Guiding Principles for human rights impact assessments for economic reform policies

The Guiding Principles on human Rights impact assessment of economic reforms were presented to the Human Rights Council on 28 February 2019, on the occasion of its 40th session.

Adopted on 21 March 2019, Human Rights Council resolution 40/8, took note with appreciation of the Guiding Principles encouraging Governments, relevant United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, funds and programmes and other intergovernmental organizations to consider taking into account the guiding principles in the formulation and implementation of their economic reform policies and measures, and encourages national human rights institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to give due consideration to the guiding principles in their work.

The Guiding Principles are available in all UN languages. An unofficial Portuguese translation is also available here

I. Background

Human Rights Council resolutions 34/3 and 37/11 requested the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights to develop guiding principles for human rights impact assessments for economic reform policies, in consultation with States, international financial institutions and other relevant stakeholders. The ambition of the guiding principles was not to develop new human rights standards, but to provide effective and practical guidance and tools to different stakeholders for assessing economic reform policies on the basis of existing human rights standards.

The Independent Expert wants to implement this mandate in a participatory manner in close collaboration with experts from States, international financial institutions and other human rights mechanisms, including experts from National Human Rights Institutions, civil society organizations, scholars and professional organizations working in the field of social and human rights impact assessment. In this context, he saw the development of the Guiding Principles as a multi-layered process and a crucial opportunity for a diverse group of States and stakeholders to delve into the impacts (documented as well as testimonial), the lessons learnt, the commonalities and the limitations of human rights impact assessments.

The development process of the Guiding principles started in 2017 and combined main building blocks, including thematic reports of relevance.

A first step was to undertake a mapping report, aiming at consolidating existing human rights and other relevant impact assessment tools (A/HRC/37/54). This report was informed by a call for contributions. Additional building blocks included: the report of the Independent Expert on the impact of economic reform policies on women’s human rights (A/HRC/179/73), also informed by a call for contributions and presented to the United General Assembly in October 2018 and; his report on labour rights in the context of economic reform and austerity measures (A/HRC/34/57), presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2017.

The process also included several opportunities for open contributions, discussion and engagement, including:

II. Public consultation with States in Geneva (9 November 2018)

On 9 November 2018, the Independent Expert on foreign debt organised a public consultation with States as part of the development process of the Guiding Principles on human rights impact assessments for economic reform policies.

III. Expert meeting in New York (1-2 October 2018)

This meeting provided a wide range of participants from different regions of the world the opportunity to contribute with their expertise and experience to the development of the Guiding Principles on human rights impact assessments for economic reform policies. See here the agenda of the meeting.

IV. Online public consultation (Deadline: 24 September 2018)

As part of the process of development of the Guiding Principles for human right’s impact assessment of economic reform policies, the Independent Expert invited States, international financial institutions, academics, civil society organizations and networks, private creditors, UN agencies and any other relevant stakeholder to provide comments and contributions to this Draft, available in: English (unedited) Informal, unedited versions, in Spanish and French.

V. Expert meeting in Geneva (2-3 July 2018)

The Independent Expert organised an expert meeting in collaboration with FES in Geneva on 2-3 July 2018. This expert consultation is the second expert meeting of this kind and provided participants from different regions of the world with the opportunity to input their expertise and experience to the development of the Guiding Principles on human rights impacts assessments for economic reform policies.

VI. Thematic Report to the Human Rights Council (37th Session, March 2018)

In his thematic report, the Independent Expert discusses the development of guiding principles for assessing the human rights impact of economic reform policies. The report of the Independent Expert was informed by submissions received in response to a call for contributions and by the below mentioned expert workshop.

VII. Expert Workshop (9 November 2017)

The Independent Expert organised an expert workshop in Geneva on 9 November 2017. This workshop convened experts from the human rights and development fields to discuss the Independent Expert’s project to develop guiding principles on human rights impacts assessments for economic reform policies with a view of informing his thematic report to be presented to the Human Rights Council. The programme, concept note and other relevant information related to the workshop are available here.

VIII. Call for contributions (deadline 15 August 2017)

The Independent Expert invited Governments, international organizations and international financial institutions, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, academics and practitioners to share information about relevant standards, tools and examples that could be useful for developing such guidance.

Mr. Bohoslavsky would like to thank all stakeholders for the submissions received.

The call for contributions was available in EnglishFrench and Spanish and submissions received are listed below.

Submissions received

States

International Organizations

National Human Rights Institutions

Civil Society Organisations

Other contributions and additional literature

VII. Other international tools and material

Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights

  • Report on austerity measures and economic and social rights  (E/2013/82)

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

  • Statement on  Public debt, austerity measures and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/C.12/2016/1)

Committee on the Rights of the Child  (CRC/C/GC/19)

  • General Comment No. 19 on public budgeting for the realization of children's rights (art.4)

Reports by the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights

Reports by the Independent Expert/Special Rapporteur on the question of human rights and extreme poverty

  • Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights  (A/HRC/21/39)
  • A human rights based approach to recovery from global economic and financial crises (A/HRC/17/34)
  • Mission report to Ireland (A/HRC/17/34/Add.2)
  • Human rights policy of the World Bank  (A/70/274)

Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing

Special Rapporteur on the right to food

  • Guiding principles on human rights impact assessments of trade and investment agreements (A/HRC/19/59/Add.5)
  • Report on the responsibilities of international organizations concerning the right to food (A/60/350)

Council of Europe, Commissioner for Human Rights