Chapter 6 Monitoring and evaluation of outcomes
Current level of monitoring and evaluation
Australia’s human rights dialogues
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) noted the difficulty
linking specific improvements in human rights to Australia’s human rights
While our dialogues contribute to change through information
exchange, technical assistance and capacity-building, and awareness-raising, we
are realistic about attributing specific human rights outcomes solely to
specific dialogues. Assessing the direct impact of dialogues on positive
developments in partner countries is difficult. The process of change on human
rights issues is incremental and is the result of a range of contributing
factors including internal developments in the countries concerned. Where
positive changes in dialogue partners’ approach to human rights do happen,
these changes are almost always the result of a combination of factors...
We are careful, though, and
realistic about attributing a specific human rights improvement to the fact
that we raised it in the dialogue. We like to think that that has had an
impact. We think the fact that we raised them in those dialogues, as we do in
other multilateral gatherings, helps but it is very hard to say, ‘Because we
raised it, there was X outcome.’
DFAT noted, however, that it did make qualitative judgements about the
...there are things that we can point to and it is more
qualitative than quantitative. We do judge it by things such as the frankness
of the dialogue and our ability to raise and pursue all issues of concern,
including individual cases. That has improved over time.
In relation to outcomes from the Australia-China dialogue, DFAT was of
the view that raising individual cases of concern has led to positive outcomes:
We do get feedback from released prisoners and from the
reports we read from NGOs that suggest that those prisoners who are subject to
international attention, including from foreign governments, are more likely to
receive better treatment than otherwise—meaning that, in some cases, their
sentences may be reduced. But we obviously have to be cautious in drawing too
much of a causal link to that.
DFAT also commented that raising individual cases of concern as part of
the Australia-Vietnam dialogue may have led to individuals being released from
prison but noted that:
It is difficult to draw a direct link between specific
representations made in the HRD [human rights dialogue] context and releases of
individuals on our cases of concern lists, although international
representations on such cases do play a role.
Human Rights Technical Cooperation Programs
As noted in Chapter two, the human rights dialogue includes a Human
Rights Technical Cooperation (HRTC) program.
In its submission, DFAT observed that the HRTC program is monitored by
the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission):
Each activity that takes place under one of the HRTC programs
is monitored and reported on by both the Australian Human Rights Commission and
the relevant Chinese or Vietnamese partner agency.
The Commission was of the view that ‘technical cooperation in human
rights is an important vehicle for achieving practical outcomes from the human
rights dialogue process.’
In its submission, the Commission provided a list of some key outcomes
from the activities of the China and Vietnam HRTC Programs.
Also noted in Chapter two, an independent review of the HRTC programs
was undertaken in 2010-11.
The Commission acknowledged that there was scope to have a stronger
focus on monitoring and evaluation, stating:
Whilst I consider the China and Vietnam technical cooperation
programs to be good programs and reasonably well managed, there is a lot of
scope for improving and strengthening them to have a stronger focus on outcomes
and better monitoring and evaluation to measure to those outcomes. That is what
we are working very closely on with AusAID at the moment.
Community perceptions of monitoring and evaluation
Many non-government organisations, ethnic community groups and
individuals expressed concerns about the perceived lack of any monitoring and
evaluating of dialogue outcomes.
The Australia Tibet Council (the Council) said that it believes there is
no attempt to monitor and evaluate outcomes:
...Australia’s approach to the dialogue has no articulation
of expected outcomes, no time line over which progress might be measured, no
benchmark for measuring success and no evaluation process. So this raises the question:
is this dialogue an end in itself?
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) held the view that at
present there is no means of determining if the dialogues ‘contribute to any
The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) told the
Committee that without objectives and benchmarks, the dialogues may not
contribute to human rights progress:
Without clear objectives, timelines for desired outcomes and
benchmarks for evaluation, countries may participate in a bilateral dialogue
process as a means to avoid public condemnation of their human rights record.
Australia risks compliance in a dialogue process that offers only an illusion
of progress on human rights issues, rather than contributing to authentic
improvements in human rights.
The Australian Baha’i Community called for reporting that was focused on
outcomes. They noted that such reporting:
...could be achieved by setting benchmarks for the dialogue,
against which progress and outcomes could be measured and reported.
Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) held the view that DFAT does not measure
the outcomes of the dialogues appropriately, stating:
[DFAT] cannot measure it because [DFAT] has not done the work
in the first place to put in place the proper objective measures that are
possible. They are difficult but they are possible. You cannot have a
department that measures its ability to operate by ‘I think we have some
The Council and the Vietnamese Community in Australia (VCA) specifically
commented on the outcomes of the human rights dialogues with China and Vietnam.
The Council noted its perception that the Australia-China dialogue has
not achieved any outcomes in Tibet since 1997:
It has not seen a tangible outcome from the dialogue process
on the human rights situation in Tibet which in fact has only worsened over the
The VCA said that in their view, the outcomes recorded in the
Australia-Vietnam human rights dialogue were in areas peripheral to improving
human rights, stating:
...we read the so-called outcomes of this dialogue over a
long time, and what we noticed was they seem to emphasise the improvement of
human rights in the so-called peripheral areas, such as education, health and
so on. They are all important. However, one of the most important things in
dictatorial regimes and regimes of concern is the voice of the people, and the
independence of the media.
Community suggestions for enhanced monitoring
Several groups suggested that Australia enhance its monitoring of
progress in human rights. Many of these suggestions, however, are focused on
monitoring human rights more broadly than the dialogues.
The Committee to Protect Vietnamese Workers (CPVW) suggested that DFAT
monitor the human rights situations of China and Vietnam directly:
DFAT should provide appropriate resources to ensure that
there are in‐country
officials for whom human rights monitoring is a key part of their duty
The CPVW added that monitoring should give high priority to providing
information on how and whether the Dialogues, plus other rights-related
activities, are progressing towards their aims.
The CPVW told the Committee that this monitoring should focus on sources
independent from the Vietnamese government:
The monitoring should aim to rely less on information sources
associated with the host‐country
authorities (ministries and, in the case of Vietnam, bodies under the Communist
Party’s Fatherland Front, such as the Women’s Union) and more on other
The CPVW added:
n Officials conducting
monitoring should establish lines of communications with reputable NGOs not
associated with the authorities. These organisations, such as Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, etc., can then provide not just their widely‐available reports but
also, as trust is gained, useful information not in such reports;
n Officials conducting
monitoring should talk to ordinary citizens of the countries;
n Officials conducting
monitoring should, in particular, talk to a wide range of victims of the denial
n Officials conducting
monitoring should – as part of the above – talk to families of political
prisoners, to learn about the situation in jail and to learn their side of the
ACFID suggested a similar set of indicators with which to monitor human
rights progress in China and Vietnam:
International NGOs including Human Rights Watch and the
International Federation for Human Rights have suggested meaningful and
realistic indicators for human rights dialogues that would demonstrate a
commitment to achieving human rights outcomes. In summary these include:
n Ratification and
implementation of all UN human rights instruments;
n Promotion of civil
and political and economic, social and cultural rights at a community, regional
and national level;
n Unhindered access by
UN human rights and humanitarian agencies and independent monitors;
n Compliance with the
UN safeguards guaranteeing the rights of those facing the death penalty as a
first step towards abolition of the death penalty.
ACFID also noted that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of the
United Nations Human Rights Council provides a means to monitor human rights
...we think that you could use the universal periodic review
framework, which is precisely figuring out what the major human rights issues
are in a country and how they are progressing over time.
The Australian Baha’i Community took a similar view on monitoring to
ACFID, telling the Committee that Australia should utilise as many resources as
possible to monitor human rights:
Australia should draw on a wide range of sources including
first-hand observations from its delegations, reports of UN special rapporteurs
and working group delegations, the Universal Periodic Review process of the UN
Human Rights Council, NGO reports, media reports, and reports from independent
sources within the countries with which the dialogues are held.
The Baha’i Community also suggested that ‘NGOs have the potential to
play a role in the monitoring’ of human rights outcomes.
Community suggestions for measuring outcomes
A number of groups suggested that Australia measure outcomes by
establishing objectives and benchmarks for its human rights dialogues.
The ACTU suggested a greater focus on outcomes, recommending:
...that the dialogues be restructured in such a way as to
improve accountability and to ensure that they engender real value, with
measurable indicators of success.
ACFID recommended the development of objectives and benchmarks,
...the development of aims and strategies to achieve desired
objectives and measurable benchmarks for each dialogue session on a
The Australian Baha’i Community agreed that benchmarks are required to
measure outcomes, stating:
...the human rights dialogue process will be most effective
if clear benchmarks are established against which progress can be measured and
evaluated. The benchmarks used should set out practical objectives and go into
specific detail, rather than being limited to theoretical or general statements
The Council also recommended that objectives and benchmarks be developed
so that outcomes can be effectively measured:
The dialogue should be results-oriented and include concrete,
time-bound objectives. Each dialogue should have focused objectives and clear
detailed benchmarks against which objectives and progress can be measured and
based on international human rights standards.
The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights held the view that any benchmarks ‘should
be achieved within a determined time-frame wherever possible.
Ms Dao and CLA also recommended that benchmarks be established.
The VCHR noted that the European Union (EU) ‘has issued its own set of
benchmarks’ and guidelines for its human rights dialogues.
ACFID suggested that Australian officials should take advantage of the benchmarking
that has been done by the EU, stating:
ACFID notes that on some issues of concern, particularly in
regard to identifying unambiguous objectives, the EU has made some initial
progress. As a means to learn lessons from European associates, Australian
agencies should play an active role in requesting information from EU
colleagues on human rights matters and dialogue outcomes regarding China, Iran
and Viet Nam.
The VCHR also recommended that Australia draw objectives from the EU
A set of specific objectives (even minimal ones) should be
set for each human rights dialogue, based on these benchmarks for measuring
The VCHR further said that ‘NGOs and MPs should receive the list of
specific objectives and benchmarks.’
The VCA stressed that any outcomes identified must be made public,
If evaluation and assessment fail to identify any tangible
positive outcomes by the Vietnamese government then we want the public and the
parliament to know about and assess that evaluation.
The Democratic Party of Vietnam suggested that the involvement of Vietnamese
and Chinese NGOs could ‘serve as a benchmark that measures progress in the
improvement of human rights.’
In response to these proposals, DFAT commented that it had ‘trawled
through the various submissions you [the Committee] have received and I do not
think we have found any specific benchmarks that might be of help.’
Broader human rights principles
CLA saw Australia’s international activities more generally as lacking
any kind of human rights guiding principles or framework, stating:
We would argue that, before you can have a human rights
dialogue with China and Vietnam, you have to know pretty well what your human
rights positions are, what the core principles in Australia are and what the
core principles that we project and wish to talk to other nations about. In the
absence of this, it is very difficult to have a human rights dialogue with
China and Vietnam that has any meaning whatsoever. It is even very hard for the
department and its secretary to put measurable objectives in place in [its]
CLA noted that, in the absence of ‘proper objective measures’ of success,
any evaluation of outcomes is essentially impossible.
They said that the first step towards developing these measures is the formal
articulation of the human rights values Australia seeks to project
...our argument would be that this development of a human
rights framework, which has been done nationally but is nowhere near in place
yet, needs to be done with an overlay of our international wishes and desires
and where we want to go with human rights internationally—where we want to project
ourselves, where we want to put emphasis and where we do not. We would suggest
that it springboards off any Australian framework but has a distinct element of
itself which is international. We would suggest very strongly that it starts
with a focus on the Pacific region, because that is our area of the world, and
we do it for that region only, as a test.
The CLA proposed the development of a white paper on human rights:
...our proposal is that
there is a white paper/green paper ... development and that it come out of this
committee. This committee could drive it or it could be driven from
elsewhere—it could be driven by the new human rights committee in general.
The overall perception from NGOs, civil society organisations, ethnic
community groups and individuals is that more needs to be done to monitor and
evaluate the outcomes of Australia’s human rights dialogues. The general view
of these groups is that this would best be achieved through the development of
aims, objectives and benchmarks for Australia’s human rights dialogues.
Adequate performance information on the effectiveness of the human
rights dialogues will enable DFAT ‘to provide sound advice on the
appropriateness, success, shortcomings and/or future directions’ of the program.
The Committee notes the work undertaken by the Australian Government to
develop Australia’s Human Rights Framework. The Committee also notes that an independent
National Human Rights Consultation Committee was appointed to conduct the
National Human Rights Consultation that fed into the development of the
The Committee believes that this process was worthwhile and therefore recommends
that the Australian Government establish a panel of experts to develop a set of
principles, objectives and benchmarks for each of Australia’s human rights
dialogues. The panel should conduct an overall review of the effectiveness of
the dialogues every three years.
The panel should consult extensively with human rights groups, ethnic
community groups, NGOs and other interested groups and individuals within
Australia’s human rights caucus.
The report should be made available for comment from NGOs and the wider
community before it is finalised. The report should be made public once it is
||The Committee recommends that the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade convene a panel of experts to produce a report that
outlines a clear set of principles, aims and benchmarks for each of Australia’s
human rights dialogues. The panel should conduct an overall review of the
effectiveness of the dialogues every three years.