The importance of ESC rights in the context of addressing inequalities

The importance of ESC rights in the context of addressing inequalities

The importance of ESC rights in the context of addressing inequalities


GI-ESCR’s submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights included practical ways to further enhance and strengthen the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights within the context of addressing inequalities in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

GI-ESCR has responded to the call for written submissions for the workshop of key stakeholders organised by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The 3 day event was held in Geneva, Switzerland, from 6 to 8 February 2023, with the participation of experts, civil society organisations, and mandate holders from human rights mechanisms and bodies.
GI-ESCR submission to inform this debate describes economic policies, laws, promising practices or strategies, and national, regional or local processes that can support States in:

* Achieving inclusive and green economic growth in line with international human rights norms and standards;
* Increasing social spending, through national and local budgets, for the realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights;
* Maximising available resources, including progressive taxation, industrial policies and curtailing illicit financial flows, for progressively achieving the full realisation of all economic, social, and cultural rights; and
* Investing in social spending to comply with the obligation of realising minimum essential levels of all economic, social and cultural rights and to progressively achieve the full realisation of these rights.

With this in mind, the submission began by highlighting the opportunities that the concept of just transitions could offer to advance alternative development models that integrate holistic human rights approaches and address the structural conditions of unsustainability and inequality. It briefly outlines what a just energy transition might look like and what actions should be taken to not only advance the decarbonization of energy systems but also to ensure that this process provides an opportunity for the realisation of rights, with a focus on the needs of the most marginalised.
It also underscores that fiscal policy is a key tool for ensuring human rights are subject to the commitments and obligations that states have made at the regional and international levels, as well as in their national constitutions. The submission presents promising examples of measures implemented in Colombia and Chile to introduce progressive tax policies. These aim to combat tax evasion and avoidance, tax the wealthiest, and burden polluting industries in order to redirect public resources toward the realisation of rights and the protection of the environment. One of the regional initiatives notably highlighted is the Human Rights Principles in Tax Policy Initiative, scheduled for 2021, composed of a coalition of seven national and international organisations with the overarching goal of making decisive progress to bring tax and fiscal policies in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as other regions, in line with human rights principles.
Finally, the opinion highlights the importance of investing in quality public services to promote ESC rights in COVID-19 recovery plans. It points to key reference tools adopted by civil society organisations, such as the 2021 manifesto "The Future is Public," which offers an alternative vision for the future by positioning public services as the foundation for equitable recovery from Covid-19 and provides an overview of how to finance universal high-quality public services. It also draws attention to the serious human rights concerns posed by austerity policies and military spending that divert resources away from public services at the expense of investments in social programs, including welfare, education, and health.

This contribution allows GI-ESCR to position key messages and provide input to frame the debate to help shape the narratives of inequalities arising from the long-lasting effects of the pandemic and to inform policy action. Our Executive Director, Magdalena Sepúlveda, participated in moderating panel discussions and in providing input for further reflection and analysis on these critical issues during the workshop.


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