As part of the Obama administration's goal to increase overall governmental transparency, the first version of Data.gov was recently launched to improve access to datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government. Initially the site will include federal Executive Branch data, but the long term objective is to increase the number of datasets available through active public participation in making suggestions and requests. The site includes descriptions of the Federal datasets (metadata), instructions on accessing datasets, tools for leveraging datasets, and several downloadable datasets themselves. It is anticipated that the public will use the datasets to "build applications, conduct analysis, and perform research." The material is accessible in two ways. A searchable data catalogue offers access through the "raw data catalogue" and through "using tools." The raw data catalogue provides platform-independent datasets, and may be searched by keyword, category, file type, and agency. The tools include hyperlinks for mining datasets, other data extraction methods and widgets designed to provide interactive virtual services such as news, weather, calculators, etc. Those accessing data or using tools will be required to agree to a Data Policy that includes, among other things, paragraphs discussing security, privacy, secondary use, and citing. Although the contents of Data.gov are rather technical for the average user, the site has done a good job of making it all as accessible as possible with easy to navigate links and a clear, straightforward layout that is unhindered by extraneous information. An excellent tutorial is also available for first time users. The data that is currently provided is very limited, but the site promises to be a valuable resource if the government proceeds to expand as promised. It was pleasing to note that efforts had been made to provide material of current interest and value, including access to an H1N1 widget and information about U.S. federal spending by agency. As growth of the site will occur over the coming months and years ahead, visitors are encouraged to check back often.
[Author: A. Emerson]
Founded in 1997, the International Justice Mission (IJM) is a nonprofit human rights agency whose lawyers, investigators and social workers strive to procure justice for victims of violence, abuse and oppression throughout the world. IJM was founded by Gary Haugen in response to the results of an extensive study by lawyers, human rights officials and public officials that identified abuse of power by police and other authorities as a pervasive problem worldwide. Drawing on his work as a U.S Department of Justice Attorney and as the United Nations' Investigator in Charge following the Rwandan genocide, Mr. Haugen now serves as president of IJM. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., and with affiliate offices in the U.K. and Canada, IJM currently has ongoing operations in Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Rwanda, Guatemala, Bolivia, Honduras, Peru and South Asia. The core of their work is based upon the premise that individuals who can rely on their local justice systems for protection of the law are far less vulnerable than those who cannot. IJM's multilayered purpose is to provide relief to victims by stopping the violence, creating accountability on the part of perpetrators, continuing to serve the subsequent emotional and physical needs of victims, and cultivating a structure within the justice system that is both preventive and responsive. To this end, a significant portion of IJM's work includes partnering with state and local authorities on an individual basis to ensure a functioning public justice system for the victim, and to identify and address specific sources of corruption, lack of resources or general lack of response in the system, to thereby "obtain convictions against individual perpetrators and to bring meaning to local laws that are meaningless if not enforced." IJM's website is well organized and easily navigable with a consistent tool bar provided at the top of each page. The color scheme is pleasing, and the pages, although busy, are well-arranged with extensive graphics and narratives by organizational professionals and the victims they have assisted. If the visuals on those pages become overwhelming, there is an excellent site map available to assist in moving directly to specific content. Of most significance is the Resources tab located at the top of the page which provides a link to free downloadable materials including copies of PDF documents and videos. Materials are organized into categories including Actions/Advocacy, Casework Stories, IJM Publications (past quarterly reports), Statistics and Factsheets, and Videos (media coverage, speaking engagements, and more). The site's Press Center provides very current media highlights featuring many prominent members of the media, together with IJM's own press releases. Its online store serves as a source of books and DVDs featuring their cause, and visitors to the site may sign up to receive email updates on breaking IJM news. The site also serves as a forum through which individuals may report cases of abuse involving victims located outside of the United States.
[Author: A. Emerson]
On March 5, 2009, the United Nations Secretary-General launched a database on the subject of violence against women. Its creation was in response to a request by the General Assembly of the United Nations to establish a database designed to document the "extent, nature and consequences of all forms of violence against women, and on the impact and effectiveness of policies and programmes for, including best practices in, combating such violence." The request was made within the context of a comprehensive resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December, 2006, which called for strengthened efforts in eliminating violence against women in all its forms. Most of the information contained in the database was provided by Member States through the completion of a questionnaire. As of March, 2009, approximately 62 Member States had responded to the questionnaire; the United States was not among them. Various other sources of information include reports to human rights treaty bodies and statements made at the United Nations. The database is accessible through an Advanced Search tab located in a static toolbar at the top of the page. Searches may be conducted by: 1) the type of measure undertaken by States to address violence against women, 2) forms of violence addressed by measures, 3) country or region, 4) year, 5) keyword, and 6) any combination thereof. Searches may further be filtered by restricting results to show only specific categories of measures. Although users may search the database in any of the six official languages of the United Nations, individual database records are maintained only in English and/or the language in which the information was provided. A nice feature of the database is that if a record is not available in the requested search language, it will still be provided in English and/or the original language in which it was submitted. A static Google search box is also available throughout the site, but compared to the Advanced Search feature, it is of little use. Another excellent way to access the contents of the database is through a tab labeled "Country Pages," which is also located in the static toolbar. Here, links to pages containing information about individual countries are organized alphabetically. Each country page contains extensive information about that country's legal framework as it pertains to violence against women (with descriptions of the relevant laws), its policies, strategies and programs, institutional mechanisms, services for victims/survivors, preventive measures and training, research and statistical data, and various other miscellaneous information when available. Another helpful tab located in the toolbar is labeled "Good Practices." This tab links to an emergent page highlighting specific measures, particularly legal, service-oriented, and preventive, which have been identified as good practices. Overall, the UN's database will serve to nicely complement the new legal resources database currently being developed by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School.
[Author: A. Emerson]
InSITE contributors: A. Emerson, J. Pajerek (editor)
© 2009 Cornell Law Library
The contents of this publication and any recommendations therein are the opinions of the authors and do not reflect the views of Cornell University.