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Statements Multiple Mechanisms

"Investing in sustainable recovery, advancing gender equality and strengthening partnerships – Towards a renewed social contract anchored in human rights"

18 January 2022

Delivered by

Ms. Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights


Fourth Human Rights Council intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on Human Rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you, Ambassador Gberie, and congratulations on your appointment as chair of this fourth intersessional meeting for dialogue and cooperation on human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I would like to welcome to his new functions, the incoming President of the Council, H.E. Mr. Federico Villegas and thank her Excellency, the Prime Minister of Peru and our distinguished panellists.

We start the new year, as we just heard, faced with the continuing immense global challenges of fighting the pandemic and recovering from its devastating socio-economic consequences. COVID-19 has indeed undermined the entire spectrum of human rights - destroying lives and livelihoods, deepening poverty and compounding inequalities. This makes it more imperative that we adopt policies grounded in human rights, to get back on track towards realizing the 2030 Agenda – and to achieving the 'renewed social contract anchored in human rights' that the Secretary-General has called for.

Inequitable access to vaccines between countries, a two-speed recovery and growing debt distress are weighing heavily on low- and middle-income countries. For example, in East and Southern Africa, debt servicing costs grew to nearly 70 percent of GDP in 2021, severely limiting the fiscal space for critical investments for social protection and essential services.

Resuming progress on SDG 17 is critical. In the COVID-19 recovery, we must ring-fence social spending, expand it and put it on a more stable footing to ensure it is commensurate to the urgent needs exacerbated by the pandemic.

The difficult economic and financial contexts have made it even more crucial for countries to redouble their efforts to mobilize domestic resources. Fighting corruption, reallocating resources and adopting progressive taxation can help to maximize resources for health care, social protections, quality education, clean water, housing and other fundamental rights.

These efforts at national level must be supported by debt relief, equitable access to vaccines and international support in general.

These measures are also crucial for resuming progress on SDG 5, an enabler for attaining all the other SDGs. For example, transforming the care economy and ensuring gender equality and livelihoods are key for recovery - requiring increased investment in public social services, creating jobs and generating fiscal revenue. If we look at South Africa, for example, it is estimated that making childcare services universally available to all children under 5 could create 2.3 million new jobs and raise female employment by 10 percent. New tax and social security revenue from these jobs would also reduce the required fiscal spending from 3.2 per cent to 2.1 per cent of GDP. It is doable.

To recover from the biggest development setback in our time we need to change the economic approaches and models that have produced untenable social costs, tearing apart the social fabric of societies, fuelling instability and amplifying mistrust towards institutions. We need an economy that invests in human rights and works for everyone.

We also need greater fiscal transparency, stronger civic space, scrutiny on public spending and stepped up efforts to fight tax evasion.

As the Secretary-General makes clear in "Our Common Agenda": we must complement the narrow focus of GDP measurement, re-thinking the way we measure the extent to which people enjoy their human rights including the right to a healthy environment.

Partnerships are critically important. We know that the dominant paradigm for infrastructure financing and investment carries risks for both human rights and the environment. We can and should work together to address these risks through human rights impact assessments and due diligence, including in public-private partnerships and the privatization of essential services.

Our Office has prioritised its support to the UN System to place human rights front and centre in response and recovery efforts. Through our in-country presences, increased numbers of human rights advisers and our "Surge Initiative," our network of economists, economic and social rights and development specialists, we have stepped up our technical advice to Member States to advance human rights-based strategies. We are supporting pioneering collaboration between national human rights institutions and national statistical offices in order to reinforce human rights based approaches to data collection and disaggregation.

The next years, Excellencies, will fundamentally test global human rights leadership. Departing from economic policies that have weakened national capacity to deliver on universal social services; dismantling gender and other types of inequalities; and reinforcing fundamental freedoms and accountability are all policy choices – ones that we believe must be upheld.

I look forward to learning from your good practices, achievements, challenges and lessons learned towards the renewed social contract anchored in human rights.

Thank you very much.