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2015: the tipping point for inequality?

A message from CESR’s Executive Director, Ignacio Saiz

Leading figures from the worlds of human rights and tax justice reflect
on the importance of bringing these two movements together.

As 2015 comes to an end, the CESR team is in reflective mood. We’re proud of the advances we’ve made this year. We helped secure strong human rights commitments in the new global agenda for Sustainable Development. We created a global platform for action on tax justice and human rights through a ground-breaking gathering of activists in Lima, and convened the first ever hearing on human rights and fiscal policy before the Inter-American system. And we’ve worked closely with partners across the globe to use human rights as a pathway to challenge unjust economic policies, from austerity measures in Egypt and Spain to regressive tax policies in the Americas and the chronic under-resourcing of South Africa's classrooms.

But we’re aware of the enormous challenges that need to be confronted if economic and social rights are to move from rhetoric on paper to a reality in people’s lives. For us, a fundamental challenge that has emerged center stage this year is that of economic inequality. From Oxfam to the OECD, reports from international development organizations have documented an alarming pattern of growing income inequality and elite wealth concentration around the world, with the richest 1% predicted to own 50% of total global wealth in 2016. While they have warned of the risks and consequences this poses for economic growth, democracy and the reduction of poverty, little attention has been paid to the full implications of this trend for human rights. Addressing the inherent injustice of inequality, and crafting a human rights response to the factors fuelling it, remains an urgent pending task for the human rights community.

It is for this reason that CESR has sought to advance the debate on economic inequality and human rights, and to document the role that unjust tax and budget policies have played in generating inequality in specific countries. As an organization committed to addressing the key global policy trends shaping the realization of economic and social rights in practice, CESR will be working in 2016 to mobilize a more effective human rights agenda for equality, building on the pioneering work we have been doing on tax and human rights, and the hard-won achievement this year of a global commitment to reduce inequality, both within and between countries, as one of the Sustainable Development Goals. The trend towards widening inequality was also a central focus of our anniversary publication released earlier this year – Twenty Years of Economic and Social Rights Advocacy – which includes reflections on “inequality as injustice” from leading figures from the human rights movement.

This year may have marked the tipping point in recognizing economic inequality as a key public policy challenge of our time. But if we are to move from recognition to action, obscene wealth disparities must be understood and tackled as both a cause and consequence of human rights deprivations. In the coming year, we will join forces with our allies in the human rights, development and social justice movements to confront the forces of economic and social polarization with the countervailing power of economic and social rights. Please support us in our efforts to make 2016 the tipping point for change.

Ignacio Saiz
Executive Director

CESR relies on the generosity of people like you to continue our work to protect economic and social rights. Our small but highly effective team of international staff is currently based in New York, Washington DC, Lima, Delhi and Dublin. CESR is renowned for its interdisciplinary expertise, its agility in responding to emerging trends, its horizontal model of partnership and collaboration, and its impact on policy and human rights practice. It is governed by a Board of leading figures in the global human rights and development communities. CESR is seeking to grow its sustainable support base in order to build on its track record of achievements and successful partnerships in 2016 and beyond. Please consider making a one-time or recurring contribution to CESR, by clicking on the donate button below. Your support is highly valued and will make a tangible difference to our ability to fulfill our mission to promote social justice through human rights.