding framework mechanism, it includes not only the “self-evaluation” of the main body of implementation of the plan, but also the comprehensive evaluation of the inter-departmental committees (groups) within the government, as well as the evaluation of some social organizations, policy objects and human rights experts. In the practice of real policy, there are more combinations of various kinds of assessments, which are manifested in the comprehensive assessment of the combination of multiple subjects on the basis of self-assessment.

Second, the evaluation method is highly related to the compilation of the plan content. Some of the specific content of National Human Rights Action Plans in countries are digitalized expression, while others’ expressions are broader and more general. This is related to the characteristics of different rights, for example, civil and political rights are more about the amendment of laws, the improvement of systems, access to and other content, not easy to use figures to express; on the contrary, economic, social and cultural rights mostly involve specific content, which can be expressed quantitatively. At the same time, this different style is also related to the government’s basic positioning of the action plan. Policy declarative positioning is more suitable for general expression, while pragmatic and progressive positioning requires more measurable indicators.

Third, the evaluation of human rights action plans involves the acquisition, analysis and synthesis of information, the final judgment can be drawn from the comparison and measurement of a plan’s objectives. From practices, multi-model field research is the main way to obtain information, which can form cross-validation with the self-report of the implementation subject; in comparison with the planned objectives, there are two main ways including qualitative evaluation and indicative measurement. In the practice of evaluation, many countries have made efforts to make indicators. This digital way is the general trend of scientific evaluation; at the same time, in the process of implementation, annual reports, periodic reports, mid-term assessments and progress assessments are also important ways for different countries to monitor and improve.

Fourth, the evaluation results of an action plan can promote the convergence of human rights action plans in different periods on project content, provide the possibility for the accumulation and transmission of experience in the formulation and implementation of the action plans, and promote the optimization and adjustment of related matters in the implementation cycle of a plan.

Fifth, as more countries formulate and implement human rights action plans, as the international community and the people of their own countries pay great attention to the results of the implementation of the plans, it can be predicted that the assessment of human rights action plans will become more and more common, and the technical requirements and accuracy of the assessments will become greater. The absence of an evaluation will be regarded as conducting the plan as a mere formality..

Sixth, regarding evaluation as a key link in the policy process, and taking into account the requirements of future evaluation in the planning and implementation, promoting the process of planning, implementation and evaluation to be scientific and systematic should become an important direction for academic and practical circles.

To conclude, the optimization of the design and solid implementation of the evaluation mechanism will provide strong support for China to establish a better image in the field of international human rights and play a better exemplary role.

(Translated by LI Man)

 

* XU Yao ( 许尧 ), Associate Researcher at the Human Rights Research Center of Nankai University (National Institutes of Human Rights Education and Training) and Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, a Ph.D. in Management. This paper is a stage achievement of the sub-topic of Marxist theoretical research and construction project “Several important basic theories of human rights”.

1. According to the web page of OHCHR (https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/PlansActions/Pages/PlansofActionIndex. aspx), accessed 1 March 2019, there were 51 phases of National Human Rights Action Plans formulated by 39 countries. On the basis of relevant materials from countries participating in the UPR of the UN Human Rights Council, the author finds that there are 27 phases of action plans which are not listed on the website. According to the time sequence, these plans are Argentina’s national programme of the National Human Rights Plan, formulated in 2010,Paraguay’s National Human Rights Plan (2010-2011), South Korea’s National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2016), Philippine Human Rights Plan (2012-2016), China’s National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015), Burundi’s 2012-2017 plan of action for national human rights policy, Finland’s National Action Plan on Fundamental Rights and Human Rights (2012-2013), Armenia’s National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights, launched in 2012, National Action Plan on Human Rights issued by the Netherlands in 2013, Ethiopia’s National Human Rights Action Plan (2013), Thailand’s National Human Rights Plan (2014-2018) and its earlier first human rights action plan, National Human Rights Action Plan formulated by Uganda in 2014, Greece's National Action Plan on Human Rights (2014-2016), Colombia's National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights, 2014-2034, Georgia's National Human Rights Strategy (2014-2020), Cameroon's National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (2015-2019), Namibia National Human Rights Action Plan 2015-2019, Indonesia's National Human Rights Action Plan (2015-2019), Venezuela's National Human Rights Plan Act 2015-2019, China's National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020), Jordan's Comprehensive National Human Rights Plan 2016-2025, Turkmenistan's National Plan of Action in the Field of Human Rights 2016-2020, National Human Rights Action Plan (2016-2020) drawn up by Pakistan, Tuvalu National Human Rights Action Plan 2016-2020, Chile National Human Rights Plan (2017-2021), Malaysia's National Human Rights Action Plan launched in 2018. Therefore, by fully tapping the available materials, it can be determined that at least 57 countries have formulated and implemented 78 phases human rights action plans.
 
2. The compilation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in accordance with paragraph 15 (c) of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 511 summarizes Thailand, the twelfth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, from 3 to 14 October, 2011, A/HRC/WG.6/12/THA/3, 3.

3. A. Chalabi, “ The Prob1em-oriented Approach to Improving Nationa1 Human Rights Action P1ans”, Social Science Electronic Publishing 2 (2015): 272-298.
 
4. United Republic of Tanzania National Human Rights Action Plan 2013-2017, 55-56. The texts of human rights action plans cited in this paper are from the website of OHCHR, accessed March 1, 2019, https: //www.ohchr. org/EN/Issues/PlansActions/Pages/PlansofActionIndex.aspx.

5. The Information Office of the State Council, Evaluation Report of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2002-2010) (Beijing: People's Publishing House, 2011), 2-3.
 
6. A National Action Plan for Human Rights 2006-2009, Sweden..

7. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Indonesia, twenty-seventh session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 1-12 May 2017, A/HRC/WG.6/27/IDN/1, 4 and 21.

8. The Information Office of the State Council, National Human Rights Action Plan (2009-2010) (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 2009), 5.

9. The Information Office of the State Council, National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) (Beijing: People's Publishing House, 2012), 50.

10. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, China, the thirty-first session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 5-16 November 2018, A/HRC/WG.6/31/CHN/1, 4.
 
11. Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review on Finland and the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council at its twenty-first session, A/HRC/21/8, July 5, 2012, 20.

12. United Republic of Tanzania National Human Rights Action Plan 2013-2017, 56. The texts of human rights action plans cited in this paper are from the website of OHCHR, accessed March 1, 2019, https: //www.ohchr. org/EN/Issues/PlansActions/ Pages/PlansofActionIndex.aspx.

13. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Republic of Korea, the twenty-eighth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 6-17 November 2017,A/HRC/WG.6/28/KOR/1,3.
 
14. The Information Office of the State Council, Evaluation Report of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2002-2010) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2011), 2-3.

15. National Plans of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights of Lithuania, 30-32.

16. The Information Office of the State Council, Evaluation Report of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2002-2010) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2011), 2-3.
 
17. The Information Office of the State Council, Evaluation Report of the National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015) (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2016), 2-3.
18. National Action Plan on Fundamental and Human Rights 2012-2013, Finland.

19. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Finland, the thirteenth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 21 May-4 June 2012, A/HRC/WG.6/13/FIN/1, 4.
 
20. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Brazil, the thirteenth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 21 May-4 June 2012, A/HRC/WG.6/13/BRA/1, 4.

21. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Mexico, thirty-first session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 5-16 November 2018, A/HRC/WG.6/31/MEX/1, 15.

22. National Human Rights Action Plan of Australia, 2012, 83.

23. National Plans of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights of Malawi, 3.

24. United Republic of Tanzania National Human Rights Action Plan 2013-2017, 55. The texts of human rights action plans cited in this paper are from the website of OHCHR, accessed March 1, 2019, https: //www.ohchr. org/EN/Issues/PlansActions/ Pages/PlansofActionIndex.aspx.

25. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, the State of Bolivia, the twentieth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 27 October-7 November 2014, A/HRC/WG. 6/20/BOL/1, 5.
 
26. Summary of the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights of the Republic of Korea.

27. National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Brazil, thirteenth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 21 May-4 June 2012, A/HRC/WG.6/13/BRA/1, 4.

28. The Iraqi National Human Rights Plan Adopted by Council of Ministers on September 27, 2011.

29. National Human Rights Action Plan of Australia, 2012, 13.

30. United Republic of Tanzania National Human Rights Action Plan 2013-2017, 23. The texts of human rights action plans cited in this paper are from the website of OHCHR, accessed March 1, 2019, https: //www.ohchr. org/EN/Issues/PlansActions/ Pages/PlansofActionIndex.aspx.

31. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Iraq, the twentieth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, A/HRC/WG.6/20/IRQ/1, 4-5.

32. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Finland, the thirteenth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 21 May-4 June 2012, A/HRC/WG.6/13/FIN/1, 4.
 
33. Summary of the Swedish Government Communication & (2005/06 95); A National Action Plan for Human Rights 2006-2009, 82-86.

34. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Finland, the thirteenth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 21 May-4 June 2012, A/HRC/WG.6/13/FIN/1, 3.

35. National Plan of Action on Human Rights & (1998-2003) of Indonesia, 4.
 
36. National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, South Korea, fourteenth session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 22 October-5 November 2012, A/HRC/WG.6/14/KOR/1, 3.

37. Summary of the National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection Human Rights the Republic of Korea.

38. United Republic of Tanzania National Human Rights Action Plan 2013-2017, 55-56. The texts of human rights action plans cited in this paper are from the website of OHCHR, accessed March 1, 2019, https: // www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/PlansActions/ Pages/PlansofActionIndex.aspx.

39. In accordance with the national report submitted in paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21, Indonesia, twenty-seventh session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, 1-12 May 2017, A/HRC/WG.6/27/IDN/1, 4.
 

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