The WORLD Policy Analysis Center has collected and analyzed information on rights, laws, and policies in all 193 UN member states in the areas of education, health, adult labor and working conditions, child labor, poverty, constitutional rights, discrimination, childhood, gender, marriage, families, aging, and disability.
Building the WORLD Databases
In selecting the rights, laws, and policies included in our databases, priority was given to those that are supported in two ways:
- With research evidence demonstrating their importance to human health, development, well-being, or equity in a variety of geographic, social, and economic circumstances; and
- With widespread global consensus on their value.
The selection of the data sources used by the WORLD Policy Analysis Center was based on the following approach:
- Preference was given to primary national legal sources (e.g. constitutional texts, original legislation). Whenever possible, data were coded from these sources.
- If these were not available, national reports on policies and laws to the UN and official global and regional bodies were used.
- Finally, secondary sources were consulted to clarify, complement, or corroborate information available through primary sources after review of the reliability of their data, and the consistency and comparability of their methodology across countries.
- All sources were reviewed in their original language or in translation to one of the United Nations’ official languages.
Coding is the process by which an individual researcher takes a piece of information from constitutional text, legislation, policy, or other sources and translates it into a set of features that can be quantitatively analyzed, mapped, readily understood, and shared. Our coding process was the following:
- Coding was carried out independently by two researchers and then compared, to minimize human error.
- Whenever coding required a judgment call by the coder, the rules underlying such decisions were verified, applied consistently across countries, and captured systematically in a codebook.
- Coding was conducted in the original language of the document whenever possible by team members fluent in the language, or using a version translated into one of the official UN languages.
Coding frameworks were developed to capture information in a systematic way. Our guiding principle was to ensure that the richness and variety of approaches taken by different countries were well captured, and simultaneously to permit meaningful comparisons of rights, laws, and policies across countries. To develop approaches for analysis in each area, we used the following approach:
- Initially, essential features of each right, law, or policy were identified based on inherent characteristics, research evidence, and global agreements.
- After determining an initial set of key features, the research team reviewed text from 20 to 30 countries selected at random to develop a set of categories according to which these features could be systematically coded and compared, while capturing the full variety of approaches taken by countries.
- This set was revised and applied to an additional 10 to 20 countries to ensure its viability before being applied to all countries.
- When necessary, the coding scheme continued to be amended to reflect additional features that presented themselves upon country review; when these amendments occurred, previously coded countries were re-coded within the new framework.
Our goal is to ensure that the data we present is accurate and up-to-date. To minimize the potential for error in our data and keep it current, we take the following measures:
- Double coding: Rights, laws, and policies were coded independently by two researchers, and their results compared, to reduce the potential for human error or differences in interpretation.
- Verification of outliers: Nations that were outliers on particular variables were verified using additional sources whenever possible.
- Databases are periodically updated across countries in a systematic fashion according to a broad review of available sources.
Nonetheless, errors are possible due to human error, or due to mistakes or omissions in the data sources we use to build our databases. We welcome feedback on our data. If you are aware of an error or omission in our data, please contact us to report the error and provide a link to the relevant law or policy document through which the information can be verified.
Subnational Levels: Initial data analysis has focused on national-level law and policy that is collected by the UN and other global organizations. In the future, we hope that a team will be able to analyze information about state/provincial policies and laws in all federal systems for each area.
Implementation: Currently, comprehensive information about implementation is not available globally. Collecting systematic information on implementation should be a priority for any global organization concerned with government performance.
Why consider constitutions?
Among the tools that governments use to regulate human rights are national and sub-national legislation, targeted programs and policies, and national constitutions. Most of the maps in our website are based on national policies and laws such as whether education is free, and whether parents can take leave for children’s health needs. The implications of these policies, if implemented and enforced properly, are clear. Constitutions typically outline a broader set of rights for which implementation mechanisms are less clear. They often need to be translated into laws and policies to have a widespread impact on citizens’ lives, however:
- Constitutions are fundamental building blocks of a nation’s government and laws. As such, they can play an important role in establishing values and rights that may be more equitable and progressive than prevailing social norms.
- Constitutions are particularly difficult to repeal or amend. Their commitments remain relatively stable and permanent even as different political parties assume power, which can help guard against attempts by governments to retreat from or weaken national human rights guarantees.
- Constitutions are typically the highest laws of a country, which means that they can be used to overturn formal legislation and policies, as well as customary and religious laws, that violate human rights.
- Constitutions often contain mechanisms for the legal enforcement of citizens’ rights. In countries around the world, such provisions have been used successfully to combat discrimination and hold governments accountable to their constitutional commitments.
For these reasons, we consider it important to provide information on countries’ constitutional provisions in addition to the commitments outlined in policies and legislation.
Ranking of policies and laws in this website were conducted for areas where there is strong global consensus and evidence.
- In each area, we rank countries as green, yellow, or red, based on having laws and policies in place that are consistent with minimum standards established through widespread global consensus (green), partially meet (yellow) or do not meet global standards (red).
- Rankings are done within a subject area such as education, labor, health, poverty, family and equal rights but not across areas. This is because:
- Policymakers tend to make policy decisions in individual topic areas
- There is no rigorous algebraic formula for evaluating how to add or subtract success across very divergent areas
- Rankings are limited to areas for which there is current globally comparative data, necessitating the omission of some important areas due to data availability limitations.