A human rights response to the global economic crisis

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the Human Rights Council on 20 February that governments and the private sector should consider human rights in their responses to the current global economic and financial crises.

The Human Rights Council holds a special session on 20 February in Geneva to discuss “the impact of the global economic and financial crises on the universal realization and effective enjoyment of human rights - UN Photo/ Jean-Marc FerréThe Human Rights Council, meeting in a special session on 20 February in Geneva, discussed “the impact of the global economic and financial crises on the universal realization and effective enjoyment of human rights.”

“While it is imperative to respond to the current crises with a thorough review of the functioning of the international financial and monetary mechanisms, a human rights approach will contribute to making solutions more durable in the medium and long run,” said the High Commissioner in her address to the special session.

“Such an approach helps to identify the specific needs and entitlements of vulnerable groups and individuals, particularly women and children, migrants, refugees, indigenous peoples, minorities and persons with disabilities.

“They stand at the frontlines of hardship and are most likely to lose their jobs and access to social safety nets and services,” she added.

The special session took place following a request by Brazil and Egypt, the latter on behalf of the African Group.

“The holding of this session, I believe, is an important sign from the Human Rights Council that it should and can address all emerging challenges which have implications for human rights,” said President of the Human Rights Council Martin Uhomoibhi.

He said the special session would “send out a strong message that human rights should not be overlooked or allowed to be drowned out by the current financial crisis that is affecting all our lives.”

The High Commissioner underlined the importance of a human rights framework to counter the negative effects of the financial crisis at the national, regional and international levels.

“Indeed, states are not relieved of their human rights obligations in times of crisis,” she said. Pillay also pointed out that “private actors, including financial institutions, have a responsibility to ensure that their operations do not violate human rights.”

The human rights chief underscored that the Millennium Development Goals should not become casualties of the crises. “Now, more than ever, there is a need for a holistic, integrated human rights approach to development strategies,” she said.

The High Commissioner emphasized that the UN human rights system, such as the human rights treaty bodies and the Human Rights Council, through the Universal Periodic Review process and its independent experts, could support national efforts to monitor the human rights impact of the current crises.

This is the tenth special session of the Human Rights Council. Its previous special sessions concerned Lebanon, Darfur, Myanmar, the global food crisis, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

February 2009