Message from the Co-Directors


Bret Thiele & Mayra Gomez

The work of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) continues to expand, as well as to deepen into a range of substantive areas, and this Annual Report showcases the ways in which the organisation achieved important impacts in 2017 for the realisation of economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights.  Launched in 2010, the organisation started with a vision of a world where ESC rights are fully respected, protected and fulfilled, so that all people are able to live in dignity.  While the vision is simple and clear, the task ahead is anything but easy.  While there have been some improvements in specific areas related to the realisation of ESC rights, on the whole countries regardless of their level of development continue to be plagued by inequality and the denial of basic ESC rights for significant segments of their populations.  We continue to live in a world where, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Inequality has become the defining issue of our time.”  At the beginning, we said that:

“If we believe that ESC rights can make a powerful difference in improving the lives of real people – and we do – then it is urgent for us to develop and deploy new and innovative strategies which tackle head on the main obstacles to the enjoyment of these rights.  In order to advance the actual realization of ESC rights most significantly over the coming period we believe that we, and our movement, must rise to four critical tasks …” (GI-ESCR Concept Note).

At the time, those tasks were identified as: to build and deepen cross-sector alliances, forging partnerships to leverage the power of joint advocacy working at multiple levels; to equalise power dynamics through ESC rights awareness; to brave new frontiers in ESC rights standard setting and enforcement; and to move from a theory of economic, social and cultural rights, to the practical application of these rights for the world’s poor. 

Eight years later, we are pleased that this Annual Report stays true to the initial dream which gave rise to GI-ESCR.  If anything, the organisation has exceeded our expectations and continues to carve out it own path, joining hands with advocates all around the world with whom we share a common vision.  For this, there are many people to thank and to acknowledge, including our Board, our staff, our partners, and our donors.  Without this sustained collective effort, and without this matrix of co-actors, none of the achievements laid out in this report would be possible. 

We hope that people suffering from ESC rights violations on the ground, as well as our colleagues in the field,   are benefited by what we aim to do as an organisation, and we strive to make sure that whatever impacts we have are not just words on paper.  Great ideas matter – but great actions matter still more in changing the lives of the poor – and it is through our ability to bend the practice of influential decision-makers and powerful policy-makers that we achieve our vision.   This report provides example of how we have sought to do just that, for instance by seeking enforcement of ESC rights through litigation and parallel reporting, by helping to shape international norms,  and by working in close  collaboration with partners on areas as diverse as education, climate change, and women’s rights to land and productive resources.

We know all too well that governments around the world often violate the human rights of the poor explicitly in the name of furthering economic prosperity and development, and treat the respect, protection and fulfillment of ESC rights as discretionary and aspirational at best.  The same can be said of other powerful economic actors, such as corporations and inter-governmental organisations, which place financial gain before the rights of people. This reality requires the human rights movement to adopt bold new strategies and develop powerful new partnerships and tools commensurate with the task of transforming it.  We are thankful to have the opportunity to contribute, and to join with others in this effort.

Mayra Gomez and Bret Thiele,
Co-Executive Directors Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights