In this report, the Special Rapporteur argues that treating economic and social rights as human rights is essential both for efforts to eliminate extreme poverty and to ensure a balanced and credible approach in the field of human rights as a whole. He argues that economic and social rights currently remain marginal in most contexts, thus undermining the principle of the indivisibility of the two sets of rights.

Conventional wisdom celebrates the great strides that have been made in recent years in relation to economic and social rights. At the international level, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has been adopted, an impressive number of special procedures have been created to focus on these rights and bodies like the Human Rights Council spend much more time than they once did debating these issues. At the national level, economic and social rights proponents celebrate the impressive degree of constitutional recognition of some or most economic and social rights, the growing capacity of courts in many countries to enforce them, the growth of national non-governmental organisations working on economic and social rights and the emergence of a vibrant scholarly literature on the justiciability of those rights.

However, despite important recent progress, the reality is that economic and social rights remain largely invisible in the law and institutions of the great majority of States. In support of this proposition, the Special Rapporteur notes that: many of the States whose Constitutions recognise economic and social rights have not translated that recognition into a human rights-based legislative framework; the increasingly widespread constitutional acceptance of the justiciability of economic and social rights contrasts with the resistance of many of the relevant courts to acting on these rights; many of the States that enjoy the world’s highest living standards have specifically rejected proposals to recognise economic and social rights in legislative or constitutional form; most national-level institutional mechanisms for promoting human rights neglect economic and social rights; and national economic and social rights accountability mechanisms are generally much rarer than mainstream accounts would suggest.

The extent to which economic and social rights remain unacknowledged as human rights is the frequency with which debates about economic and social rights slide imperceptibly and almost naturally into broad discussions of development. But, in fact, development initiatives might not be rights-promoting, or even rights-protecting. In this report, the Special Rapporteur spells out why it matters that economic and social rights be treated as human rights and examines the ways in which this can be done by outlining the recognition, institutionalisation and accountability (RIA) framework that focuses primary attention on ensuring recognition of the rights, institutional support for their promotion and accountability mechanisms for their implementation.

The aim of this briefing is to propose a human rights-centered policy agenda to tackle economic inequality and the social inequalities it reinforces. It sets out to illustrate how human rights can provide both a normative framework and a set of accountability mechanisms to accelerate success in meeting this most cross-cutting of sustainable development goals.

Who Will Be Accountable? Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda explains that embedding accountability into the very DNA of the post-2015 sustainable development architecture will be critical to ensure the new plan ensures political commitments made at the international level actually result in policy changes on the ground. The publication examines accountability gaps that have impeded realisation of global and national development goals thus far. It highlights shortcomings in the accountability of actors within, above and beyond the state, including the responsibilities of wealthier states, international institutions and the private sector to ensure their policies and practices do not undermine human development and the fulfilment of human rights. It also explains how these shortcomings can be overcome in the design of a new set of post-2015 goals by aligning these more closely with international human rights standards. 

More than 40 percent of Tanzania’s adolescents are left out of quality lower-secondary education despite the government’s positive decision to make lower-secondary education free.

This report examines obstacles, including some rooted in outmoded government policies, that prevent more than 1.5 million adolescents from attending secondary school and cause many students to drop out because of poor quality education. The problems include a lack of secondary schools in rural areas, an exam that limits access to secondary school, and a discriminatory government policy to expel pregnant or married girls.

For a summary, see here.

For an esay to read version, in English, see here.

The 2015 Global Monitoring Report – Education for All 2000-2015: Achievements and Challenges – provides a complete assessment of progress since 2000 towards the target date for reaching the Dakar Framework’s goals.

It takes stock of whether the world achieved the EFA goals and stakeholders upheld their commitments. It explains possible determinants of the pace of progress.

Finally, it identifies key lessons for shaping the post-2015 global education agenda.

In this report, the Secretary-General outlines the linkages between economic, social and cultural rights and the Sustainable Development Goals framework as two converging agendas, and highlights equality, non-discrimination and accountability principles as well as a human rights-based approach to data as key to ensuring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in a manner consistent with the obligations of States under international law. The report identifies key challenges and opportunities for the human rights-based implementation of the 2030 Agenda and contributions of international human rights mechanisms, and concludes with recommendations to that end.

This briefing paper focuses on the distinct contributions that NHRIs can make to the sustainable development agenda. It outlines the importance of the SDGs for human rights and highlights a number of specific opportunities for NHRIs to effectively fulfil their role in the context of the new global development agenda, sharing examples of development-related work from a number of institutions in all regions.

This guide, organised around a set of questions and answers to 'unpack' SDG4, provides overall guidance for a deeper understanding of SDG4 within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in order to support its effective implementation. The guide outlines the key features of SDG4-Education 2030 and the global commitments expressed in the SDG4 targets as articulated in the Incheon Declaration and the Education 2030 Framework for Action. The guide also examines the implications of translating these global commitments within, and through, national education development efforts.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into effect on 1 January 2016, after it was adopted unanimously at the United Nations by world Heads of State and Governments in September 2015. With its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets, the Agenda covers a comprehensive set of issues across the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

In many respects, the 2030 Agenda is a significant improvement from the previous agenda, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were supposed to have been met by 2015. It is universal in applying to all countries, rather than just ‘developing’ countries, and it covers a more comprehensive set of issues, therefore better addressing the complexities of sustainable development and reflecting the whole spectrum of human rights. The 2030 Agenda also has a central focus on combatting inequality, both through stand-alone goals (Goal 5 on gender inequality and Goal 10 on reducing inequality within and among countries) and an overarching pledge to ‘Leave No One Behind’ in implementation. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is recognised as a cross-cutting objective across all the goals (with indicators that are required to be disaggregated by sex), but is also included as a stand-alone goal with specific targets. The Agenda also recognizes the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, as among its foundations.

Whereas the MDG commitments on gender equality were limited to targets on gender parity in education and maternal mortality, SDG 5 includes more comprehensive and potentially transformative commitments for women’s rights, due to the effective mobilization of women’s rights organizations. It includes targets to: eliminate all forms of discrimination, end gender-based violence and child marriage; ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive rights; increase participation in decision-making at all levels; ensure women’s equal rights to economic resources, including ownership and control over land; and to recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work (including through the provision of public services and social protection.) Moreover, there are gender specific targets in other goals, for example, to eliminate gender disparity in education (SDG 4.5); ensure women’s access to adequate sanitation (SDG 6.2); equal pay for work of equal value (SDG 8.5); and safe and affordable transport for women (SDG 11.2). As the inclusion of these issues indicates, the SDGs are therefore far more holistic and rights-aligned on gender equality than the MDGs, despite some weaknesses.

Yet, when dealing with issues of accountability, there is no major improvement over the MDGs. Under the MDGs, there was no clarity as to who was responsible for what, there was no institutional mechanism through which ‘beneficiaries’ could meaningfully engage in shaping or challenging decisions at the domestic level, and  there was an inadequate, opaque system to monitor and report on progress. The lack of accountability for the MDGs was considered a primary shortfall. With a view to improving on these shortcomings, civil society organizations and many other actors involved in the discussions regarding the new development agenda made it a priority to push for robust accountability for the SDGs. However, during the political negotiations, there was resistance by many States seeking to systematically water down proposals for accountability. Consequently, the final text of the 2030 Agenda includes only a weak voluntary process of reporting to monitor compliance. In the end, the terms “follow-up and review” were preferred over “accountability”.

The implementation of the SDGs is a long and complex process, and the fear is that without stronger accountability mechanisms, States and other stakeholders might not dedicate sufficient efforts and resources towards their compliance. Moreover, compliance with gender-related goals and targets also requires gender-responsive accountability mechanisms. This means, at a bare minimum, that women should be full participants in any oversight or accountability process and that women’s human rights standards must be those against which public decisions are assessed. Without these mechanisms, governments may well focus their efforts on the achievement of goals and targets which are not aligned with the priorities of national women rights’ and feminist movements, or fall far short of their ambitions.

Over the past two decades, a set of globally converging discourses on lifelong learning (LLL) has emerged around the world. Driven mostly by inter-governmental organisations, these discourses have been largely embraced by national and local education systems seeking to reflect local traditions and priorities. This paper argues that these discourses tend to look remarkably alike, converging into a homogeneous rationale in which the economic dimension of education predominates over other dimensions of learning, and in which adaptation takes pre-eminence
over social transformation as a goal of LLL. It also shows how these converging discourses are embedded in the logic of the knowledge economy, driven by concern for human capital formation as dictated by the changing demands of the global labour market, and can neglect the learning needs and interests of local communities. The paper concludes that the globally converging discourse of LLL tends to serve the interests of the market ahead of those of the community, and argues that an alternative characterisation of LLL, anchored in social justice, is necessary in the light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and especially Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. 

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