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Martin Scheinin

This chapter addresses one of the most important questions for the methodology of human rights law, both as a social practice and as a scholarly discipline, namely how to interpret the provisions of human rights treaties, many of which are seemingly vague or open-ended as texts. The author defends the view that there is a proper methodology for legal interpretation, understood as giving specific and concrete meaning to those texts. Even if different scholars or different lawyers may sometimes end up defending differing interpretations, the interpretive activity of each of them can be assessed for the correctness of its methodology and ultimately also for the correctness of the answer arrived at.

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Laura Ferguson

This chapter explores the methodological challenges in assessing health-related human rights from both a human rights perspective and a public health perspective. It provides an introduction to the relevance of human rights to health, and how to think about assessment in this context. Examples are provided of tools, mechanisms and datasets that can provide information relevant to assessing health-related rights. Finally, key challenges are explored. Overall, it surveys some different methods that can be used for assessing human rights in health, noting their respective pitfalls and advantages, with a view to informing the selection of methods for future work in this area.

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Simon Walker

The measurement of human rights has grown steadily over recent decades and is today an important element of human rights work. Measurement has been important for diverse reasons from reporting to treaty bodies to informing decisions on whether human rights should condition trade preferences. In spite of the many opportunities offered by measurement, it also faces challenges. For quantitative measurement, a significant challenge is ensuring that measurement is reliable and valid. The chapter sets out different approaches to measuring human rights, identifies the main challenges facing these approaches and makes some propositions to improve measurement initiatives. The chapter concludes by emphasizing the importance of sound methodology, the professionalization of measurement through national coordination bodies and cross-disciplinary dialogue as a means of ensuring greater reliability and validity of human rights measurement

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Bård A. Andreassen

Comparison is often used in human rights analysis, monitoring and advocacy. This chapter discusses purposes and key features of comparative human rights analysis based on recent research. It argues that comparison is important for exploring contextual and underlying conditions for human rights violations or protection. The chapter discusses what comparison in human rights is, why it is a fruitful research strategy and how it may conducted by comparing few or many cases. The chapter also addresses one-case studies as a form of comparative approach, often applied in human rights studies. One-case studies offer important opportunities for testing hypothesizes and enable conceptual and theoretical development.

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Hilde Bondevik and Inga Bostad

The chapter gives an introduction to the method of philosophical hermeneutics and the prejudicial character of understanding. We discuss how the concepts of hermeneutics can be used in the argumentation and interpretation of legal texts and human rights principles and treaties, in applied research, as well as in theoretical analyses of human rights issues. Hermeneutics finds favor with the field of human rights and in situations where we need to understand and communicate across different social groups and cultures. Referencing Gadamer, Benhabib and Nussbaum we seek to bridge the traditional gap between the humanities and legal science, which have often been regarded as two disciplines with distinctive theoretical and methodological approaches. The case of the ‘burqa bans’ or the ban on face covering will be applied as a case study.

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Edward Anderson

Despite the apparent skepticism, economists and human rights scholars share much in common. Many indicators used by development economists to measure human development have been used as proxies for the realization of human rights. Development economists and human rights scholars have also been working together to assess whether governments are doing as much as they can to realize human rights, given available resources. Finally, economists and (increasingly) human rights scholars both make substantial use of multiple regression analysis to investigate relationships of interest, and face similar methodological challenges in implementing this approach. All these areas have potential for fruitful collaboration.

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Steven L.B. Jensen and Roland Burke

Human rights has been described as a paradigmatic site for writing transnational history. While there is much promise in the discipline, history is not neutral territory for human rights researchers to navigate. With greater awareness of, and responsiveness to, the methodological challenges attendant to human rights history, historical inquiry can make a more substantial contribution to the field. This chapter identifies some blind spots that have influenced human rights research, and seeks to address questions about working with historical sources. It also charts out methodological approaches that can make historical research a more valuable, critical-reflective companion to understanding the evolution of human rights past and present.

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Anne Hellum

Human rights, in all parts of the world, operate in a terrain were a plurality of normative orders coexist, interact and sometimes conflict. Whether legal pluralities prevents or promotes human rights for different groups and for differently positioned individuals is a contested issue. This chapter shows how the role of legal pluralities as an enabling and constraining factor to human rights realization can be studied empirically in local contexts. The use of law as a semi-autonomous social field is demonstrated in comparative case studies of the interplay between international, national and local water norms in three social and geographically distinct localities in Zimbabwe.

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Bård A. Andreassen, Hans-Otto Sano and Siobhán McInerney-Lankford

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Hans-Otto Sano and Tomas Max Martin

This chapter argues that human rights studies lack insights on the endogenous organizational dynamics and their impact on human rights, i.e. on ‘drivers’ and ‘spoilers’ for human rights change induced by forces inside state (and interstate) organizations. This problem is compounded by the fact that human rights studies rarely pay much attention to organizational and institutional theory. The chapter addresses this methodical deficit on duty-bearers’ agency. The main questions addressed are: what methods can be used in gaining insights on how these duty-bearers strategize, implement and decide on human rights? In what way are and can these methodological choices be guided by theoretical angles that take internal dynamics more adequately into account?