Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - Annual Report 2013
Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - Annual Report 2013 Message from the Co-Executive Directors
Twenty years ago, when the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was adopted, the international community reaffirmed that “All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis.” Today, that vision is just as vital as it was then, as human rights advocates work to transform a world wherein close to one billion persons live without inadequate housing, wherein over one billion persons lack access to clean water, and wherein over 840 million persons are chronically hungry.
In 2013, at Vienna +20, we are proud to say that we and other representatives of the global community once again reiterated “the importance of affording the same standard of protection to economic, social and cultural rights and to civil and political rights.” In today’s world, the interconnection and interdependence of all human rights is readily apparent and acknowledged. Yet, so too are the gaping inequalities which continue to exist in our ever more technologically advanced, yet ever more ecologically fragile, world. To advance on the most pressing questions which plague humanity today, we believe a human rights lens is key.
In 2013, the Global Initiative continued to raise its voice on behalf of ESC rights, and we have sought to work in close collaboration with our civil society partners, grassroots advocates and others throughout the world who are on the front lines of human rights advocacy within their communities. We are happy to have this opportunity to make a valuable contribution together with them, and are proud to say that we have achieved significant outcomes from our work – outcomes we see laying the foundation for transformative impact on the ground. In 2013, these outcomes were realized across all of our strategic priority areas – namely strategic litigation and legal advocacy; advancing women’s and ESC rights; and human rights and development.
Our work in strategic litigation, for example, has significantly strengthened international jurisprudence related to extra-territorial human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and also led to the first ever complaint filed before the Human Rights Committee dealing with extra-territorial obligations. Extra-territorial obligations are those obligations a State has to respect, protect and fulfill human rights outside of its own boarders.
These achievements continue to advance the scope of ESC rights protection at the international level by expanding human rights accountability mechanisms to examine extra-territorial human rights violations. These results are part of our continued efforts to ensure that those that violate certain aspects of social rights – including those related to housing and water – are held accountable by the UN Human Rights Committee as violations under the ICCPR.
These successes before the UN Human Rights Committee have ensured that the principle of indivisibility of rights has real meaning and has expanded avenues for social rights enforcement under the ICCPR, including for social rights violations by States or corporate actors abroad. A range of human rights advocates are now using this expanded space for human rights accountability and remedies in their own respective advocacy, and we are proud to have helped pave the way.
Our organization also continues to play a vital role in the advancement of women’s economic, social and cultural rights with a particular focus on women’s rights secure rights to land and other productive resources. We believe that these rights are fundamental to improving women’s lives and to ensuring gender equality. Here, we have sought to create and strengthen a coherent set of progressive norms and standards which can be used by advocates to orchestrate change related to women’s rights to housing, land and other productive resources at various levels.
In 2013, we hosted a Thematic Briefing for the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) on women’s rights to land and other productive resources and later were invited to give a keynote presentation during the CEDAW Committee’s Day of Discussion on the rights of rural women. We also facilitated the participation of our international and national partners to attend and participate during this important session. The background paper, keynote address and partners’ participation all further informed the draft General Recommendation on the rights of rural women which will be adopted by the CEDAW Committee.
The Global Initiative also worked closely with partners to lead a campaign that successfully resulted in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopting a landmark resolution on women’s rights to land and other productive resources. That resolution – the first of its kind – urged African States to fully comply with their obligations and commitments to ensure, protect and promote women’s right to land and property. This resolution now lays the foundation for continued work towards a General Comment to Maputo Protocol on these rights.
In the area of human rights and development, we have continued to advocate for a post-2015 development paradigm that fully incorporates the human rights framework, and ESC rights in particular. As we noted above, in 2013, the Global Initiative participated in the Vienna + 20 Conference and helped draft the CSO Declaration that resulted in the official Vienna + 20 Outcome Document calling for the entire body of human rights to be at the core of the post-2015 development framework. The Global Initiative also joined forces with other organizations to call for human rights as the core of the post-2015 development framework, including leading a consortium of groups that pushed for the recognition of rights related to access to, use of and control over land and other productive resources as a key component of the development agenda.
2013 also brought new organizational growth and increased capacity. A UN Liaison, based in Geneva, was welcomed to our team and has made a wonderful contribution to our work. Our on-the-ground presence in Geneva has allowed us to amplify not only our own voice, but also the voice of partners and advocates from around the world who would otherwise not have access to the UN’s human rights mechanisms. For example, the Global Initiative and its partners made a joint intervention at the Human Rights Council calling for a clear statement by the international community acknowledging the human rights obligations of international financial institutions and the extra-territorial obligations of their Member States. This intervention lays the foundation for future work at the Council aimed at leading to a full panel discussion of this issue at a forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council.
Finally, at the end of our second full year of operation, we are happy to report that we have ended the 2013 fiscal year on a sound financial footing which lays the foundation for organizational growth in 2014 and beyond. We are extremely grateful to our donors for the financial support we receive, and for their shared vision. We look forward to the Global Initiative’s continued work and engagement with our partners worldwide to ensure that all of the gains we have achieve so far continue to move us toward the transformative impact we seek.
By Mayra Gomez and Bret Thiele, Co-Executive Directors,Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
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