Quantitative Methods for Human Rights: From Statistics to 'Big Data'

22 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2016

See all articles by Antoine Nouvet

Antoine Nouvet

SecDev Foundation; United Nations; Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR)

Frederic Megret

McGill University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 27, 2016


In human rights like elsewhere, “numbers” exercise a fascination and can provide powerful signposts to strengthen arguments and trigger policy changes. Drawing from emerging literature and recent on-the-ground efforts, this paper synthesizes the surging role and influence of quantitative methods to analyze and prevent human rights violations. This paper argues the incentives to explore the uses, both current and potential, of such methods for human rights are sharper than ever: boosted by the digital revolution, quantitative methods are arguably the fastest changing and growing area of human rights work. Yet, legal scholarship and practice on the subject remains emergent. How can legal scholars and practitioners harness the latest developments in quantitative methods, especially given the rapid pace of change? What are the opportunities, limitations, and risks in this “brave new datafied world"? The paper tracks the changes in quantitative methods over recent decades including, beginning in the 2000s, the emergence of huge amounts of data (“big data”) generated amongst other things by cyberspace.

Keywords: international law, globalization, human rights, technology, quantitative methods, big data, surveillance, cyberspace

Suggested Citation

Nouvet, Antoine and Mégret, Frédéric, Quantitative Methods for Human Rights: From Statistics to 'Big Data' (June 27, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2801064 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2801064

Antoine Nouvet (Contact Author)

SecDev Foundation

45 O'Connor St

United Nations ( email )

4th Floor, Serena Business Complex

Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) ( email )

2 West 45th Street, Suite 1602
New York
United States

Frédéric Mégret

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec

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