Rights in crisis: confronting a threefold threat


With the triple menace of income inequality, financial vulnerability, and austerity-driven cutbacks in economic and social rights more and more apparent, it is not only the global economy that remains in crisis. With markets toppling governments left and right, economic policy itself seems to be in a state of calamity, limited in its imagination and room for maneuver.

The institutions of global governance have not risen to the challenge. Leaders meeting at the G20 Summit in Cannes earlier this year failed to heed calls to address the human rights dimensions of the continuing economic quagmire and the lack of financial regulation which has contributed to it. Meanwhile the international institutions mandated to promote human rights have yet to address the crisis in a way that has any meaningful impact on economic policy-makers.

CESR – working at the nexus of human rights and social and economic policy – has continued in 2011 to defend rights under threat from austerity measures in countries such as Ireland, Spain and the US. CESR has also begun promoting a framework for human rights-centered economic policy alternatives to enable a more protective, regulatory and redistributive role of the State. This is a key aim, not only to ensuring just and accountable economic processes and outcomes, but also to preventing another global economic crisis through balanced and equally-shared economic wellbeing.

CESR is determined to expand the horizons of this work in 2012. The inequities highlighted by the transfer of tax revenues (predominantly from those on low- and middle-incomes) towards the wealthy banking sector and more broadly to top income earners over the past 30 years has provoked a resurgence of interest in the implications of taxation for human rights. Participatory, accountable and non-discriminatory economic stimulus measures in times of recession, and demand-led economic models in a more general sense, have also gained traction, throwing into relief the need for more expansive taxation regimes that can be critical in determining a state’s ability to generate and assign resources in ways that fulfill economic and social rights. Taxation is also a key vehicle for redressing social inequalities, and goes to the heart of the accountability bond between a state and its people. CESR is excited to work with its partners in 2012 to bring human rights norms and principles into tax and fiscal policy, exposing how government support for tax havens can lead to collusion in human rights abuses, and calling for just and sustainable sources of financing, such as a global financial transactions tax, to help pay for the human rights costs of the financial crisis.

With the global financial system increasingly vulnerable, CESR also envisions cooperating with our partners to unearth the capacity and knowledge-base of human rights organizations to take their rightful seat in financial regulation debates. With enhanced impact in the design, implementation and monitoring of financial legislation, regulation and practices, human rights advocates can play an essential role in holding economic policy makers to account for their human rights responsibilities, and just as importantly in working to prevent future financial crises and the concomitant implications for economic and social rights globally.