Economic geography and human rights

This paper investigates the geo-political and international economic aspects of human rights performance using a pooled cross-section time-series data set. We start with simple descriptive accounts of the recent geographic history of human rights performance. We then test for basic economic effects of income and then apply tools from the spatial economics literature to examine the degree to which clusters of relative human rights performance exist. Using spatial weighting models we analyse the spatial impact of proximity and human rights performance of neghbours on overall levels of human rights performance. Unlike previous studies, our approach treats this spatial impact as partly endogenous: one country’s human rights performance may affect its neighbours through a variety of potential geographical spillover mechanisms. The spatial weighting models take into account size and distance of neighbours in order to compare each country’s human rights performance with what would be predicted by regression on a weighted average of its neighbours’ performance. The findings sugest that there are (a) geographical clusters of human rights performance and (b) size and proximity effects for human rights performance, both of which have significant implications for the promotion and protection of human rights.