Blogs and Think Pieces by Keyword - Human rights
- Realizing the Human Right to Clean Water: Time to Rethink the Legal Architecture? (20 Nov 2017) | Julie Gjørtz Howden and Claudia Ituarte-Lima
Having access to safe drinking water and sanitation, as enshrined in human rights law and SDG 6, is intertwined with the governance of transboundary river basins and other issues connected to water and healthy ecosystems. Yet the laws governing human rights and international water law do not reflect this. This piece argues that a transformation of international water law, guided by human rights principles, is needed to foster the resilience of the legal system and achieve the SDGs related to water and ecosystems.
- “Education for All”: A Hollow Pledge for International Migrant Children and Youth in the Global South? (15 Aug 2017) | Aida Lizbeth Becerra Garza
This think piece argues that the commitment and right to quality education for all will ring hollow without serious measures to overcome the access and inclusion barriers that face millions of school-age migrant children and youth. These access and inclusion challenges are particularly pressing in countries of the Global South, which are also striving to expand and improve their education systems.
- The Ethic of Care. Why Care Policies Need to Recognize the Interdependence of Us All (17 Nov 2016) | Ruth Evans
Care is finally receiving more of the attention it deserves in international development policy. But rather than using the language of 'burden' and 'dependency', care needs to be re-framed to recognize the vulnerability and interdependence of us all. This blog explores a a more holistic understanding of the complexity of caring relations in line with an ethic of care and human rights perspective that recognizes and re-values care.
- Making Women’s Rights a Reality in Africa (2 Feb 2016) | Paola Cagna
Over the last 10 days, men and women leaders came together at the 26th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa to discuss, among other topics, how African countries can realize human rights, especially women’s rights. Fortunately, there is no lack of ideas, and evidence supporting those ideas, on how to make women’s rights a reality in Africa and elsewhere. This blog suggests four ideas just for a start.
- Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? Taking Stock of Progress on Gender Equality since the Beijing Platform for Action (26 Nov 2015) | Andrea Kaufmann, Valeria Esquivel
The 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action marked an important moment for gender equality. However, in the decades since then the achievements are under threat or may even be rolled back. The concluding piece in the UNRISD Think Piece Series “Let’s Talk about Women’s Rights: 20 Years after the Beijing Platform for Action” brings together some of the main strands of argument covered by 16 feminist thinkers reflecting on the advancements and challenges in gender equality since 1995. Although there have been some successes—the creation and improvement of legal frameworks for the defence of women’s rights, and progress in efforts to combat violence against women—there are still impediments: rigid gender stereotypes in society and institutions, a lack of funding for activism, and conservative forces coupled with a lack of political will to work for further progress. The need to realize women’s rights is now more urgent than ever.
- Why the Addis Debt Chapter Falls Short (15 Sep 2015) | Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky
This think piece discusses the shortcomings of the debt chapter of the outcome document negotiated at the Third Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July 2015. While recognizing that a commitment to uphold human rights was made, the author argues that human rights should be at the core of development financing, guiding both its means and goals, so that funds are spent without unfairly sacrificing anybody´s rights, particularly those of the most vulnerable groups. The author suggests that it is only by adopting a human-rights oriented framework to development financing, including among others, efforts aimed at combating illicit financial flows and those aimed at regaining debt sustainability for countries required to undertake economic adjustment programmes, that the sustainable development goals can be achieved by 2030.
- Shifting Responsibilities without Changing the Balance of Power: What Chance of Equality with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda? (11 Sep 2015) | Nicole Bidegain Ponte, Marina Durano and Corina Rodríguez Enríquez
The global development financing framework has shifted in emphasis since the 2002 Monterrey Consensus in three ways. First, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) of the Third Conference on Financing for Development moves away from a more balanced sharing of responsibilities between developed and developing countries in the international financial architecture. Second, the document reflects a clear endorsement of the private sector as a privileged development actor. Third, the AAAA takes an instrumentalist view of women’s human rights. As a result, the Conference failed to remove global obstacles to development and to provide the structural conditions and means to move toward sustainable and equitable development patterns and the full realization of human rights, particularly women’s rights. However, the AAAA offers possibilities for continued engagement through the establishment of an FfD follow-up mechanism as a space to redefine the balance of power and negotiate proposals to overcome the regressive trends and reshape the agenda.
- An Orphaned Tax Agenda? Sacrificing Good Governance and Tax Justice in the Addis Ababa Outcome (18 Aug 2015) | Manuel Montes
At the Financing for Development Conference in Addis in July 2015, developed countries blocked a proposal to establish an intergovernmental body within the United Nations on international cooperation in tax matters. There is a fundamental difference between North (where international companies are mostly headquartered) and South (whose interest lies in obtaining a fair share of the tax revenues arising from the operations of international companies in its territory). This divide can be better bridged in work by an intergovernmental body in the UN. The Addis Ababa outcome however sacrifices good governance and tax justice.
- The CEDAW Committee 20 Years after Beijing: Progress in the Defence of Women’s Rights and Pending Challenges (3 Jul 2015) | Gladys Acosta Vargas
CEDAW inspired the Beijing Platform for Action. The combination of CEDAW as a binding instrument and the political agreement made in Beijing together created better conditions for confronting gender-based discrimination. CEDAW considers justice a key element for the protection of human rights. It is now essential to press for compliance with the standards for access to justice. A key objective for coming decades is to build a vision for improving women’s access to justice in all spheres of social life. The UN can be a determining factor at the national, regional and international levels, but only if all of its parts are engaged in common dialogue with each other, with State Parties, and together with social movements and civil society. The CEDAW Committee has played a leading role in educating the international community about the grave consequences of all forms of gender-based discrimination.
- The New Cold War on Women’s Rights? (22 Jun 2015) | Anne Marie Goetz
The United Nations is a crucial arena in which to set universal standards on women’s rights. But in recent meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women an increasingly coordinated misogynist backlash has been building unconventional alliances that transcend familiar geopolitical divisions and draw on the resources of religious organizations. States that have in the past been seen as defenders of women’s rights are losing ground in negotiations. There is a growing reluctance to expend political capital in defense of what has been constructed and maligned as a western social preoccupation. Transnational feminist networks have been deprived of opportunities to revive their networks and effectiveness in the absence of the expected fifth world conference on women this year. Feminist movements in emerging economies now have a crucial role to play in demonstrating that feminism is not limited to the West, and in influencing their national foreign policy establishments to defend women’s rights in multilateral agreements.
- 20 Years of Shamefully Scarce Funding for Feminists and Women’s Rights Movements (13 May 2015) | Lydia Alpízar Durán
For decades, the women’s rights movement and women’s rights organizations have been severely underfunded. AWID research in 2010 revealed that the median budget for 740 women’s organizations all over the globe was a miserly US$20,000. In the same year, as a point of reference, the income for Save the Children International and World Vision International was US$1.442 billion and US$2.611 billion respectively. This is in spite of recent research which proves what feminists and activists have known for a long time—that women’s movements have been the key drivers defending women’s human rights and gender justice worldwide. As the world commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Conference this year, creates the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and holds the 3rd International Conference on Financing for Development, it is critical to remember that real systemic impact for women’s rights needs significant resources.
- Achievements and Challenges in Gender Equality in International Human Rights Law: The Last Twenty Years (24 Mar 2015) | Fareda Banda
20 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women, which took place in Beijing in 1995, what has changed for women in the human rights field? There have been many changes in law and policy post-Beijing. Human rights treaty bodies including the Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), have reinforced the message that states have an obligation to both pass laws and ensure compliance. Furthermore, they have noted that states have duties to challenge negative attitudes towards women which are based on gender stereotyping. International and regional courts have taken a more gender-sensitive approach in addressing gender stereotypes especially with respect to violence against women. Given the controversy surrounding the conceptualization of the term gender at the 1995 conference, the paper concludes by arguing for a more comprehensive reading of the term that embraces gender identity and sexual orientation.
- Achievements and Challenges 20 Years after Beijing: An African Perspective (2 Mar 2015) | Faiza Jama Mohamed
Twenty years have passed since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), a comprehensive roadmap to advance women's rights and achieve gender equality. This piece will reflect upon achievements made but also persisting challenges to the successful implementation of the BPfA within the African context, ahead of the review process in March 2015. Discussed in detail are the issues of sexual violence, women's political participation, child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), education and maternal health. Additionally, this piece discusses the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa and successful regional strategies pursued by the Solidarity for African Women's Rights Coalition that have helped to push for particular achievements pertaining to women's rights, especially at the African Union level.
- The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (25 Nov 2014) | Yvonne Theeman
In the wake of the International Labour Organization’s adoption of Recommendation 202 in June 2012, the “Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors” was created. But that was not the start of the unique network of today more than 80 NGOs and trade unions of which 16 form the Coalition’s Core Team from all parts of the world committed to join forces for one single goal: to achieve social protection for everyone. This think piece reviews the forming of the Coalitions, its membership and mission.
- What Does Privacy Have To Do With Social Protection? (8 Oct 2014) | Robert Maganga Mwanyumba
The right to privacy and the right to social protection intertwine in more ways than one. This commentary considers how these to rights relate to issues such as the use of technology, the consequences of targeting in terms of data collection, and the impact of poverty on attitudes to privacy.
- Judicial Protection of the Right to Social Security (25 Sep 2014) | Alison Graham
The right to social security is enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as well as other international treaties, and has been upheld by numerous judicial bodies at the national, regional and international levels, both explicitly or implicitly through other rights including civil and political ones, and/or other constitutional and legal guarantees. This brief commentary outlines some of the key decisions that have strengthened the understanding of the right to social security and protection at national levels that may be of particular interest to development practitioners.
- Using Human Rights in the Courts to Broaden Social Protection—The South African Example (19 Sep 2014) | Beth Goldblatt
This article discusses the case of South Africa where the courts have been a significant site of contestation over the nature and extent of the social assistance system. The combination of the right to social security and the right to equality has been of central importance in a number of key cases concerning social security brought to the South African courts.
- A Rights-Based Approach to Social Protection: The Case of Tunisia (18 Sep 2014) | Mehdi Ben Braham, Seynabou Dia
Tunisia today is at an important stage in its thinking about a new development model that combines optimal allocation of resources and social equity, welfare being an essential factor in the success of the democratic transition and at the core of the 2011 popular uprising. However, structural reform cannot be achieved in the absence of a clear framework and of precise objectives which need to result from national consensus. The human rights-based approach to social protection can offer this framework—which has long been lacking in Tunisia—and is also of growing importance at the international level because it promotes fairness and consensus whilst placing this paradigm in the continuity of the post-2015 Development Goals.
- Sustainable Development Goals and the Case for a Developmental Welfare State (17 Sep 2014) | Gabriele Köhler
This think piece argues that while the newly proposed Sustainable Development Goals for the post-2015 development agenda have their good points, they do not go far enough.They are not conceptualized as rights-based and, like the MDGs, they are state-blind. These issues mut be addressed in order for the next development agenda to stand a chance of becoming progressive.
- Unpacking the ILO’s Social Protection Floor Recommendation (2012) from a Women’s Rights Perspective (15 Sep 2014) | Lucie Lamarche
The twentieth century witnessed the development of national social security and social protection mechanisms aimed at providing economic, social and public answers to address social risks. In the logic of the majority of these mechanisms, however, unless women were formally employed or were widows, they were not rights holders in any meaningful sense independent of male relatives and/or their families. This think piece argues that ILO standards on social protection capture this discriminatory dynamic and that the Organization's heritage constitutes a significant obstacle to the en-gendering of the right to social security.
- Achieving development at the cost of the right to privacy? The promise and peril of new technologies in social protection programmes. (12 Sep 2014) | Carly Nyst
In recent years, donors, development agencies and poverty-reduction initiatives have increasingly turned towards social protection as an effective tool for addressing extreme poverty and accelerating development in the world’s poorest countries. Nevertheless, a number of significant practical, structural and institutional challenges exist when delivering social protection initiatives in developing countries which often impede the effectiveness of such programmes. This think piece explores these challenges and suggests one possible route toward greater protection of the right to privacy in social protection programmes.
- The Case Against the Commodification of Social Protection (10 Sep 2014) | Manuel Couret Branco
In May 2006, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed its concern about the fact that a significant number of countries that had been ensuring a certain level of social protection through public intervention were transferring part of the responsibility to the private sector (CESCR 2006). More than bringing private actors into the process of supplying goods and services that are needed to secure the human right to social security, it is their commodification that seems particularly menacing. This Commentary explores the tensions between private and public, economic and political needs in relation to human rights.
- Do social protection programmes that impose conditionalities on women fail to confront patriarchy as a root cause of inequality? (8 Sep 2014) | Sophie Plagerson
The journey towards gender equality is both personal and political, and cuts across relationships and institutions. Interactions with institutions responsible for social protection cannot but be intricate and multi-layered. Yet, addressing whether social protection programmes that impose conditionalities on women fail to confront patriarchy and hamper women’s right to equality is urgent and imperative. It is argued in this paper that social protection programmes with conditionalities have confronted gender inequalities in some dimensions but not in others.
- The role of civil society in keeping vigil over the human rights implications of states’ social protection policies, programmes and activities (25 Aug 2014) | Letlhokwa George Mpedi
One of the fundamental roles that civil society organizations play is to ensure that states respect and promote the fundamental right to social protection and provide for vulnerable and marginalized members of society. To do this, civil society organizations must firstly actively monitor the social protection provisioning of the relevant state actors. Secondly, they have the important function of holding state actors accountable through activities such as exerting pressure on political decision makers and court action if their efforts do not comply with expected standards. This is, however, easier said than done. This think piece reveiews some of the difficulties that can be encountered, and suggests four key strategies for civil society organizations to pursue.
- Are conditional cash transfers having an impact on achieving access to education? Some answers from Argentina (27 May 2014) | Gastón Pierri
Several Latin America countries, including Argentina, have established conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes for families in need to further development but also to meet their human rights obligations. The expansion of these programmes invites scrutiny with regard to their effectiveness. Using the Argentine case, this think piece briefly assesses whether CCTs are having a positive impact on the human right to education.
- Conditionality and Human Rights (19 May 2014) | Guy Standing
Across the world, states have made binding commitments under international human rights law to do what they can to ensure all their population attains its basic material needs. And yet, many governments have been introducing so-called conditional cash transfer schemes (CCTs), imposing forms of behavioural conditionality. This means they offer to overcome people’s poverty if, and only if, they meet certain conditions, acting in ways that policy makers regard as desirable. Implicit in that judgment are several presumptions. This think piece explores those presumptions and argues that imposing conditionality on social protection contravenes basic human rights.
- Incorporating the Informal Sector in Social Protection Programmes for Universal Realization of the Rights to Social Security (5 May 2014) | Barbara Caracciolo
In the majority of cases, informality is not a choice but rather a necessity for those unable to access formal jobs or any kind of social protection. Yet, current social protection systems have mainly been designed for workers in the formal economy who are less vulnerable than those in the informal economy. This think piece presents international instruments which can help to improve the situation, especially if the participation of informal workers themselves can be meaningfully implemented.
- The Compatibility between ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors and the ICESCR (5 May 2014) | Francine Mestrum
Are ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) compatible? At the discursive level, one can conclude that ICESCR is more complete than R.202, but the language used does not permit any conclusion in terms of incompatibility. Both texts leave room for flexible interpretation. Hence problems may occur at the implementation level. This piece explores issues which may arise as a result.
- Biometrics Use for Social Protection Programmes in India Risk Violating Human Rights of the Poor (2 May 2014) | Usha Ramanathan
Gathering biometric data is beeing marketed as a means to more efficiently and surely deliver services to the poor. However this, and the threat of exclusion from a range of services if a person is not biometrically enrolled, has placed the weight of such projects on the shoulders of the poor. This think piece explores the technical limitations of biometric data gathering for social protection purposes and the impact on human rights and the privacy of the poor.
- Conditionalities, Cash and Gender Relations (1 May 2014) | Maxine Molyneux
Is the empowerment of women through conditional cash transfers illusory? It is important to distinguish between the positive effects of conditional cash transfers and ‘empowerment’ as well as between different degrees of empowerment. But to effectively and sustainably tackle women's poverty and vulnerability we must support women’s capabilities and income-generating capacities, and understand the gender dynamics within households. Only then can we speak of cash transfers leading to meaningful empowerment for women.
- ILO Recommendation 202 is Not a Legal Island: Explicit Links between R. 202, the ICESCR and the UDHR (30 Apr 2014) | Michael Cichon
More than 18 months after the global community unanimously accepted ILO Recommendation No. 202 in June 2012 it remains a most misunderstood document. It is often seen as a minimalist document clashing with demands for adequate levels of protection and hence implicitly not providing adequate standards of living for all. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
- Improving Representation in the Design and Implementation of Social Protection Programmes through Women’s Organizations (25 Apr 2014) | Markus Kaltenborn
Due to the high relevance of women's participation for the success of social protection programmes, the author of this piece argues that it is necessary to give at least the most important women’s organizations of a country a statutory right to take part in the respective processes of legislation and implementation. The commentary then considers the best way to go about this.
- Securing a Dignified Old Age for All (24 Apr 2014) | Charles Knox-Vydmanov
Access to adequate social protection in old age remains a luxury limited to a minority of older people globally. This huge gap is symptomatic of the wider failure of social protection systems as a whole to guarantee the right to social security, which constitutes a fundamental barrier to tackling pervasive poverty and growing inequality across the globe. Encouragingly, recent years have seen some positive developments, such as the introduction and extension of non-contributory (or “social”) pensions. As the landscape begins to change, a human rights analysis can help to unpack the remaining barriers and consider how these can be overcome.
- A Rejoinder to ‘Pro-Poor and Pro-Development Transparency’ (15 Apr 2014) | Charles Lwanga-Ntale
Pro-poor transparency laws and policies must have ending poverty as an underlying objective. This can become possible if social protection and access to information are fully recognized as rights that poor people can invoke to exit poverty. Yet uptake of social protection policy in developing countries has been slow, largely because it has not been understood as a human right. The post-2015 development agenda needs to correct this failing to achieve future goals.
- Pro-Poor and Pro-Development Transparency Laws and Policies (15 Apr 2014) | Issa Luna Pla
Access to information laws are not being effectively utilized by the poor—the most technologically marginalized population—to exercise their rights to social protection. Pro-poor access to information legislation is needed and must achieve two goals: (1) macroaccountability and transparency in public spending; and (2) provide information to the poor in a physically, intellectually and socially adequate way. If well implemented, policies for proactive transparency of information can contribute to reducing both poverty and information poverty.
- Protecting the Right of Access to Social Security Benefits (15 Apr 2014) | Stephen Kidd
The easiest means of ensuring the right to social security is through universal coverage (and adequate transfer values). If countries are unable to provide universal coverage because of limited resources, there is implicitly a trade-off: Reducing coverage means increasing administrative costs. In addition, when priority is given to cost-saving in both coverage and administration, a commitment to human rights is jeopardized. This commentary explores ways for social security schemes to nevertheless respect international human rights obligations.
- The Role that Civil Society can Play in Ensuring Accountability in Social Protection Programmes (14 Apr 2014) | Felipe J. Hevia
The experience of the last 20 years suggests there are four obstacles to ensuring accountability in social protection programmes. The first obstacle has to do with social protection’s contested status: is it a right or only a service or a favour? Others concern the the opacity and discretionality of actors implementing social protection programmes and indifference from citizens to holding service providers accountable. The author suggests that civil society and collective action can contribute to breaking the deadlock.
- Transformative Approaches to Care Responsibilities: Overcoming Obstacles to the Meaningful Participation of Women (10 Apr 2014) | Valeria Esquivel
One way to approach care in a transformative way is moving beyond seeing care responsibilities as an impediment to women’s participation, and start seeing them as a missing component of social protection, and as an opportunity for political participation. At the same time, families’ and women’s demands for care need be articulated in political terms, a challenge in highly unequal contexts.
- Realizing Rights in Practice: A ‘Minimum’ Level of Social Security in Relation to an ‘Adequate’ Standard of Living (8 Apr 2014) | Bob Deacon
ILO Recommendation 202 asks countries to lay down Social Protection Floors providing some basic social security guarantees and promulgating principles like universalism, non-discrimination, dignity, accessible complaints procedure . Its human rights underpinnings are clear, but the Recommendation nevertheless has certain limitations which are further discussed in this contribution.
- Do Targeting Techniques Tend to be Incompatible with the Human Rights Standards of Transparency and Access to Information? (3 Apr 2014) | Nicholas Freeland
Common methods for identifying the poor also problematic in terms of human rights standards of transparency and access to information. This think piece looks from this perspective at the two main methods usually used to target the poor: community targeting and proxy means testing. These veer to opposing extremes on the transparency/access to information scale, yet both are incompatible with human rights standards.
- Finding Synergies between Political Support, Legal Frameworks and Funding for Sustainable Social Protection Programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean (3 Apr 2014) | Simone Cecchini
Implementing social protection policies and programmes (SPPPs) in the absence of clear and specific legal and institutional frameworks entails a number of risks, not only in terms of their continuity, but also of scope, legitimacy and the protection of human rights standards. However, a proper legal and institutional framework is a necessary but not sufficient condition to ensure the success of SPPPs. This think piece reviews other factors and discusses progress made in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- A Human Rights-Based Approach to Social Protection and the Gender Perspective (31 Mar 2014) | Daniel Seymour
Social protection systems which hope to be successful need to take gender equality into account. This think piece considers three related aspects. First, a human rights perspective on social protection needs to contextualize social protection mechanisms as part of a broader effort to change the way societies function. Second, a gender perspective on social protection is about the gendered dynamics of a society, not only about the role of women. Lastly, a gender perspective on social protection needs to be informed by the real circumstances of human beings, who are defined by more than merely their gender and sex.
- Incorporating a Rights-based Perspective into the Administrative Activities of Government Programmes (28 Mar 2014) | James Midgley
As the role of social protection in social development is increasingly emphasized, there is a need to ensure that social protection programmes are not only efficiently managed but express core values such as rights. There are multiple challenges to incorporating a rights-based perspective into the administrative activities of government bureaucracies responsible for social protection programmes. This think piece groups these challenges into three major categories and identifies possible solutions.
- Adopting Comprehensive, Coherent and Coordinated Policies in Social Protection: A View from the Americas (27 Mar 2014) | Alexandra Barrantes
In the context of the principles of social protection, through the Social Charter of the Americas, the countries of the region acknowledge they have “a responsibility to develop and implement comprehensive social protection policies and programs, based on the principles of universality, solidarity, equality, nondiscrimination, and equity that give priority to persons living in conditions of poverty and vulnerability, taking into account their national circumstances.” Countries in the Americas have also recognized the central role of the state in the fight against poverty, inequity, inequality and social exclusion.
Even though coordination of social protection policies has improved throughout the region, it continues to be a challenge, mainly due to the complexity of the issues at stake and the multiplicity of approaches and sectors involved.
- Conditional Cash Transfers and the Human Right to Social Security (27 Mar 2014) | Ian Orton
The increasing use of conditional cash transfers (CCTs) has perhaps been one of the most significant additions to the social development agenda of late. CCTs have delivered some impressive results in terms of reducing poverty and inequality, and are credited with numerous other positive human development outcomes. However, opinions on the status of CCT conditionalities in terms of human rights remain mixed. Some argue that CCTs are contradictory in nature (imposing obligations on rights) and therefore obstructive to the human rights agenda, while others stress the importance of obligations complementing those rights. The paradox is that CCTs may be positive along one dimension (reducing poverty) but not others (compromising human rights).
- Comments on the UNRISD Report: Gender Equality, Striving for Justice in an Unequal World (17 May 2005) | Rolph Van Der Hoeven
This is a very noteworthy publication as it combines, without being dogmatic, rigorous economic, social and political analysis, leading to clear and understandable policy advice.