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Assessing Austerity's Impacts on Human Lives

 “Despite fairer alternatives, austerity has become the new normal. It does not need to be this way,” said CESR’s Sergio Chaparro, Program Officer for Human Rights in Economic Policy, on October 24th at a lecture he gave about assessing the human impacts of economic austerity policies, at Alternative Policy Solutions at The American University in Cairo. 

Noting that a shocking 50% of the global population currently suffers under the weight of austerity measures, Chaparro said he expected that figure to rise to nearly 80% by 2021. Four of the most common fiscal consolidation measures are public safety net cuts (such as subsidy reductions), regressive tax changes (such as consumption taxes), labor market reforms and pension reforms, according to Chaparro.

Chaparro said that austerity  measures negatively affect rights enjoyment in a country, since they entail cutting public expenditures that support fundamental rights in areas such as education, healthcare and social security. Also, while fiscal consolidation adjustments “aim to lower public expenditure and tame growing sovereign debt burdens,” research shows that there is a strong relationship between austerity policies and drops in long-term growth rates.

Chaparro said that, alternatively, a close relationship between progressive fiscal policies and human rights can be manifested by States in several ways: guaranteeing enough resources to fulfill basic human rights; defining the redistribution of wealth within society; enforcing regulations that align with human rights; and including people’s voices in making fiscal decisions. 

Chaparro concluded by highlighting the alternatives to austerity measures, such as reallocating public expenditures, expanding social security contributions, reducing debt service and curtailing illicit financial flows. 

Click to see video and photos from the lecture.


Image: Sergio Chaparro (left) and Professor Samer Atallah at Alternative Policy Solutions.