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For Immediate Release: May 21st, 2009
Contact: Kevin Donegan, kdonegan@cesr.org

Human rights an essential framework for tackling the global economic crisis

GENEVA--Statement of the Center for Economic and Social Rights at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Public Symposium, May 18-19, 2009:

"The economic and financial crisis will have a severe impact not only on development, but also on the realization of human rights - with potentially devastating long-term consequences. Labour rights and the rights to food, housing, health and education are already being seriously threatened. Civil and political rights are also at risk if governments repress rising social unrest. Migrants and minorities are already facing a rising tide of xenophobia and discrimination.

"Yet, despite the obvious human rights dimensions of the crisis, proposals for policy responses have not recognized the need for a human rights-based understanding of, or response to, the crisis.

"Over the last few decades, objections to the intervention of the state have been strong. The state has withdrawn from its role to redistribute wealth (to address inequality and poverty) and from its role to regulate (to ensure that private actors do not abuse their power). Yet this ideological objection has quickly disappeared as banks and business demand state help in the midst of this crisis. Indeed, providing safety nets and rescues for banks and businesses, seems to be taking priority to providing safety nets and social protection to ordinary people.

"A human rights approach places the focus for understanding and responding to the crisis squarely on people, ensuring that they can survive and live with human dignity, even in times of crisis. Within the human rights framework, the all governments have duties to respect, protect and fulfill human rights and to realize them progressively according to maximum available resources. These binding legal duties are not derogable in times of recession. In fact, it is all the more imperative that governments prioritize measures to protect the rights of the most vulnerable people during the crisis. All governments must also work together in a global concerted effort - the duty of international cooperation means reaffirming commitments to development aid and ensuring that trade and investment policies do not undermine the fulfillment of these rights.

"The failure to fully realize human rights has been at the root of the problem. The obligation to fulfil them should therefore be at the core of sustainable solutions."