We keep hearing the same narrative – human rights are at a crossroads; the human rights system is facing its greatest existential crisis since it was established; is a human rights approach really the answer to unprecedented global challenges such as extreme poverty and growing inequality, the climate crisis, rising intolerance and governments with an openly anti-human rights agenda? Whilst a long view of history might suggest that some of these statements are overblown, – was human rights protection and enjoyment really any better in the 50s, 60s and 70s? – those of us working in the human rights field must accept that it is not business as usual.
One of the common talking points around economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights both inside and outside Amnesty International is that the work on these rights has the potential to tackle the root causes of some of the biggest current challenges. By demanding that governments focus their efforts and resources to fulfil their obligation to ensure minimum essential levels of each of the ESC rights for all, we can also shift attitudes with respect to rights more broadly.
Surely it makes sense that those rights that everybody is concerned about at multiple points in their life – health; housing; work; education – will resonate more? This could result in Amnesty being able to reach out to larger groups of people both in the global north and south. However, where can Amnesty make the most valuable contribution to advancing such rights? Despite some continuing to mischaracterise our ESCR work as a radical new departure from our core mandate we have a solid track record of over 15 years of work in [More]