Human rights principles and standards should inform any recovery strategy deployed in the face of a recession. It is during times of austerity, when human rights and freedoms are threatened, that there is most need for them to be protected. In many developed countries hasty reform packages have allowed governments to legitimize a rolling back of the welfare state, thus undermining the basic human rights of citizens, however. The economic crisis in Spain is likely to become a human rights crisis
if the state fails to effectively protect the most vulnerable.
Since the crisis hit in 2008, Spain’s unemployment level has increased dramatically. According to official data for the fourth quarter of 2011, one in five of Spain’s population aged 16-64 is unemployed - more than double the average EU rate. Spain also has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the EU and the economic crisis has exacerbated this problem. The impacts of the crisis have been most severely felt by disenfranchised young people and marginalized groups such as immigrants, women and the Roma community, in a climate of rising discrimination and xenophobia.
CESR affirms that any meaningful, equitable and sustainable solution to the crisis can only be accomplished by putting people at the center of such strategies. At this critical juncture, national human rights organizations are pressuring the government to adopt an effective human rights response to the crisis and uphold its international human rights obligations.
From Puerta del Sol in the center of Madrid to town squares all around the country, a larger, grassroots civil society movement has developed - one that is demanding the protection of fundamental economic and social rights. CESR is working to ensure accountability for human rights violations caused by the crisis - and the government’s response to it - by making use of existing international human rights mechanisms and working with national-level civil society groups. In May 2012 Spain was assessed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) for the first time in eight years. CESR coordinated a shadow report, as part of a coalition of 19 organizations, which was submitted to CESCR ahead of the session. (An English-language summary of the document can be found here). A new factsheet providing a statistical snapshot of the worrying trends in economic and social rights in the country was also distributed to members of the Committee. Prior to this, the Center also produced a joint submission with the Observatori DESC, for the Pre-Sessional Working Group in May 2011.
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