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The Center for Economic and Social Rights carries out research and advocacy projects on economic, social and cultural rights in countries around the globe, in collaboration with local human rights advocates and activists.

Use the map below to learn more about CESR's work in highlighted countries.

NigeriaOil development in the Niger development has been at the expense of the Ogoni people's rights to health, housing and food.
GuatemalaWidespread deprivation and flagrant disparities in access to health and education are evidence of a clear lack of political will to realize these rights in all sectors of the population.
KenyaStark inequalities across the Kenyan provinces in the realization of the rights to education, health, water, food and housing point to insufficient or failed government efforts.
IndiaHigh levels of child malnutrition and large gender and socio-economic disparities raise questions about state efforts to ensure rights to all its people.
BoliviaBolivia has failed to reduce the striking inequalities in education, nutrition, health and income that exist among various groups of its society.
EcuadorDevelopment policies in the Amazon with devastating impacts on the health and welfare of local communities as well as the environment.
PeruUnsustainable oil development has violated Peruvian's enjoyment of economic and social rights.
HondurasDestructive mining practices have caused Hondurans to be forcibly evicted and have violated their right to a healthy living environment.
United States of AmericaDespite being the world's richest country, the United States lags behind many other nations in fulfilling the economic and social rights of all its citizens.
Palestinian TerritoriesEconomic and social rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, especially related to the rights to water and housing
GhanaInadequate water and sanitation supply contribute to 70 percent of diseases in Ghana.
MadagascarMalagasy people face low and unequal access to safe water, sanitation and health treatment, with high child mortality rates. Yet Madagascar spends a low proportion of its budget on health.
AngolaAverage Angolan life expectancy is 41 years and 69 percent of Angolans live below the poverty line. This is despite a GDP per capita that is one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa.
IraqAfter years of conflict Iraq remains volatile. An ongoing war threatens progress towards political stability. Thousands of civilians have been killed and and many others displaced.
AfghanistanAlthough Afghanistan's economy is recovering after decades of conflict, much of the population still suffers from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs.
EgyptDespite progress in realizing the rights to health and education, women's access to education, health services work are still low compared to other lower-middle income countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Equatorial GuineaSince the discovery of oil and gas in the 1990s, Equatorial Guinea became the richest country per capita in sub-Saharan Africa; yet almost two-thirds of people still live on less than US$1 a day.
CambodiaCambodia's resources steadily increase, yet government expenditure on health and education is comparatively low, making realization of economic and social rights difficult.
BangladeshBangladeshi children's economic and social rights are declining. More girls than boys are malnourished and children in slums live in great poverty and are less likely to attend school than their urban non-slum and rural counterparts.
HaitiEnsuring that economic and social rights are the foundation of sustainable poverty reduction policies and programs
LiberiaWorking towards a strong monitoring and evaluation process based on a human rights framework

Over the past decade, many millions of Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty, largely thanks to public investments in health, education and social protection. Not coincidentally, the country experienced great economic success in these years, buttressed by a burgeoning domestic demand-driven economy.

These crucial advances are now under serious threat, however, as the government seeks to implement a swathe of draconian austerity measures that are unnecessary, inefficient and most likely in violation of human rights law. 

In the face of a spiraling political and economic crisis, the Brazilian government announced a series of deep fiscal adjustments starting in the spring of 2015. In recent years, many governments across the globe have resorted to drastic public expenditure cuts in the name of fiscal austerity. Few, however, are as sweeping in nature or severe in their human rights implications as Brazil's 'PEC55' constitutional amendment. This re-writing of the Constitution freezes spending for health, education and other key social areas for the next 20 years. The reform in essence locks in fiscal austerity in critical areas of public social spending until 2036, preventing any future governments from democratically deciding the proper investment needed to fulfill its human rights obligations. Estimates suggest that an increase of 37% in public health care expenditure over this period will be needed to meet the needs of Brazil’s aging population. Yet, this will be constitutionally prohibited under the ‘PEC 55’ amendment.  In the field of education, these drastic measures ensure that no additional resources will be made available to build schools, preschools, kindergartens, or to improve public universities, basic education or teachers’ salaries – making the achievement of the country’s educational goals practically impossible. This amendment will also have the pernicious effect of deepening existing economic inequalities resulting from the country’s tax and fiscal policies, which have been shown to prevent people from escaping poverty, particularly among already disadvantaged groups such as Afro-Brazilian women.

While the pretext given for these reforms is a need to decrease deficits by improving the country’s sovereign debt rating, evidence is abundantly clear that fiscal consolidation in times of economic crisis is economically inefficient and dangerously counterproductive, as detailed by CESR during the European sovereign debt crisis. Empirical findings from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also illustrate that cutting budgets during economic recession actually tends to increase deficits while deepening and prolonging the recession, worsening unemployment levels and decelerating economic recovery. What’s more, Brazil could alleviate the fiscal pressures it is facing by combatting tax evasion and seeking increased revenue contributions from the burgeoning class of high-income earners who currently pay relatively little to government coffers.

Working in close collaboration with Brazilian partners INESC (o Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos), Oxfam Brasil and Conectas, CESR is working to combat the human rights impacts of these ill-conceived reforms. Following our joint advocacy, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights also intervened with a strongly-worded statement.

As explained an op-ed article published in El País, the measures included in PEC 55 violate Brazil’s obligations as a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, along with the American Convention on Human Rights and the San Salvador Protocol on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Various international human rights oversight bodies, including the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, have already called on the country to ensure its austerity measures do not contravene its human rights obligations.

More specifically, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued normative guidance to all states parties – including Brazil – confirming that fiscal consolidation policies deployed in times of economic crisis had to meet certain criteria in order to comply with human rights. These included that such austerity measures be temporary, strictly proportionate, non-discriminatory, and that they take into account all possible alternatives, including tax reform. They should also identify and protect the minimum core content of human rights and be adopted with genuine participation of all affected groups. Brazil’s PEC55 amendment does not meet any of these conditions.

With political and economic uncertainty continuing to beset both ordinary Brazilian people and the country’s political class, it is impossible to predict what the future may hold. Plans being pursued by the current administration are sure to severely undermine the economic and social rights of ordinary Brazilians, however, especially among vulnerable groups such as children, Afro-Brazilian women and those already living in poverty. Building on our extensive experience working at the interstices of human rights and fiscal policy, CESR will continue to work with our Brazilian allies as they endeavor to prevent this far-reaching assault on human rights.


Brazil: Social rights under siege
December 8th, 2016
Brazil is on the cusp of making a constitutional amendment that will undermine fundamental human rights for generations to come.