Behind the scenes: monitoring equality and human rights

by Verena Braehler

Published: 31 Jan 2017

Measurement frameworks, indicators and statistics are usually not the topics of conversation at cocktail parties but they sit at the heart of our strategic thinking and actually are one of the most exciting areas of our work.

Putting it simply, a measurement framework helps you measure something based on a sound theory. Our measurement framework helps us to paint a picture of how human rights and equality are protected in Great Britain. It tells us what areas of life we should look at (for example education or work), what we should measure (indicators) and how we should measure it (sources of evidence). It also tells us why it matters (rationale) and gives an indication of the kind of Britain we are striving towards – one in which our rights to fairness, dignity and respect are protected.

There is a lot of international interest in the framework. We have been invited to give presentations to prestigious groups including the World Bank, the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and others. We also work closely with other national equality bodies and national human rights institutions, for example in Finland and Croatia, to share our learning on how to measure equality and human rights. 

What makes things slightly complicated is that, at the moment, we have four different measurement frameworks, covering equality for adults and children, good relations, and human rights. These were developed between 2007 and 2011 and were used to inform the evidence collection for our statutory reports to Parliament – How fair is Britain? in 2010, the Human Rights Review in 2012, and Is Britain Fairer? in 2015. For 'Is Britain Fairer?’, we made pragmatic use of these frameworks to report for the first time simultaneously on equality and human rights. This threw up a number of issues. The data landscape had changed significantly and we need to ensure that we continue to draw on the best available data.

That is why we are now developing a single framework, which we’ll use to fulfil our statutory requirements to monitor and report on equality and human rights, inform our ongoing evidence collection and support our international treaty, legal and policy work more generally.

We have recently decided that a three year reporting cycle works best as it is a good time frame to assess where there has been progress and where things have stagnated or deteriorated. It also fits well with our strategy and business planning. That is why we intend to publish the next ‘state of the nation’ review in autumn 2018.

We are consulting with experts on the topics and indicators that we will monitor in the future. We know issues that are monitored consistently over time get more attention in the equality, human rights and social justice debate so it is important to get this right. If you would like to get involved or have any questions please contact