While quantitative methods have been a key focus in efforts to comprehensively measure human rights, their strategic value in advocating for greater accountability for economic and social rights (ESCR) and in challenging neoliberalism is relatively underexplored.
For the new book Economic and Social Rights in a Neoliberal World, Allison Corkery and longstanding CESR collaborator Heba Khalil, of Egypt's Social Justice Platform, penned the chapter "Do Metrics Matter? Accountability for Economic and Social Rights in Post-Revolution Egypt," which seeks to identify the ways in which quantification can help build civil society power vis-à-vis the state.
According to the book, edited by Gillian MacNaughton, University of Massachusetts, Boston and Diane F. Frey, San Francisco State University, the rise of neoliberal policy and practice simultaneous with the growing recognition of economic and social rights presents a puzzle. Whether the rights to food, water, health education, decent work, social security and the benefits of science can prevail against market fundamentalism is the central question of the book.
Since chronic deprivations of ESCR result from systemic dysfunctions in the way public policies are framed or implemented, advocacy approaches that involve quantification are beneficial, according to Corkery and Khalil. The authors go on to discuss the use of metrics by Egyptian civil society groups in demanding greater accountability from the government for ignoring economic and social rights as neoliberal economic policies held sway after the country’s 2011 revolution.
The dismantling of Egypt’s accountability system makes it difficult to challenge neoliberal policies and to dispute the dominant narrative that the economy has turned a corner and the country is recovering from its economic woes, according to the authors. They discuss ways in which metrics such as the Egypt Social Progress Indicators intentionally imitate traditional means of accountability, but also capture the reality on the ground to illustrate the impact of policies on people’s rights.