February 5, 2010: Participate in this Questionnaire on Government Responses to the Crisis - 2010


 Is your government respecting its human rights obligations in confronting the economic crisis? 

Participate in this Questionnaire on Government Responses to the Crisis

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Greetings friends,

It has been more than two years now since the start of the largest financial meltdown and global economic recession in over fifty years. And yet, how have our governments responded to this crisis in such a way as to uphold peoples' fundamental dignity and human rights?

ESCR-Net-together with the Center for Economic and Social Rights, the Center of Concern and the Center for Women's Global Leadership-would like to encourage you now to participate in this Questionnaire on your government's response to the economic crisis. Your answers will help us understand how governments' actions worldwide have lived up to, or let down, their human rights obligations, and to help determine what policy responses are needed at the national and global levels to confront this enduring crisis and prevent another collapse.

Your answers will be compiled into a collective report which will analyze government responses to the crisis from a human rights perspective, serving as the foundation upon which to provide views and recommendations during a high-level panel discussion during the 13th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2010. This panel will discuss and evaluate the impact of the financial and economic crisis to the realization of all human rights worldwide. It will also provide an important space to pressure governments and international agencies to develop, strengthen and implement economic policies which make human rights real in the global economy. Your responses and this process will at the same time provide important building blocks to thinking through a collective strategy for advocating for a human rights response to the global economic crisis.


In June 2009, ESCR-Net and several members elaborated the Collective Statement on the Financial Crisis and Global Economic Recession: Towards a Human Rights Response. In it, almost 300 organizations and individuals call for a response to the financial crisis and economic recession that places human rights norms at the center, in which people and the environment, not banks or business, are at the foundation of economic policy-making.

Now it is time to deepen our understanding of how governments have conducted themselves since then. As governments and international institutions begin to grow complacent, arguing that the worst of the crisis is over, we aim to bring civil society voices into the debate which can attest to a different reality-a reality of deepening unemployment and underemployment, further disenfranchisement of the most vulnerable, the breakdown of social safety nets and protection systems and the associated increase in unpaid work done mostly by women, increasing hunger and shrunken policy space for governments to act to avoid ruin. Your participation in this process is critical. Economic policy is public policy - your voice must be heard!

Is your government respecting its human rights duties in confronting the economic crisis?

Questionnaire with key issues when evaluating whether government responses to the global economic and financial crisis have been consistent with their human rights obligations


This questionnaire presents 8 broad questions for your response which are relevant to analyzing how well your government has based its policy responses to the economic crisis upon human rights principles and obligations. In order to explore some of the specific issues we'd particularly welcome feedback on, each of these 8 broad questions include several detailed questions below them. The questions are plentiful so as to generate reflection and input from a broad community of social justice activists, but don't feel overwhelmed. We encourage you to collaborate wherever possible with other organizations to complement your expertise on issues. But equally, you do not need to answer all the detailed questions in your response, just those you feel comfortable within each section. If you make reference in your response to any published or unpublished materials, please provide citations to it. Also, we would be eager to receive recommendations on any useful national-level analysis produced in your country on the human rights implications of responses to the economic crisis and in the areas covered in this questionnaire.

Please send your responses or any questions to Niko Lusiani at nlusiani@escr-net.org. For more information, visit www.escr-net.org. The deadline to receive your answers is Friday, February 5, 2010.


I.   Your Government's Priorities 


What have been the priorities of your government in responding to this crisis?  Which social groups or economic sectors have been prioritized?

II.  Social Protection Programs

Is your government ensuring its minimum core obligations to ensure that everyone has the basic minimum to live with human dignity, even during this crisis?

Has your government expanded or cut social protection or other social safety net programs geared to realize economic and social rights, especially of those most disadvantaged or discriminated against, such as women, people of color, indigenous peoples, older persons, or disabled persons? Have your government set in place a mechanism to account for the unpaid work, done mostly by women, to make up for any shortfalls in social spending?

If programs were cut, how has your government justified such measures according to its obligations to not regress in the fulfillment of economic and social rights? What role have international or donor agencies played in this regard, through fiscal austerity conditionalities for example? HaveIf your government instituted new social protection or other programs, or expanded existing ones, have they come at the expense of other programs to ensure human rights?

Were principles of public participation, transparency, non-discrimination and accountability respected in the design, implementation and monitoring of policies related to social protection programs? Is your government ensuring anti-corruption and other types of measures to guarantee that the programs are reaching all the intended beneficiaries?

III.   Economic Stimulus Packages

Have economic stimulus packages been adopted in order to promote an adequate standard of living for all? Or, in contrast, has your government engaged in more fiscally austere and pro-cyclical policies, such as cutting spending on social services?

What sorts of economic stimulus interventions has your government made? For instance, has your government instituted or expanded cash transfers to the poor, investments in infrastructure, increases of the minimum wage, or tax cuts? If tax cuts made up part of the stimulus, what percentage of the total intervention was it?

Which social actors and which economic sectors have benefitted most by these stimulus packages, if any?  Which social groups or economic sectors have suffered? What have been the gendered impacts of the economic stimulus, for example of investing in certain sectors of the economy? Were any measures taken which directly address the needs of the newly unemployed, or provide support for single heads of households and caregivers? In which ways have these packages in your estimate strengthened, or weakened, the enjoyment of socio-economic rights in your country?

Is your government monitoring the impacts-positive and negative-of the economic stimulus on different groups, including the most disadvantaged? Is your government ensuring anti-corruption and other types of measures in the programs to guarantee that they are reaching all the intended beneficiaries? Were principles of public participation, transparency, non-discrimination and accountability respected in the design, implementation and monitoring of these programs?

IV.   Financial Measures

What sorts of financial measures have been adopted to respond to the crisis and what have been their effects?

Has your government for instance instituted bank bailouts, rescues of companies/economic sectors, or capital controls? What level of resources has your government devoted to such emergency financial measures? Where did the resources to carry them out come from, and how have these policies affected your government's ability to tend to its obligations to social and economic rights, such as housing, education, healthcare, food, water, or standard of living?

Has there been transparency and democratic debate about how much these measures cost, and who is bearing the cost (e.g. ordinary taxpayers?)  What have the impacts of these financial measures been across different social groups?  Were the principles of non-discrimination and substantive equality respected in their design and implementation? Do mechanisms of accountability exist for the financial sector in general?

Does your government's central bank consider the level of employment and an adequate standard of living when deciding its policy, or is it driven only by the level of inflation and by ensuring price stability? Is the decision-making process of your central bank transparent, and open to public scrutiny? Does the central bank measure-and hold itself accountable-for the results of its interventions on employment, and on different social groups? How is your central bank held accountable to its mandate?

V.   Responsibility and Accountability for the Crisis

Has your government adequately discharged its obligation to protect against human rights abuses potentially caused by private parties, such as banks or business?

Who bears most responsibility for causing the crisis in your estimate?  How much of the negative human rights effects of the crisis are attributable to the behavior of banks-including foreign banks operating in the country? How much in your estimate is due to poor or biased regulation? What changes in the regulatory structure in your country were made that allowed this crisis to happen? Who are responsible for these changes being made? Were these changes imposed by international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund?

How have these regulatory changes been corrected, and in whose interest? Can you specify aspects or ways in which the regulatory regime for banks -or your government's approach to banking in general-could be changed in order to prevent similar outcomes in the future? Has your government, for example, developed reforms in the financial sector to increase the amount of credit available to power the productive economy, or to otherwise redirect banking to support social objectives? To what extent are such measures being considered by the government?

Can you point to human rights effects of the crisis in your country, which are attributable to other financial actors such as hedge funds, private equity funds, or credit rating agencies? Has financial speculation for its part led to negative effects which have exacerbated the financial crisis, or resulted in higher prices (higher commodity prices, for example, leading to higher food prices)? If so, are corrective measures (e.g. stronger regulation) being considered?

In general, have those persons and institutions responsible for the crisis been held to account?

VI.    Tax Policy Reform during the Crisis

Has your government conducted tax reforms during the crisis which accord with human rights principles of transparency, participation, and non-discrimination?

What sort of tax policy reforms has your government conducted, or planning to conduct, in response to the crisis? If there has been reform, has the tax policy become more regressive, or more progressive (that is, where does the burden fall most - on the poor, or on the rich)? If there have been tax cuts, who have benefited most? How has your government justified any reduction in revenue which these tax cuts may produce? Were principles of public participation, transparency, non-discrimination and accountability respected in the design, implementation and monitoring of these tax reforms? Has your government proposed alternative international tax policies, such as a financial transactions tax, or an end to tax havens and illicit flows of capital

VII.     International Dimensions of the Crisis in your Country

Are there international actors or factors that are exacerbating the impacts of the crisis in your country?

Has your country been very affected by lower global demand for your exports? To what extent are negative effects of the crisis in your country related to an economic model of export-led growth? How has your government intervened to mitigate these effects, through for example currency or trade policies? Has there been a major decline in remittances from overseas workers, and if so, what human rights impacts are apparent? Has your government faced difficulties in borrowing internationally to finance increased spending needs during the crisis - and if so, has this been a major factor exacerbating the negative effects of the crisis? Have donors cut back in their assistance to your government - and if so, to what extent are effects of the crisis on your country related to aid dependence? Has your government cut back on its aid commitments as a result of the crisis?

To what extent, and how, is your government considering human rights obligations in reshaping its approach to these different policy areas-exports, remittances, debt, and aid?  Are there limits imposed on your government's ability to respond in these areas by international actors or international pressures?  Are foreign actors meeting their human rights responsibilities in your country?  

VIII.     Your Recommendations

What concrete recommendations would you make to your government on the one hand, and regional or international agencies on the other, to effectively ensure that their economic policies are in compliance with human rights law and norms, in particular with economic and social rights, including during times of crisis?

Working Group Description: 

It has been more than two years now since the start of the largest financial meltdown and global economic recession in over fifty years. And yet, how have our governments responded to this crisis in such a way as to uphold peoples' fundamental dignity and human rights? Participate in this Questionnaire on Government Responses to the Crisis. Economic policy is public policy - your voice must be heard!