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For Immediate Release: October 19th, 2011

As protest pressure builds, CESR joins letter to US Congress

One month has passed since the Wall Street protesters first descended upon New York’s iconic financial hub. And with similar demonstrations continuing in London, Toronto, Spain, Tokyo, Auckland and a plethora of other major cities, it has become clear that citizens’ frustration over the conduct of the financial sector shows no sign of abating.

At the heart of their anger lie government policies that, in the face of economic crisis, have prioritized the demands of the financial markets over the wellbeing of ordinary people. Such inequitable and short-sighted decision-making is nowhere more evident than in the United States "Great Regression", where massive bailouts have been handed to reckless and intransigent financial institutions, while the general population is forced to endure soaring unemployment, a pervasive housing crisis, deep cuts in basic social protections and unprecedented levels of inequality.

It was with this stark reality in mind that CESR joined dozens of other civil society organizations in an initiative led by the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and the US Human Rights Network to demand that the country’s political leaders uphold basic human rights and dignity in its budget decisions. A letter delivered to the US Congress when it returned to session on October 3 called for a more equitable and redistributive tax system, eliminating the loopholes exploited by the mega-wealthy and adjusting tax rates in proportion to income and wealth.

Amidst the rhetoric of belt-tightening and necessary sacrifice, it has been all too easy for those in power to ignore more equitable and effective policy alternatives in the face of the crisis. Basic needs and fundamental human rights are put in jeopardy when the demands of an influential elite are placed above all else. And with the devastating social impacts of draconian spending cuts continuing to ramify through US society, the Land of Opportunity’s reputation as a champion of democratic values and fair play is being undermined too.

Moreover, the effects of economic policies deployed in the US are felt far beyond the country’s borders, and the decisions taken on Capitol Hill serve as a significant precedent for other countries struggling with the financial crises. Given that similar protests were staged in over 900 cities around the world on October 16, it is clear that people everywhere are feeling the squeeze of economic mismanagement. Spain’s “15-M” movement, which has served as inspiration for the Wall Street occupation, has been pressuring the Madrid government for over five months now, with no signs of relent. Such determination and perseverance may eventually convince political leaders that the call for justice and human rights cannot be ignored indefinitely.

The letter delivered to Congress can be accessed in pdf format below. CESR's factsheet on the state of ESC rights in the US can meanwhile be downloaded here.