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COVID-19: Resourcing Rights | December Round-Up

December 15, 2020

As this tumultuous and difficult year comes to a close, there is positive news on the horizon. Just last week, the first country launched its national COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with other countries set to follow suit within weeks. There is an end to the pandemic in sight - for some.

Unfortunately, just and equitable vaccine distribution – an essential precondition for economic recovery – is not at all a given, as detailed in our related issue brief with TAG.  “Vaccine nationalism” has created an environment in which wealthy countries are competing for any and all available vaccine stock, leaving many others unable to secure enough to vaccinate even their most vulnerable populations. Last week Oxfam campaigners warned that 9 out of 10 people in poorer countries are set to miss out on COVID-19 vaccine next year. This is a major threat to any global economic recovery – already a long way off. Moreover, it is a profound failure of international cooperation, and an unconscionable threat to the equal enjoyment of human rights globally.

CESR’s work to center human rights in economic responses to the pandemic will continue into 2021, evolving to respond as the context shifts. Since May, we’ve focused largely on “rapid response” activities, with the aim of translating human rights standards into useful tools for making specific policy demands and showing how they can be used by civil society in different contexts. We’ve been encouraged by the feedback we’ve heard so far. Described as “bite-sized” and “informative”, the Recovering Rights briefs have been sent to lawmakers; cited in policy proposals; informed op-eds; and used in factsheets, for example.

We’ll continue to publish the briefs and blog posts in the new year – with a number of topics lined up, including labor rights and housing. We’ll also ramp up our efforts to track relief and recovery efforts more systematically, particularly in Latin America. There, we’ll build on existing work with partners to monitor COVID-19 responses across the region, using a human rights lens. This will feed into our broader efforts to integrate human rights into fiscal policy, with the launch of the Principles & Guidelines on Human Rights in Fiscal Policy in early 2021.  

Below, we’re pleased to share different ways to engage with our recent work related to COVID-19, which we see as contributing to broader collective advocacy efforts. As always, we’d love to hear questions, suggestions, and provocations to help sharpen our approach – particularly as we think about how to take this work forward in the new year.

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This week, we launched a new brief on human rights and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) pandemic response with Bretton Woods Project. The IMF’s member governments and the institution itself have obligations under human rights law to support large-scale, equitable relief efforts, the brief argues. However, austerity and other policies that undermine the fulfilment of human rights continue to feature heavily in the IMF’s approach to pandemic recovery in the Global South. So, the brief sets out a number of shifts the IMF should take to be more aligned with human rights, and support a just and equitable economic recovery. These include eliminating restrictive loan conditions and providing additional resources to support government spending on public services and social protection.    

We also recently published a brief with the Global Initiative on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, looking at the harmful impacts of privatization on economic and social rights, and the ways in which quality public services can be reclaimed and rebuilt.

Recovering Rights is series of two-page briefs that unpack—as simply and concretely as possible—what guidance human rights standards provide for reshaping our economies in the wake of COVID-19. Sign up here to have future Recovering Rights topics sent to your inbox as soon as they are released. 

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Read: blog posts, reports and articles

Our “Confronting COVID” blog series provides a space for our partners and allies in different national contexts – from Scotland, to Uganda, to Brazil  – to share how they are responding to the economic fallout of the pandemic. Recently, we’ve heard from:

• Danilo Ćurčić of A11 Initiative discusses how in Serbia, a country where nearly one quarter of the population is at risk of poverty, civil society is attempting to expand protections for marginalized communities in response to the pandemic.

• Máximo Ernesto Jaramillo-Molina of Fundar, Center of Analysis and Research explains the policy responses needed to respond to the pandemic in Mexico, such as budget increases to health and social protection.

Two additional sets of publications also touch on COVID-19 recovery:

• Sergio Chaparro and María Emilia Mamberti of CESR on how civil society is organizing to urge governments in Latin America use human rights-based fiscal policy to respond to the pandemic and address long-standing inequalities. Argentina’s recent adoption of a solidarity tax on very wealthy individuals, called for by CESR and our allies in the region, is a promising sign that some governments are beginning to heed these arguments.

• Two factsheets we co-published with the Institute for Economic Justice and Section 27, focused on unemployment and precarity and budgeting for human rights during COVID-19, designed to bolster the argument for a more sufficient, equitable and rights-based recovery package in South Africa.

In October, we co-published A Rights-Based Economy: Putting People and Planet First with Christian Aid. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the fundamental injustices at the core of our current economic model, which results in scarcity and precarity for the many, and unimaginable wealth for the few. The economic fallout from the pandemic and the inadequacy of governments’ responses to it are prompting more and more people to question the fundamental assumptions underlying our current economic system. In this publication, we ask: what would it look like if we had an economy based on human rights?

It sketches out a vision of a rights-based economy, the policy transformations it would entail and the systemic shifts needed for these to happen. There has been widespread civil society uptake and endorsement of the report, described by the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Olivier de Schutter, as “a must read for any politician serious about reconstructing the post-crisis economy to ensure people can flourish within planetary boundaries”.  Let us know your thoughts on A Rights-Based Economy and how we get there by emailing us at