UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Calls on States to Protect Economic & Social Rights Against Market Pressures

In today’s opening session of the Human Rights Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed concern about the risk of retrogression on economic and social rights and called on governments to protect people’s rights against market pressures.

Below is an excerpt of her remarks:

Let me briefly discuss the effects on human rights of some States’ sovereign debt crises and the consequent sharp decline of the stock market which threaten to produce another global economic recession. As the debt crisis unfolds across Europe, America and elsewhere, we are witnessing a wave of drastic social cuts, and a worrying trend of legal reforms to contain budget deficits. Many of these legal and policy changes are being adopted mainly in response to market pressures and carry the risk of potential retrogressions in the levels of achievement of economic, social and cultural rights.

Yet, it is imperative that we examine and address the potential repercussions of economic upheavals on those people who are already living in precarious and marginalized situations, such as women and children, minorities, indigenous peoples and people with disabilities. We know that when the economic going gets rough, it is the poor who bear the brunt of crises. These are the groups and individuals who are entitled to protection and safety nets, not those private actors who, in the first instance, were instrumental in stoking financial and economic unrest.

I am also concerned about the situation of the young who regard the markets’ convulsions and the faulty economic policies of their governments as a direct threat to their enjoyment of human rights, including the right to work. Young protestors have asserted that their lives and hopes must matter at least as much as the interests of those power centers that have effectively mortgaged the welfare of future generations.

All Member States must consider that austerity measures alone may not work to address economic woes. Human rights issues including education, employment, and in general the opportunity of a life in dignity, as well as transparency, accountability, and good governance must not be neglected.