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Advocating for human rights boosts resource availability and upholds fiscal legitimacy: UN expert

11 March 2024

GENEVA (11 March 2024) – A UN expert today urged States and international institutions to respect principles of fiscal legitimacy in fiscal decision-making with a ‘do no harm’ approach.

“Recent decades have exposed the fallacy of a linear model between financial progress and poverty alleviation, development, and growth, revealing numerous challenges such as inequality, climate instability, gaps in the global financial architecture, technological shifts, conflicts, and wars,” said Attiya Waris, the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights.

In her report to the Human Rights Council, Waris stressed that these challenges have hampered the realisation of human rights for all, transforming human beings into tools for wealth creation rather than prioritising their rights and living standards.

“Adopting a human rights perspective, including the principle of progressive realisation of human rights and the duty to provide international cooperation and assistance, would support efforts to increase available resources and ensure fiscal legitimacy in the operation of a fiscal system,” the expert said.

Waris outlined a list of key principles to ensure that financial decisions preserve and maintain living standards, including accountability, transparency, responsibility, effectiveness and efficiency, fairness and justice.

“States, international institutions and regional trade blocs are invited to integrate the principles of fiscal legitimacy into their decision-making processes, while keeping all financial decisions focused on the realisation of human rights and raising living standards,” the expert said.

Full reports:

Fiscal legitimacy through human rights: a principled approach to financial resource collection and allocation for the realization of human rights:

Country visit reports on Liechtenstein and Bahamas:

Professor Attiya Waris (Kenya) was appointed the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights by the Human Rights Council at its 47th session and took up this function on 1 August 2021. She holds a PhD in Law and is a specialist in Fiscal Law, Policy and Development. Ms Waris teaches at the Law School, University of Nairobi, Kenya and has previously taught in South Africa, Rwanda, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. Prof Waris has researched and published on global, African, Asian, European as well as Latin American issues. Learn more, log on to:

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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