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date: 05 December 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Compliance with law is an inevitable problem, but it is particularly challenging for international legal regulation. An increasingly popular way of tackling this problem is to develop quantitative measures of performance that provide an apparently objective measure of compliance. However, a closer look at how quantitative measures such as indicators work show that they are often oversimplified, inaccurate, and politically influenced. This chapter discusses indicators for corporate social responsibility, human rights, trafficking, and the UN system of Sustainable Development Goals, showing that they are all efforts to produce objective data, but that the results are far from certainty. The difficulty of defining these broad social concepts clearly, the complexity of measuring them in a wide variety of national and local contexts, and widespread limitations on funding for data collection undermine their capacity to provide a full and accurate picture. Statistical knowledge provides one way of promoting global governance through law, but it is hindered by the difficulty of converting such complex social phenomena into numbers. Nor can it entirely escape the influence of politics or the shortage of funds to support adequate data collection.

Keywords: quantification, human rights, indicators, global governance, statistics, trafficking, corporate social responsibility, sustainable development goals, measurement, compliance

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