Human Rights Day: 10 December 2018

Dec. 10, 2018 Weekly Graphs

Exactly 70 years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights are those fundamental rights considered to be universal to all people and include both civil liberties and political rights.This week’s graph focuses on civil liberties as the rights and freedoms that protect an individual from the state and which are underpinned by a country’s legal system. The V-Dem Index of civil liberties includes indicators measuring the absence of physical violence from the state, political liberties (e.g. freedom of association) and private liberties (e.g. freedom of religion).

Using the V-Dem Heat Map tool we group the countries in the V-Dem dataset by their scores on the civil liberties index. The colors in the figure reflect the number of countries that share the same level of civil liberties—the more countries that share that score the more red the graph. The graph charts changes in civil liberties between 1920 and 2015. The 1970s represents an important inflection point: the number of countries with high values on the civil liberties index begins to increase while the number of countries with poor civil liberties protections declines.  If we understand civil liberties as rights and freedoms that underpin democracy, this heat map may reflect the move towards democratization in the world as part of the Third Wave. However, we should also note the substantial number of countries with medium to low civil liberty scores  (the yellow areas below the cluster of countries with higher values). Even 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is still a long way to go.

To learn more about the indicators of civil liberties, take a look at the V-Dem Online Analysis Tool on

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