Global attitudes to human rights: the age of impunity?

38% around the world think their country should never break international laws on human rights. However, 21% think their country should break these laws in extreme circumstances and 22% think international laws should only be one factor their country takes into account.

Ipsos and the Policy Institute at King’s College London have conducted a major 24-country, 17,000-interview online survey, to inform David Miliband’s 2019 Fulbright Legacy Lecture at King’s College London on 20th June. The main results are:

International law and human rights

Four in ten (38%) around the world think their country should never break international laws on human rights. However, one in five (21%) think their country should break these laws in extreme circumstances and a similar proportion think international laws should only be one factor their country takes into account (22%).

Half (53%) think their own country’s military should always put avoiding civilian casualties ahead of their national interest – but 14% disagree.

Half (51%) also agree that if a country commits war crimes, other countries should intervene to stop it – even if that infringes on sovereignty. However, this falls to 41% who think their own country should intervene.

International relations

Over a third (36%) of people around the world think their country should only trade with countries with a good human rights record, even if it hurts their economy – BUT 33% think their country should trade with any country if it helps their economy, regardless of that country’s human rights record.

The top two factors people say should be important in deciding the closeness of relations with other countries are economic (44%) and security benefits (40%) – but a country’s human rights record (30%) and respect for international law (30%) come next, ahead of the environmental impact of that country (20%), whether or not the country is a democracy (20%), military benefits (19%) and historical relations between the countries (14%).

Countries’ and international organisations’ influence

Iran is most likely to be seen as using its influence for bad from all the countries asked about in the study (31%).  This is followed by a group of Israel (24%), Russia (25%), and Saudi Arabia (25%).  The US is next most likely to be seen as using its influence for bad (22%), although 18% say they use that influence for good, and 37% for both good and bad.    

Russians (53%), Turks (42%) and Germans (37%) are most likely to think the US uses its influence for bad.

In contrast, Canada (37%), the UN (35%) and Germany (32%) are seen as most likely to use their influence for good.

Three in ten (29%) think the US is less likely to use their influence for good than 10 years ago, similar to Russia (29%), Israel (27%), Iran (32%), Saudi Arabia (29%).  However, 17% say the US is more likely to use its influence for good now, higher than in Russia (13%), Israel (10%), Saudi Arabia (9%) and Iran (7%).

Mexicans (43%), Russians (42%) and Chileans (40%) are most likely to think the US’s influence is less positive now compared with 10 years ago.

 

The survey’s findings will inform the 2019 Fulbright Legacy Lecture, delivered by former UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband at King’s College London on Thursday 20 June. In the lecture, Miliband will argue that the West has retreated from a position of global responsibility, allowing repressive governments to act with relative impunity. Find out more about David Miliband’s 2019 Fulbright Legacy Lecture and register your attendance.

Data based on c17,000 online interviews with adults aged 16/18-74 in 24 countries around the world, 19 April- 3 May 2019, 500-1,000 interviews per country. 15 of the 24 countries surveyed online generate nationally representative samples in their countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and United States). Brazil, Chile, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, South Africa and Turkey produce a national sample that is more urban & educated, and with higher incomes than their fellow citizens.  We refer to these respondents as “Upper Deck Consumer Citizens”.  They are not nationally representative of their country.