David McGrogan, Human Rights Indicators and the Sovereignty of Technique, European Journal of International Law, Volume 27, 2016, Issue 2
Indicators are increasingly used in international human rights monitoring, and time, expertise and resources are being devoted in ever-growing quantities to the production of more apparently powerful and sophisticated ways to objectively measure human rights performance. However, there is a certain level of resistance and scepticism to the statistical measurement of human rights on the part of many practitioners and advocates, who argue that it is reductionist and disruptive to their work. This article uses the writing of Michael Oakeshott as a lens through which to examine the shift towards indicators and argues that it is a project that is strongly characterized by rationalism: a desire for certainty, uniformity and clarity that neglects the experiential, tacit, and conversational. This not only provides a method for analysing the dangers present in the phenomenon but also explains why the reliance on indicators and other measurement methods seems destined to grow despite the reservations held by practitioners and scholars alike.