The Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment will add an important element to the toolkits of guidance that increasingly seek to provide a structure for the management of human conduct with reference to internationally developed (and sometimes genereally recognized) principles fo human rights. And indirectly that framework ought to have an effect on the construction of transnaitonal principles for macro-economic policies that are managed through international financial institutions. As such, if the proposed framewrok gains traction, it might have a significant effect on the shae and practive of sovereign lending (and borrowing), tax policies and related actions of governments (and their transnnational lenders). The framework for the "guiding principles" remain to be developed.
For the moment a structure is proposed: The guiding principles would be structured around a methodology—a human rights impact assessment (¶¶ 43-56) that in some ways may echo the human rights due diligence mechanics of the UNGP. But unlike the UNGP, and like the Guiding Principles for Human Rights and the Environment, these would be directed to states directly (with a derivative obligation of states to discipline “their” enterprises—though this presumption is itself subject to strong reservation). The Report then sets out key points that need to be addressed and considered in designing a human rights impact assessment (¶¶ 57-71).
1. “The guiding principles will be based on the normative guidance as set out in human rights treaties and standards and their authoritative interpretation by the treaty bodies and other human rights mechanisms.”(¶ 58). Thus is a necessary starting point but it also reveals a weakness int he process--the variability of application of such norms by states and other actors. Except within internaitonal organizations there is very little by way of standardization of the internaitonal law and norms that states (through through states economic actors and others) are expected to incorporate into their domestic legal orders. As a nornmative instrument, then, and perhaps usefully so, the guiding principles will remain aspirational.
2. Scope: “a human rights impact assessment should apply to economic reforms that may result in impermissible retrogression of economic, social and cultural rights” (¶ 59), including especially reform cocktails (¶ 60 (potential cumulative impact of reform measures)). The scope suggests two things. First, because of this broad scope of application, it is unlilely that any but the richest states and most developed statesmay be able to comply with the guiding principles. An extensive and continuous commitment to human rights impacts assessments requires bth money and a substantially well trained administrative apparatus, of government officials with the time and expertise to conduct this work. Second, where such assessments are beyond the capacity of states, it is likley that the power to conduct them will be shifted to others--IFIS and developed states (along with private sovereign lenders perhaps). But that produces a perverse result and one that may itsefl touch on the principle of sovereign authority.
3. “Timing: The guiding principles will focus on ex ante human rights impact assessments, which should be started as early as possible in the policymaking process if they are to be able to influence the analysis and choice of alternative policy options while also highlighting the importance of regular, ex post reviews.” (¶ 61). While this principle is sound, it is likely to produce substantial issues ofsecindguessing after the fact. It is likely that some extensive work will have to be devoted to developing triggers for assessments and safe harbors for developing states.
4. “Addressing different situations: The guiding principles will need to provide guidance on how the principles can be applied to the different and particular situations in which potentially retrogressive economic reforms may unfold” (¶ 62) with particular attention to exigent circumstances in short term crises (¶ 63) as well as medium term (¶ 64) and long term (¶ 65) planning and actions. Ths set of guidelines will have to overcome the challenge of porousness. Given the large scope of discretion respecting the time horizons of assessment, it will be necessary to develop sub principles to manage the temptation of states to use their discretion in this area strategically.
5. “What should be covered: The human rights impact assessment should include: (a) review of all the policy options . . .; (b) analysis of how policy changes and proposed budget cuts and other adjustment measures are likely to affect the population,. . .; (c) analysis of the extent to which budget, policy, legislative and other changes may contribute to fulfilling the State’s human rights obligations or potentially undermine them; and (d) a (non-exhaustive) list of preventive or mitigating measures . . . . (¶ 66). This ought to be the heart of the guidance principles. But it also exposes some of the greatest challenges to the construction of a sound and useable structure. Many of these measures will be based on assessments of probabilities and contingencies. They will also be based on judgments based on circumstantial factors. That also means that it will be as important for states to provide a means of training people to read and assess these reports as it is for states to develop the ability to produce them.
6. “Who should conduct the human rights impact assessment:” avoid focusing on specific bodies tasked with the production of the human rights impact analysis in favor of a focus on “specific criteria for the conduct of human rights impact assessments, such as the independence of the body carrying out the assessment; appropriate expertise and funding; and the status accorded to the assessment so that the results are actually considered in the final decision-making processes.” (¶ 67). The gjuiding princples wisely avoid focusing on who produces such impacts assessments. However it is still worth considering provisions that avoid "capture" of the process especially where states might find it necessary or convenient to delegate the function to private or public parties which might have a confluict of interest.
7. “How data and information should be collected:” norms “must be translated into more concrete, objective and measurable criteria for assessing how policy choices impact rights fulfilment … [that] will often be complex as it involves both quantitative and qualitative analyses.” (¶ 68).
8. “How the human rights impact assessment should be carried out:. . . it would include screening, scoping, evidence-gathering, including data collection, analysing impacts, conclusions and recommendations, including consideration of less harmful options, prevention, mitigation and management.” (¶ 69). It is essential, especially int e context of creating an aspirational set of principles, to fully develop an ideal set of methods to support an ideal human rights impact assessment. At the same time, the guiding principles ought to also develop a safe harbor of minimum procedures that must be undertaken and that are within the means of all states.
9. “The design and implementation of the procedure should be based on the principles of transparency and inclusive participation” (¶ 70) and should “ensure meaningful participation of all stakeholders” (¶ 71). These provisions will have to balance the need to protect sensitive materials with the need for effective disclosure that is a predicate for democrartic participation. The challenge is mode harder int he absence of uniform practice among states. Moreover, it is not clear how the guiding principles will determine who can be deemed a stakeholder and to protect smaller and poorer staekholders' voices from being drowned out by richer and more powerful voices.
Versión en español a continuación
Version française ci-dessousHuman rights principles to assess austerity are needed, says UN expert
GENEVA (28 February 2018) - The negative impact of austerity measures on human rights should no longer be ignored, and effective action to avoid the impact is long overdue, the UN’s expert on foreign debt, finance and rights has told the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“There are well-documented lessons about the negative impact of economic measures adopted in times of financial crisis,” said Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, who presented a full report on the issue to the Council.
“Some of these lessons date back decades, but they remain neglected in decision-making, and so the same mistakes are made over and over again. The instrumental role that human rights can and must play in designing and implementing economic reforms has not been effectively incorporated.”
His report is the first in a series aimed at highlighting the known shortcomings of economic reform policies, including austerity measures, which have severe consequences on human rights, especially in social security, work, health and housing. These measures have also weakened democratic institutions and can lead to insecurity, conflict and violence.
Mr. Bohoslavsky has embarked on a year-long project to develop guiding principles for States and other relevant parties to assess economic reform policies from a human rights perspective, and to learn from past and present mistakes. Preliminary aspects of these principles are outlined in the report presented today, and aim at triggering discussion and broad participation.
“Managing economic and fiscal affairs is a core government function, intimately linked to its human rights obligations,” Mr. Bohoslavsky underlined.
“The extent to which budget cuts undermine human rights depends entirely on who is consulted, what priorities are established and how such cuts are implemented.”
The UN expert added: “Ultimately, the critical questions to ask are whether budget cuts will worsen existing inequalities, and who will be the most affected by those measures.”
The Independent Expert also presented three reports on his 2017 visits to Tunisia, Panama and Switzerland, which all include assessment of the progress made on curbing illicit financial flows.
“Tax justice is a pressing human rights issue,” said Mr. Bohoslavsky. “The more emphasis we place on its international dimensions and human rights implications, and on the need for all countries to engage domestically and internationally in fighting tax evasion, tax fraud and overall opacity, the closer we will come to meaningful changes.”
Join the Independent Expert and other key panellists in a side-event to discuss the thematic report, Palais des Nations, room XXVII, Friday 2 March, 12:00 to13:30.
Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (Argentina) was appointed as Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 8 May 2014. He has previously worked as a Sovereign Debt Expert for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) where he coordinated an Expert Group on Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing. He is independent of any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.
Follow the Independent Expert’s work on twitter at: @IEfinanceHRs
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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This year, 2018, is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.________________________________________
Se necesitan principios de derechos humanos para evaluar las medidas de austeridad, dice Experto de la ONU
GINEBRA (28 de febrero de 2018) – El impacto negativo de las medidas de austeridad en los derechos humanos no debe seguir siendo ignorado, y no se pueden retrasar por más tiempo acciones efectivas para evitar sus consecuencias negativas, enfatizó hoy el experto sobre deuda externa, finanzas y derechos humanos de la ONU ante el Consejo de Derechos Humanos en Ginebra.
“Existen lecciones bien documentadas acerca del impacto negativo de las medidas económicas que se adoptan en épocas de crisis financiera” dijo Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, quien presentó un informe sobre este tema ante el Consejo.
“Algunas de estas lecciones ya llevan décadas, pero continúan siendo ignoradas en la toma de decisiones, y, por tanto, los mismos errores se cometen una y otra vez. El papel instrumental que los derechos humanos pueden y deben jugar en el diseño e implementación de reformas económicas no ha sido incorporado de manera efectiva.”
Este es el primer informe de una serie que busca subrayar las deficiencias de las políticas de reforma económica, tales como las medidas de austeridad, que tienen graves consecuencias en los derechos humanos, en especial en la seguridad social, el trabajo, la salud o la vivienda. Estas medidas también han debilitado las instituciones democráticas, y pueden derivar en inseguridad, conflicto y violencia.
El Sr. Bohoslavsky se ha embarcado en un proyecto de un año para desarrollar principios rectores para los Estados y otros actores relevantes, que sirvan para evaluar las políticas de reforma económica desde una perspectiva de derechos humanos, a fin de aprender de errores del pasado y del presente. Algunos aspectos preliminares de estos principios se han esbozado en su informe presentado hoy, y tienen como fin invitar a la discusión y una amplia participación sobre este tema.
“La gestión de los asuntos fiscales y económicos es una función central del gobierno, íntimamente ligada a las obligaciones de derechos humanos”, subrayó el Sr. Bohoslavsky.
“La medida en que los recortes presupuestarios socavan los derechos humanos depende enteramente de quién es consultado, qué prioridades se establecen y cómo se implementan dichos recortes”.
El experto añadió: “En última instancia, las preguntas centrales que debemos formular son: si los recortes presupuestarios van a aumentar las desigualdades existentes, y quiénes van a ser las personas más afectadas como consecuencia de estas medidas económicas”.
El Experto Independiente también presentó tres informes sobre sus visitas oficiales en 2017 a Túnez, Panamá y Suiza, que incluyen evaluaciones del progreso alcanzado para limitar los flujos financieros ilícitos.
“La justicia tributaria es un asunto apremiante desde una perspectiva de derechos humanos”, dijo el Sr. Bohoslavsky. “Mientras más énfasis pongamos en su dimensión internacional y sus consecuencias para los derechos humanos, así como en la necesidad de que todos los países se involucren a nivel doméstico e internacional en la lucha contra la evasión fiscal, el fraude fiscal y la opacidad en general, más cerca estaremos de lograr cambios significativos”.
El experto independiente discutirá su informe temático con otros panelistas en un evento paralelo el Viernes 2 de marzo, 12:00-13:30 en la sala XXVII, Palais des Nations.
El Sr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (Argentina) fue designado como Experto Independiente sobre deuda externa y derechos humanos por el Consejo de Derechos Humanos en 2014. El Sr. Bohoslavsky se desempeñó previamente como Experto en deuda soberana de la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre Comercio y Desarrollo (UNCTAD), donde coordinaba al Grupo de Trabajo de expertos sobre la promoción del otorgamiento y la toma responsables de préstamos soberanos. Su mandato, que abarca todos los países, fue renovado recientemente por la resolución 34/3 del Consejo de Derechos Humanos.
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Los Relatores Especiales forman parte de los ‘Procedimientos Especiales’ del Consejo de Derechos Humanos. Los Procedimientos Especiales, el mayor órgano de expertos independientes en el sistema de la ONU para los Derechos Humanos, es el nombre general de los mecanismos independientes de investigación y monitoreo establecidos por el Consejo para hacer frente a situaciones concretas en países o a cuestiones temáticas en todo el mundo. Los expertos de los Procedimientos Especiales trabajan de manera voluntaria; no son personal de la ONU y no perciben un salario por su trabajo. Son independientes de cualquier gobierno u organización y actúan a título individual.
Para más información y solicitudes de prensa, favor ponerse en contacto con
Juana Sotomayor, oficial de Derechos Humanos, OHCHR/ SPB (+41 22 917 9445 or +41 78 77 60 371, email: email@example.com) o Frédérique Bourque (+41 22 917 9946, email: firstname.lastname@example.org) o escriba al email: email@example.com
Para consultas de medios relacionadas con otros expertos independientes de la ONU póngase en contacto con: Jeremy Laurence (+41 22 917 9383 /firstname.lastname@example.org)
Este año 2018 se conmemora el 70º aniversario de la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos, aprobada por las Naciones Unidas el 10 de diciembre de 1948. La Declaración Universal, traducida a la cifra récord de 500 idiomas, se basa en el principio de que “todos los seres humanos nacen libres e iguales en dignidad y derechos”. La DUDH sigue siendo pertinente para todos, cada día. Con el fin de honrar el 70º aniversario de este documento que tan extraordinaria influencia ha ejercido, instamos a todas las personas a Defender los derechos humanos: www.standup4humanrights.org__________________________________________________Des principes de droits humains sont nécessaires pour évaluer les mesures d’austérité, affirme l’Expert de l’ONU
GENEVE (28 février 2018) – L’impact négatif des mesures d’austérité sur les droits humains ne doit plus être ignoré et des actions pour en éviter les conséquences sont attendues depuis longtemps, a déclaré l’Expert de l’ONU sur la dette extérieure, la finance, et les droits de l’homme au Conseil des droits de l’homme à Genève.
« Il existe des leçons bien documentées sur les impacts négatifs des mesures économiques adoptées en temps de crise financière », a dit Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, qui a présenté un rapport complet sur la question au Conseil.
« Certaines de ces leçons datent de plusieurs décennies, mais elles demeurent néanmoins oubliées dans la prise de décision, et les mêmes erreurs sont sans cesse répétées. Le rôle déterminant que les droits humains peuvent et doivent jouer dans la conception et la mise en œuvre de réforme n’a pas été intégré efficacement ».
Son rapport est le premier d’une série visant à souligner les dysfonctionnements des politiques de réforme économique, y compris les mesures d’austérité, qui ont de graves conséquences sur les droits de l’homme, notamment sur la sécurité sociale, l’emploi, la santé et le logement. Ces mesures ont également affaibli les institutions démocratiques pouvant mener à l’insécurité, au conflit et à la violence.
M. Bohoslavsky s’est engagé dans un projet d’une année visant à élaborer des principes directeurs adressés aux Etats et aux autres parties prenantes concernées, afin d’évaluer les politiques de réformes économiques d’une perspective de droits humains et en vue d’apprendre des erreurs passées et présentes. Des détails préliminaires de ces principes sont exposés dans le rapport présenté aujourd’hui, de manière à engager la discussion et susciter une large participation.
« La gestion des questions économiques et fiscales est une fonction principale du gouvernement, étroitement liée à ses obligations en matière de droits humains », a souligné M. Bohoslavsky.
« L’ampleur des effets néfastes des coupures budgétaires sur les droits humains dépend entièrement de qui est consulté, quelles priorités sont établies et comment ces coupures sont mises en œuvre. »
L’expert de l’ONU a ajouté qu’ «au final, la question cruciale à se poser est de savoir si les coupures budgétaires auront pour effet d’aggraver les inégalités existantes, et qui seront les personnes les plus affectées par ces mesures ? »
L’Expert indépendant a présenté également trois rapports portant sur ses visites réalisées en 2017 en Tunisie, au Panama et en Suisse, incluant tous une évaluation des progrès réalisés en matière de réduction des flux financiers illicites.
« La justice fiscale est un problème urgent des droits humains », a indiqué M. Bohoslavsky. « Plus nous mettrons l’accent sur sa dimension internationale et ses répercussions sur les droits humains, ainsi que sur le besoin de tous les pays de s’engager sur le plan national et international dans la lutte contre fraude fiscale et l’opacité globale, plus nous seront prêts à obtenir de réels changements. “
Rejoignez l’Expert indépendant et des panélistes clés lors d’un un événement parallèle pour discuter de son rapport thématique, au Palais des Nations, salle XXVII, vendredi le 2 Mars de 12 :00 à 13:30.
M. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (Argentine) a été nommé Expert indépendant chargé d’examiner les effets de la dette extérieure et des obligations financières internationales connexes des États sur le plein exercice de tous les droits de l’homme, particulièrement des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels par le Conseil des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies le 8 mai 2014. Il exerçait auparavant en qualité d’expert sur la question de la dette souveraine pour la Conférence des Nations Unies sur le commerce et le développement (CNUCED), où il coordonnait un Groupe d’experts sur les prêts et emprunts souverains responsables. Il est indépendant de tout gouvernement ou organisation et exerce ses fonctions à titre personnel.
Suivez le travail de l’Expert Indépendant sur Twitter à: @IEfinanceHRs
Les procédures spéciales, l’organe le plus important d’experts indépendants du Système des droits de l’homme de l’ONU, est le terme général appliqué aux mécanismes d’enquête et de suivi indépendants du Conseil qui s’adressent aux situations spécifiques des pays ou aux questions thématiques partout dans le monde. Les experts des procédures spéciales travaillent à titre bénévole; ils ne font pas partie du personnel de l’ONU et ils ne reçoivent pas de salaire pour leur travail. Ils sont indépendants des gouvernements et des organisations et ils exercent leurs fonctions à titre indépendant.
Pour toutes demandes d’information et pour les médias, veuillez contacter Mme Juana Sotomayor, Spécialiste des droits de l’homme - OHCHR/ SPB (+41 22 917 9445 ou +41 78 77 60 371, email@example.com) ou Mme Frédérique Bourque, Spécialiste adjointe des droits de l’homme, (+41 22 917 9946, firstname.lastname@example.org) ou contactez-nous au : email@example.com
Pour des demandes de renseignement des médias concernant d’autres experts indépendants, prière de contacter Jeremy Laurence, ONU Droits de l’homme– Unité Média (+41 22 917 9383 / firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cette année 2018 est la consécration du 70ème anniversaire de la Déclaration
Universelle des Droits de l’Homme adoptée par l’ONU le 10 décembre 1948. La Déclaration universelle, traduite en un record mondial de 500 langues, part du principe que « tous les êtres humains naissent libres et égaux en dignité et en droits ». Ce message reste aujourd’hui essentiel pour chaque individu, chaque jour. En l’honneur du 70ème anniversaire de ce document au caractère extraordinairement précieux, et afin d’empêcher l’érosion de ses principes vitaux, nous exhortons tous les êtres humains, partout dans le monde, à se lever pour les droits de l’homme :
VI. Building on what exists already
A. Conceptual foundations and tools in existing approaches
43. There is a wide range of impact assessment tools that have been developed since the approach was first introduced in the 1970s to address environmental impacts. Human rights impact assessments are among the newer tools, but the literature has already articulated the value added of a human rights approach.
44. The specific purpose of a human rights impact assessment is to help policymakers identify potential inconsistencies between pre-existing human rights obligations and economic reform policies, irrespective of whether they are pursued exclusively, based on their own merits, or in response to lending conditionalities imposed by international financial institutions. The purpose of such an assessment is to ensure that they do not face obstacles in realizing the human rights that they have made a commitment to guarantee as States parties to international human rights treaties. Applying a human rights impact assessment approach to situations of and in response to financial stress would be new in the context of economic reform. A human rights impact assessment would provide a framework and normative guidance that would prompt analysis of the deeper causes of a crisis as well as serious consideration and analysis of alternative responses to crises that can provide a more sustainable path to longer-term growth.43 Such an assessment would also provide normative guidance for considering trade-offs and hard choices, strengthen the legitimacy and local ownership of choices made through inclusive and accountable decision-making that could contribute to reducing social conflict and supporting longer- term stability.44
45. Several States have incorporated human rights aspects into their social or regulatory impact assessment approaches. That demonstrates a general recognition that human rights require attention as part of the policymaking process. The challenge is to ensure that a human rights perspective becomes an integral part of economic policymaking.
46. The purpose of and steps for carrying out a human rights impact assessment based on classic impact assessment approaches are well-established. They include (a) preparation and screening of possible human rights impacts in consultation with affected groups; (b) scoping; (c) evidence gathering and data collection using qualitative and quantitative methods; (d) analysing impacts; (e) formulation of recommendations aimed at preventing adverse human rights impacts or ensuring that they are mitigated; (f) reporting and presentation of findings; and (g) ongoing evaluation and monitoring of actual impacts.
47. Important lessons can be learned from the reactions to the 2007–2008 financial crisis over the past ten years. The impact — both direct and indirect — of economic policy change on human rights is complex and multidimensional and policymakers could draw on lessons learned from developing a multidimensional approach to poverty. The communication of policy impacts to households via transmission channels captured in the Poverty and Social Impact Analysis used by both the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank also provide a potentially relevant analytical tool for understanding how economic reform and fiscal consolidation measures could impact the enjoyment of human rights. Such techniques could contribute to the introduction of a more rigorous analysis of how policy impacts are transmitted and how they affect human rights, well beyond the more traditional human rights analyses that consider only direct governmental violations.
48. Other tools used in Poverty and Social Impact Analyses and budget analyses include distributive impact analysis, benefit incidence analysis, fiscal incidence analysis45 and similar impact analysis tools that can model who — in terms of socioeconomic groups,
43. See, for example, the comprehensive Outcomes, Policy Efforts, Resources and Assessment (OPERA) framework developed by the Center for Economic and Social Rights.
44. See Center for Economic and Social Rights, “Assessing austerity”.
45. See Nore Lustig (ed.), Commitment to Equity (CEQ) Handbook: Estimating the impact of fiscal policy on inequality and poverty (New Orleans, CEQ Institute, Tulane University, June 2017).
quintiles, regional areas — receive what benefit from State services; the impact of projected cuts on poverty rates, consumption and income, among others; and potential adaptive strategies.46 Those tools provide important quantitative analyses to support a human rights impact assessment. They can also provide equally warranted assessments of burden-sharing and fairness in relation to benefits. However, since not all human rights impacts can be measured adequately by quantitative indicators, such as income, unemployment or poverty rates, such quantitative analyses should be complemented by a qualitative analysis based on the normative content of human rights.
49. A human rights impact assessment can very usefully incorporate or be accompanied by a budget analysis. This may include rights-based budget audits. A number of organizations have carried out more systematic analyses of budgets and benefit packages from a human rights point of view. However, most governments do not appear to have developed principles or tools that are specifically focused on the human rights implications of fiscal consolidation measures.
50. A far wider range of organizations have prepared or commissioned one-off reports analysing the impact of financial crises. For example, the former President of the Hellenic Parliament established the Truth Committee on Public Debt to analyse the human rights impact of the Greek debt crisis, and the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament commissioned an extensive comparative analysis of the impact of financial crises on the fundamental rights of individuals in several European Union member States.47 Human rights agencies,48 international organizations49 and United Nations human rights bodies 50 have also carried out such analyses. Their reports significantly enrich the understanding of the types of impacts on human rights and how those impacts are transmitted to the population to support future human rights impact assessments. None, however, was specifically designed as a tool that could be replicated and applied to future situations. Indeed, insofar as standard tools do exist or have been used — such as in the case of the European Commission’s social impact analyses of the third adjustment programme of Greece — they are not based on human rights standards.51
B. Particular challenges in developing and applying a human rights impact assessment to potentially impermissible retrogressive measures
51. What was lacking until the 2007–2008 financial crisis was an analysis of the multiple ways in which fiscal consolidation measures could impact human rights. Policymakers need more detailed guidance that could help to combine that knowledge with analytical approaches that would allow human rights impact assessments to be carried out in a timely and solid manner and improve policy responses to financial crises by ensuring that they prevent, minimize and mitigate adverse human rights impacts. Combining rigour and comprehensiveness with usability will be a particular challenge in developing a human rights impact assessment approach.
52. Ensuring participation is essential for human rights impact assessments. A key challenge is how to identify, reach and understand the depth and breadth of impacts on
46. See http://wbi.worldbank.org/boost/tools-resources/topics/sector-analysis/benefit-incidence-analysis.
47. See Aleksandra Ivanoković Tamamović, “The impact of the crisis on fundamental rights across member States of the EU: comparative analysis”, European Parliament Think Tank (2015), available at www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=IPOL_STU(2015)510021.
48. Notably, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights has published numerous reports on different fundamental rights dimensions of the crisis. See, for example, “The European Union as a Community of values: safeguarding fundamental rights in times of crisis” (2013), available at http://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2013/european-union-community-values-safeguarding- fundamental-rights-times-crisis.
49. Council of Europe, “Safeguarding human rights in times of economic crisis,” Issue paper, Commissioner for Human Rights (2013).
50. See, for example, A/HRC/34/57/Add.1; and A/HRC/31/60/Add.2.
51. See, for example, European Commission “Assessment of the social impact of the new Stability Support Programme for Greece” (SWD(2015)162/F1) (2015).
different groups at risk of marginalization or vulnerability, such as women, children, the elderly, persons with disability, national, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities or other groups that may be at risk in a given national context, such as indigenous peoples, refugees or internally displaced persons.52
53. Reliable and disaggregated data are needed to strengthen modelling or at least inform a more detailed analysis. The momentum to widen and strengthen the collection and analysis of relevant and timely data that can be disaggregated to ascertain progress in the reduction in inequality among societal groups has grown in the context of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. While the indicators of the Goals may not necessarily be rights based and the resulting data may not provide a comprehensive overview of all aspects of human rights, such data-collection processes could serve as a useful information resource to those working in a human rights impact assessment context.
54. Once the analysis of potential impacts is done, a core part of a human rights impact assessment is designing prevention, mitigation and compensation measures to counteract adverse impacts. This is done by selecting alternative measures, modifying proposed measures through compensating for impacts (e.g., providing cash payments to the poorest to compensate for the removal of fuel subsidies). The experience of the application of regulatory impact analyses by the OECD indicated the risk for overall outcomes of relying on mitigation measures that must be adopted by another part of government that does not have a mandate to compel the adoption of such measures. Offsetting negative impacts through separate policy actions is likely to give rise to political difficulties in many cases, as there may be limited confidence that the promised “policy offsets” will actually be delivered by other parts of government.53 That points to the need to carry out a human rights impact assessment on fiscal consolidation and/or economic reform packages at the national level that would involve a whole-of-government approach.
55. Deciding whether to integrate a human rights impact assessment into a broader government review, such as a regulatory impact assessment, or carry out a stand-alone assessment is an important question that should draw on experiences from other areas. A recent regulatory impact analysis review conducted for OECD considered the integration of a specific focus — such as environmental or social issues — into a broader regulatory impact analysis versus conducting a stand-alone impact assessment. The review of literature found that, in sum, the majority of authors remarked on the relatively poor performance of both impact assessment options — that is, the integrated regulatory impact analysis, on the one hand, and separate environmental, social or regulatory impact analyses, on the other — in ensuring that identified social and environmental impacts were taken into account in determining policy outcomes. The literature on impact assessment has generally advocated integration as a means of making policymaking more effective.54
56. Finally, it is important to acknowledge that any tool needs to be adaptable to potentially different levels of data availability and overall capacity to carry out a human rights impact assessment, so that the tool can be used in a wider range of circumstances.
VII. Designing a human rights impact assessment to assess potentially impermissible retrogressive measures
57. This section sets out key points that need to be addressed and considered in designing a human rights impact assessment. The guiding principles for assessing the human rights impact of economic reform policies would be a set of substantive human rights principles and procedural guidance on how to conduct a human rights impact assessment of potentially impermissible retrogressive measures.
52. See, for example, A/HRC/28/59/Add.1.
53. See Rex Deighton-Smith and others, “Promoting inclusive growth through better regulation: The role of regulatory impact assessment”, OECD Regulatory Policy Working Papers, No. 3 (2016), p. 45.
58. Legal basis of the guiding principles: The guiding principles will be based on the normative guidance as set out in human rights treaties and standards and their authoritative interpretation by the treaty bodies and other human rights mechanisms. Given the significant amount of analyses of the recent financial crisis (and subsequent responses) there is an emerging set of principles developed by authoritative bodies that could be used as the basis for assessing the human rights compliance of policy choices and proposed measures.
59. Scope: A key issue to consider is what should trigger the application of the guiding principles. The normative human rights framework indicates that a human rights impact assessment should apply to economic reforms that may result in impermissible retrogression of economic, social and cultural rights. As noted above, economic reforms are not per se problematic under human rights law. Human rights law sets out standards to evaluate whether the processes and substance of economic reform measures are aligned with human rights.
60. Particularly where States implement a combination of measures, the human rights impact assessment should review the potential cumulative impact of those measures, given that it is their accumulation that often results in the most severe impacts. The accompanying human rights impact assessment guidance should propose a set of modules applicable to the different areas of reform so as to provide more specific information and criteria.
61. Timing: The guiding principles will focus on ex ante human rights impact assessments, which should be started as early as possible in the policymaking process if they are to be able to influence the analysis and choice of alternative policy options while also highlighting the importance of regular, ex post reviews.
62. Addressing different situations: The guiding principles will need to provide guidance on how the principles can be applied to the different and particular situations in which potentially retrogressive economic reforms may unfold, for example: (a) acute crisis situations in response to severe economic shocks, where the risk of adverse human rights impacts is heightened and in which the economic and financial crisis requires an urgent response. In such cases, a human rights impact assessment conducted within a short time frame and addressing only the most significant impacts may be all that can be accomplished; (b) medium-term reforms — as is currently experienced where austerity measures stretch into multi-year processes; and (c) accompanying the systematic review of budgets and their distributional assessments, such as those carried out by the Government of the United Kingdom or the annual review of the economic policies of all the European Union member States in the context of the European Semester.
63. In times of acute crisis and rapid policy responses, conducting a sufficiently rigorous analysis requires a dose of realism and some balancing. Depending on the sophistication of the process and the analytical tools chosen, a human rights impact assessment, together with its participatory processes, may take some time to conduct. The guiding principles and accompanying human rights impact assessment methodology would suggest ways in which the assessment could be adjusted to meet tighter time schedules in order to respond in the most acute circumstances. Even where consultation cannot be carried out, governments can nonetheless apply human rights principles to guide basic choices that can be benchmarked against longer-term planning that is supported by participatory processes, such as hearings and committee work on national and sectoral development plans, and annual budget allocations. Where governments have regulatory or social impact assessments in place as part of the planning processes that are used to address fiscal and economic policy reforms, adapting them to address human rights may be an effective short-term approach to ensuring that human rights considerations are taken into account.
64. As governments move into medium-term planning to respond, a human rights impact assessment can be used to both look back and evaluate the short-term measures already taken and propose adjustments and provide evidence for medium- to longer-term planning going forward.
65. For longer-term reforms and more regular reforms, a human rights impact assessment can help governments to focus on building resilience so as to better address the next crisis.
66. What should be covered: The human rights impact assessment should include: (a) review of all the policy options for tackling a crisis, including countercyclical measures; (b) analysis of how policy changes and proposed budget cuts and other adjustment measures are likely to affect the population, in particular the most vulnerable groups — using a variety of quantitative and qualitative tools; (c) analysis of the extent to which budget, policy, legislative and other changes may contribute to fulfilling the State’s human rights obligations or potentially undermine them; and (d) a (non-exhaustive) list of preventive or mitigating measures to take to respond to the analysis that are in line with the government’s human rights obligations.
67. Who should conduct the human rights impact assessment: Who carries out the process will have important implications for the uptake of the results, the expertise brought to bear, potential conflicts of interest, the depth of the consultations carried out, the degree to which recommendations are challenged and justified, or whether the process simply becomes a validation of decisions already taken.55 There is no one optimal solution for conducting human rights impact assessments. Whether it is the government ministry or ministries responsible for the reform, international financial institutions, bodies with human rights expertise, such as a national human rights institution or a civil society organization, all have trade-offs. The guiding principles would build on the criteria developed in the Guiding principles for human rights impact assessments of trade and investment agreements,56 which set out specific criteria for the conduct of human rights impact assessments, such as the independence of the body carrying out the assessment; appropriate expertise and funding; and the status accorded to the assessment so that the results are actually considered in the final decision-making processes.57
68. How data and information should be collected: The norms that underpin human rights duties must be translated into more concrete, objective and measurable criteria for assessing how policy choices impact rights fulfilment.58 The norms must then be further “translated” into tests that can guide a meaningful analysis. A human rights impact assessment to assess economic reform measures will often be complex as it involves both quantitative and qualitative analyses to understand the implications of particular budget cuts and changes in taxation and social security entitlements. On the quantitative analysis side, there are well-developed approaches to modelling distributional impacts using income quintiles. In order to ensure compliance with the human rights requirement of non- discrimination and that due attention is paid to the situation of groups at risk of marginalization or vulnerability, it is essential that those indicators provide information disaggregated by gender, disability, age group, region, ethnicity and any other grounds considered relevant, based on a contextual, country-level appreciation of groups at risk.
69. How the human rights impact assessment should be carried out: The guiding principles for assessing human rights impacts should provide procedural guidance on how to undertake such assessment. The methodology should draw from the experience of impact assessment processes already in place. In general, it would include screening, scoping, evidence-gathering, including data collection, analysing impacts, conclusions and recommendations, including consideration of less harmful options, prevention, mitigation and management.
70. The design and implementation of the procedure should be based on the principles of transparency and inclusive participation. More specifically, active participation in addressing fiscal consolidation measures requires, as a start, access to information. Governments conducting a human rights impact assessment may have better access to information, but they must, to the greatest extent possible, make information available to the stakeholders in the human rights impact assessment process.59
55 See Center for Economic and Social Rights, “Assessing austerity”.
56 See A/HRC/19/59/Add.5, appendix.
57 The criteria also include transparency and inclusive participation, which will be addressed below.
58 See Center for Economic and Social Rights, “Assessing austerity”.
59 The Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia has developed a set of human rights indicators that enable the State and civil society to have official, updated and disaggregated statistical information, which allows more precise monitoring of the human rights situation and the impact of public policies on the population. See the submission at http://sice.ine.gob.bo/HR2016/UN/index.php?r=site/index.
71. A human rights impact assessment should ensure meaningful participation of all stakeholders, including relevant government departments, business and trade union representatives and, in particular, affected population groups and their representatives, such as women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, minorities and other groups at risk of marginalization in the national context, such as indigenous peoples. Active participation in addressing fiscal consolidation measures also requires the appropriate time frame for both authorities and those affected and their representatives to be able to prepare and evaluate policy alternatives. Given the technical complexities of fiscal consolidation measures, a certain level of expertise is needed for engaging in the actual evaluation. That is where the role of civil society organizations, think tanks and academics is particularly valuable as they can provide expert evaluation. They can play an important role in engaging with affected groups to ensure that their experiences and concerns are incorporated in the analysis and in “translating” the findings of the impact analysis to a wider audience.