Human Rights

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Why Human Rights?

Human rights serve as a powerful tool to motivate, drive and guide development. Recent struggles around the world have had human rights at their core, as people have spoken out to claim their rights to basic services, to unionize, and to protect their access and control over natural resources. Yet serious deprivations and abuses persist. Millions continue to suffer from hunger, illiteracy, poor health, homelessness, and unsafe environments.

The human rights discourse has been co-opted to promote and drive policies which have increased inequality and poverty, and institute systems and structures which protect the rights of the few over the rights of the many. The human rights frameworks that neoliberal institutions and organizations promote focuses disproportionately on individual property rights to facilitate free markets and free trade while impinging on the social, economic and collective rights of the people. Neoliberal globalization has led to corporations and wealthy individuals claiming their rights over the rights and freedoms of people and the protection of the environment.

The Challenge

In order to advance human development in the 21st century, governments must adopt and enforce laws and policies that protect, promote and realize the full range of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights, and community rights, including the overarching right to development. International cooperation, including the provision of adequate and appropriate financial and technical resources, is essential to support the realization of these rights. Transnational corporations are some of the most powerful international actors who have interests in industries across the world. It is essential that governments address the human rights abuses they commit. This obligation falls principally on the governments of countries that are the home to corporations, but also the governments where the corporations are operating. Voluntary obligations are insufficient for regulating the activities of business – international human rights standards apply equally to corporations and they must be held to account for the breach of these universal standards.

The Campaign for People’s Goals makes the following recommendations to guide a new development agenda to:

Adopt and enforce laws and policies that protect, promote and realize the full range of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights, backed by maximum resources.

  • Governments must dedicate resources to improve access to basic services to respect and realize socio-economic and cultural rights as well as upholding civil and political freedoms which allow citizens to voice their demands for better conditions and policies from government;
  • All ministries, and in particular economic ministries, must integrate human rights into policy-making. Policies must foster growth that benefits the livelihoods of the poor and generates resources for human rights;
  • Governments must strive to increase awareness of human rights by mandating or encouraging human rights education programs within government, in schools, in communities and in workplaces;
  • Corporations and banks should adhere to human rights laws and standards and should be held accountable for their failures to meet them;
  • Implement accountability mechanisms which ensure people have full access and participation to hold their government and corporations to account for actions which have disregarded their human rights; and
  • Parliaments must consider how legislation aligns with their international human rights commitments; and to ensure that the human rights of all are protected and realized with particular attention to marginalized groups including women, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants and LGBT people.

Support the realization of human rights universally through international cooperation including the provision of financial and technical resources.

  • Development cooperation must be rights-based, democratically owned and tailored to local needs and priorities; and
  • Wealthy countries must increase their financial and technical assistance to poor countries and focus these in achieving rights.

Respect the right of nations to their own development and over their natural resources.

  • International financial institutions must end attaching anti-people conditions to development finance;
  • Inhuman economic embargoes on poor countries must be lifted; and
  • Economic ministries of wealthy countries should consider how their trade and macroeconomic policies affect human rights and development in the rest of the world.