Integrating a human rights economy in public policies

A market in Nepal

Following the Covid 19 pandemic, the international community has been giving increasing attention to a human rights economy as a way to reinforce economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). Human rights economy seeks to ensure that development, economic industrial and trade policies are guided by human rights norms and standards and that no one is left behind.  

“A human rights economy is, fundamentally, about returning to the core values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: respect for human rights - and solidarity,” Ms Lynn  Gentile,  Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch of OHCHR .

On October 3rd 2023, UPR Info and OHCHR jointly organised the side event sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Portugal, entitled “Towards a human rights economy: UPR recommendations for ESCR”. The event aimed to offer State representatives an occasion to share good practices and guidance to use the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to enhance economic equality and ESCR. Through UPR recommendations States can suggest to their peers specific measures to mainstream human rights standards, principles and policies and contribute to realise human rights, particularly ESCR. 

A picture from the side event

Although States recognize the significant role of ESCR in upholding all human rights, yet these rights are still underrepresented in the UPR if compared to civil and political rights. According to a study of the UPR Branch of the OHCHR, only 20% of voluntary commitments concern ESCR. 

In his introduction, Ambassador Rui Macieira of the Permanent Mission of Portugal, emphasised the commitment of Portugal to defend and support  ESCR. In the past decades, the State has been presenting several times the Resolution on the realisation in all countries of ESCR that was finally adopted by consensus in March 2023. In the framework of the UPR, Portugal has also addressed ESCR as a priority issue. In the last UPR Working Group sessions in 2023, approximately 70% of the UPR recommendations address ESCR, as for example,  by asking States under Review to ratify the International Covenant and of its Optional Protocol. 

“If we want to reinforce a preventive role for the HRC; if we want to increase the role of its technical assistance, it is essential that we all include recommendations for government actions and policies to address ESCR, such as tackling inequalities, strengthen social protection, eliminate discrimination, promote human rights economies and protect the environment”, Ambassador Rui Macieira, Permanent Representative of Portugal.

Guillaume Ngefa, Chief a.i., Universal Periodic Review Branch, stressed that sharing good practices and peer learning amongst States on their policies promoting ESCR is crucial, as well as utilising a human rights economy, which represents a framework that guides to the realisation of ESCR.  

The side event featured two State representatives whose presentations highlighted the measures taken by their countries to combat and protect the vulnerable from growing poverty and inequalities and how the UPR recommendations contributed to address ESCR at the national level. First, Ambassador Gustavo Gallón of the Permanent Mission of Colombia, highlighted the leading role that Colombia covered in the Latin American and Caribbean Summit for an Inclusive, Sustainable and Equitable Global Tax Order. This regional initiative aims to establish shared tax standards and common solutions to fight against unlawful financial actions such as tax evasion and to alleviate poverty, inequality and the impact of climate change. Through this initiative, states in the region demonstrated their willingness to align their tax policy with the international standards and relevant human rights obligations that will contribute to the realisation of ESCR.

Then, Ambassador Zaman Mehdi from the Permanent Mission of Pakistan  shared several good practices put in place by Pakistan in the framework of the UPR.  If compared to the second cycle, the number of recommendations accepted by Pakistan in the third cycle increased by 20%. Upon accepting recommendations, Pakistan took actions in developing a national gender policy framework, healthcare coverage and cash transfer program on youth and women's vulnerable employment, just to name a few. Ambassador Mehdi also highlighted the importance of including regular consultations with civil society to incorporate ESCR in national policies and programs.  

The side event was part of a series of seminars that UPR Info and the OHCHR started in September 2022 to facilitate the exchange of practices among States on how to use the UPR as an effective human rights mechanism to advance economic, social and cultural rights.