How our governments raise and spend our public money to help us meet our needs is a reflection of the extent to which it recognizes the importance of dignity and freedom in our communities. Dignity and freedom are severely compromised when we cannot meet our fundamental needs of clean air and water, health and sufficient food, housing and health care, education, social and income security, and dignified work. We form democratic governments in order to satisfy together these needs that none of us can satisfy alone.
But government budgeting seems to operate with the assumption that our resources are scarce, and the values of rugged individualism, greed, and distrust of others should be rewarded. This has been destructive to our communities, and has led to blaming victims, glorifying excess, and increasing inequities.
In contrast, public budgeting based on human rights attempts to foster the well-being and dignity of all members of our communities and to advance equity by lifting up those most in need. Spending and revenue policies can reduce inequality by focusing spending on helping those most in need and focusing taxation on those most able to pay.
Currently budgets in our localities and states are decided in opaque processes, fail to meet people needs, and deploy resources inequitably across race, wealth and other factors. Partners for Dignity and Rights seeks to advance a fully participatory local and state budget process guided by human rights values. This means
- The budget must be crafted to directly address fundamental human needs (rather than match revenue estimates);
- Budgeting decisions must be explicitly connected to accountability measures, so that we can assess people’s needs, and evaluate progress and outcomes in meeting those needs, using indicators based on human rights principles;
- People must be able to participate in the entire budget process, especially in developing goals and priorities for spending and raising money. The budget process must be fully transparent.
- Revenue policy must follow from spending policy– not the other way around–and seek to fund a needs-based budget in an equitable way.
- Our Work
- A New Social Contract
- Dignity in Schools
- Health Care
- Public Budgeting
- Land and Housing
- Low Wage Workers