Selection of categories
Twenty categories of human rights are included to reflect those rights that have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to include a diverse range of rights. While these rights are indivisible and interdependent, they are grouped under four overarching sections for ease of reference and comparison—civil and political rights (freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, technology and digital rights); equality (children, indigenous peoples, LGBTIQ+, migration, asylum, and trafficking, persons with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, reproductive rights, violence against women); governance (economic and fiscal policy responses, environmental justice, rule of law, voting and elections); and socio-economic rights (education, employment, health, housing, water and sanitation). When measures reflect advances in more than one category of human rights they are included in those multiple categories. Given that the gendered impacts of the pandemic are intersectional, official measures that address those impacts are integrated throughout the tracker in multiple categories, including children, economic and fiscal policy responses, employment, LGBTIQ+, reproductive rights, technology and digital rights, and violence against women.
Development of criteria for assessing rights
Official responses to COVID-19 can be a mix of positive measures in some areas of policy-making and measures that violate rights in others. To assess whether an individual measure has one or more elements that could be positive, this tracker draws on the nine core international human rights treaties, as well as specific and tailored guidance from human rights bodies on how to protect and fulfil rights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For each of the twenty categories of rights covered in this tracker, the following are identified:
- “relevant sources” (identifying key provisions from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the nine core international human rights treaties—International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT); Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED); Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD); and International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW);
- the “core elements of the guarantee during the COVID-19 pandemic” (outlining international human rights norms specifically identified by human rights institutions as key to ensuring the implementation of rights’ guarantees during the pandemic); and
- “further guidance” (reflecting a non-exhaustive list of sources from both regional and international institutions, including international NGOs).
This tracker includes official government measures—including judicial decisions, legislation, orders, policies, practices, and regulations—in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the local to the national levels. Inclusion of a measure in this tracker is not an endorsement that the step is itself fully compliant with a country’s human rights obligations; indeed, often included measures can be further enhanced to fully comply with guarantees of rights. Nor does including a measure here suggest that a government’s record on the pandemic is without fault or that officials should not be held to account for those other restrictive measures that may also have been put in place. Rather it reflects that, on its face, a particular measure as adopted contains one or more element(s) that tracks the international human rights norms summarized in the project’s criteria. In some instances, such measures are ones that have been identified as positive by regional and international institutions.
In all cases, further investigation of the implementation of the included measures is required to assess full compliance under international human rights law, but is beyond the scope of the current phase of this project. The fact that certain countries are not included in this tracker does not indicate that a country does not have any relevant positive measures in place.
Further, as with any tracker that relies primarily on official open source data, the information contained is not exhaustive and may be incomplete or even inaccurate, including as a result of the lack of available information and either over- or under-reporting of measures by governments. While the tracker seeks to include the most recent information on measures, there may be instances when the most up to date information is not included, including because of the lack of government information.
The tracker is intended to be an evolving project with measures added on a continuing basis. The measures listed are current as of December 2021. Measures are listed in reverse chronological order and the date (month and year) of enactment of each measure is included; measures that have expired are also included to demonstrate measures that were taken.
Information is collected through research consisting of desk research of open source information from both primary (e.g., government) and secondary (e.g., media) sources, as well as interviews with NGOs. The tracker includes primary government sources and if not available, secondary sources such as media and NGO reports or other documents. All sources (with a few exceptions) listed under “Source” are perma links to ensure that sources continue to be available even if original links are not accessible.
Translation and geography
Any measures in languages other than English were translated using Google Translate, with the exception of measures written in Spanish, which were translated by the Duke International Human Rights Clinic. Titles of most non-English language measures are listed in English followed by the original language in parentheses. With respect to groupings, both regional groupings and individual countries were based on World Bank classifications.
Using the tracker
The tracker’s “Filter” function can be used to sort and search for information by country, date enacted, region, or keyword search. The “Map” function can be used to browse by country, to see all measures within a category, and to see all measures within category groupings.