Briefing Document


I.                     The Goals of the International Strategy Meeting and General Assembly  

II.                    Components of the Meeting

III.                  Current ESCR-Net Working Groups and Initiatives

IV.                 Overview of Organizing Structures of the Meeting

V.                   Criteria to select Participants and allocate available funds

VI.                 Available funding

VII.                Languages of the Meeting

VIII.              Partner organizations

IX.                 Application Procedure



I.                     The Goals of the International Strategy Meeting and General Assembly 

ESCR-Net, in partnership with the Kenyan ESCR Coalition, will hold a four-day International Strategy Meeting of its Working Groups, Members and active participants on December 1st to 4th, 2008 in Nairobi, Kenya. This landmark gathering intends to bring together approximately 200 key human rights, social justice and grassroots’ activists from around the world.

Building on the collective achievements of ESCR-Net and its Members since its Inaugural Conference in Thailand in 2003, as well as the strong trajectory and experience of local Kenyan organizations over the past decade, this meeting is envisioned as a significant occasion to create new, substantial and more systematic pathways for greater global action for social and economic justice through human rights. Participants in ESCR-Net’s Working Groups and Initiatives will benefit significantly from meeting together—in one location with interpretation and preparation—to network, strategize and advance their collective agendas as well as to explore the intersections of their work.

Moreover, this meeting will be an unparalleled opportunity to support and learn from ongoing mobilizing efforts of local organizations and communities affected by economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) violations in Kenya and the African region and will allow for the advancement of collective actions and tools in response to the conditions of poverty, inequality and human rights abuses in Africa today.

The gathering is also foreseen as a crucial step forward in strengthening ESCR-Net’s institutional capacity to influence decision-making processes regarding state and non-state accountability for the implementation of socio-economic rights. At the meeting, Members will set ESCR-Net’s priorities for the coming three years, elect a new Board, and establish consistent procedures and criteria to launch campaigns and solidarity actions, among other institutional decisions.

II.                    Components of the Meeting



·          Working Groups/Initiatives Meetings: These will provide the space for substantive, working meetings of different ESCR-Net Working Groups/Initiatives to convene and advance their ongoing project and advocacy work. Reflecting their current activities and plan of operations, these sessions will be organized by Member groups together with the Secretariat. In general terms, each of these groups will hold discussions and exchanges to both advance their existing agendas and define them for the years ahead. We expect these meetings will represent the most significant component of the overall International Strategy Meeting. Please refer to Section III in this paper for detailed information on current ESCR-Net Working Groups and Initiatives.

       The Secretariat will begin shortly the process of consultation with each WG/Initiative to define the agenda of their meetings.


·          Meetings on Other Potential Areas of Collective Work: We hope that other new areas of collective work will be developed or previous work reactivated at the International Strategy Meeting, which would respond to identified gaps and emerging challenges in the field or work done in the past within ESCR-Net. Some Members or active participants have shown interest in initiating collective work, or have developed efforts to initiate collective work around different areas. There is significant interest and momentum in a number of other potential areas of collective work, and we hope to engender more ideas in the months prior to Kenya. A number of proposals have emerged, such as the Right to Health, Environment and Human Rights and Migrants’ Rights and ESCR. Others have proposed building on earlier ESCR-Net efforts to strengthen its work on Women and ESCR and/or Export Credit Agencies and Human Rights.

       The Secretariat will begin shortly the process of consultation with Members and active participants to define these other potential areas of work. Each of these sessions will be jointly organized by Member organizations and participants from different regions.


·          Interactive Sessions (Informative Gatherings, Trainings, Workshops): We envision that our Working Groups/Initiatives will conduct informative sessions, trainings and workshops for the participants of the Meeting in order to share the work they have been doing and knowledge they have gained as well as engage others in their ongoing projects. These sessions will also provide the space to explore and further develop the potential for cross-pollination between the distinct thematic Working Groups/Initiatives to learn from each other’s experience and knowledge, exchange strategies and skills, and identify opportunities for mutual support and joint actions.


·          Open Spaces:  These spaces will allow participants to organize informal gatherings to present their work or debate other issues of interest that have not been included in the other sessions. It might also provide the space to advance governance discussions leading to the General Assembly meeting and debate the possibility of undertaking a global initiative (See below, General Assembly, bullet point iii).


·          General Assembly: The next essential component of our time in Kenya is the General Assembly, which will allow Members to discuss and decide a number of governance issues critical to strengthening the Network’s institutional capacity. The ESCR-Net Secretariat will be consulting with its Members and participants beforehand to facilitate the decision-making process at the General Assembly Meeting. While we plan to hold consultations with Members in the coming months to include other issues in advance to Kenya, the main items on the agenda that have been identified up to now for the ESCR-Net General Assembly are:


i)         Election of the new Board: The current ESCR-Net Board was elected by participants at the Thailand Conference in 2003, and needs to be renovated


ii)       Define process to organize Solidarity Actions, launch campaigns and hold common institutional positions: Up to now, ESCR-Net has functioned with the assumption that it does not have a mandate to speak on behalf of its Members or adopt positions on specific topics, especially those that might be considered controversial.  This responded to the mandate that derived from the Thailand Conference. The lack of a mandate to take a unified voice on behalf of its Members has limited ESCR-Net’s ability to respond to Members who periodically request the Network to undertake ad hoc solidarity actions on their behalf. Campaign activity has also been challenging for this reason. As the Network matures, the potential benefits for ESCR-Net, and for its Members, to be able to adopt common positions on specific topics or undertake solidarity actions are apparent.


iii)      Launching a Global Initiative: During the formation of ESCR-Net and over the last few years, discussions have been held regarding the need for ESCR-Net to better respond to key challenges in the field of ESCR by acting as a unified body and/or by acting as an authoritative source of support and knowledge for groups that work in the field. Different examples of this include: undertaking an international campaign; developing tools and building methodologies for monitoring and documentation of violations of ESCR; intervening in landmark international policy discussions related to trade, finance, investment, etc. The Strategy Meeting will provide the space for Members and participants to discuss this possibility.


·          Local Events & On-Site Visits:  Based on the input and ideas generated by the Kenyan ESCR Coalition, it is envisioned that a series of local events or actions will be interwoven into the gathering to provide an opportunity to learn about and to support the work that local organizations are undertaking in the field of ESCR. 


·          Solidarity Visits – Social Movements: Prior to the 2003 Thailand Conference, a number of social movements convened a 2-day process of exchange, co-organized by ESCR-Net and Assembly of the Poor. In this enriching experience, representatives of social movements from around the world visited 3 different areas of Thailand, visiting people affected by a gas pipeline and by the construction of a major dam. Throughout, these groups shared experiences and strategies of their own, and strengthened their bonds with others. Social Movements involved with ESCR-Net have proposed to replicate these Solidarity Visits.  We envision that our Kenyan partners will host the second series of Social Movement Solidarity Visits.

III.            Current ESCR-Net Working Groups and Initiatives

ESCR-Net is the largest global initiative promoting collaborative action among organizations and activists from around the world working to secure economic and social justice through human rights. ESCR-Net strives to make human rights and a life of dignity a reality for all people through: the development of a collective voice and joint actions among Members; the exchange of information and reciprocal learning; the advancement of new tools and strategies; and the establishment of stronger links across regions, languages and disciplines. ESCR-Net has a core membership of 123 organizations and individual activists that are engaged in its governance, as well as over 2000 participants that exchange information and strategies, and provide mutual support for existing social justice campaigns.


The substantive work of ESCR-Net is carried out through its Working Groups, Initiatives[1] and Discussion Groups, which are comprised of and coordinated by Members based in different countries. They respond to emerging issues or strategic opportunities within the field of ESCR. A brief overview of each of the groups is outlined below: 


·          The Corporate Accountability Working Group advocates for national and international corporate accountability for human rights abuses. Involving support for international human rights standards for business, this advocacy has included the creation of educational materials and events, facilitation of broad-based participation in United Nations consultations, documentation, and lobbying. Additionally, the Working Group seeks to strengthen the voice of communities and grassroots groups challenging abuses of human rights by corporations by documenting and highlighting particular cases in solidarity actions, publications and public forums. Finally, the Working Group seeks to build the capacity of its participants, by connecting groups to one another, providing resources for advocacy, and creating space for the exchange of information through its listserv with approximately 400 participants.


Leading organizations:

Ø       Tricia Feeney, Rights and Accountability in Democracy, United Kingdom

Ø       Carlos Gaio, Independent Lawyer, Brazil

Ø       Danwood Chirwa, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Ø       Joji Cariño, Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines/United Kingdom

Ø       Lillian Manzella, EarthRights, United States/Thailand

Ø       Daniel Taillant, CEDHA, Argentina

Ø       Nadia Johnson, WEDO, United States 

Ø       Maria Silvia Emanuelli, HIC-AL, Mexico


·          The Adjudication of ESCR Initiative promotes the legal enforcement of ESCR nationally and internationally. By increasing the support and involvement of organizations through national-level consultations and the development of educational resources, the initiative has supported the process of creation of a complaint mechanism for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). ESCR-Net works in the Optional Protocol campaign as part of the International NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR. Among other actions, ESCR-Net has built an online Resource Page on the Optional Protocol and co-organized and/or supported meetings to advance this mechanism in Egypt, Nigeria and Mexico. Additionally, this initiative advances the use of legal strategies as effective means for claiming ESCR. 


This Initiative also makes key legal information and documentation available to a legally oriented public across jurisdictions and languages, while also presenting complex legal information in an accessible manner to make judicial action relevant to a wider public. This has been done through the development of a bilingual caselaw database that compiles and analyses paradigmatic ESCR cases. The Caselaw Database can be accessed at Finally, this initiative promotes collaboration and facilitates the exchange of information through discussion groups in Spanish and English that jointly gather close to 600 participants.


Caselaw Database Leading organizations:

Ø       Carolina Fairstein, Centre for Legal and Social Studies, Argentina

Ø       Bret Thiele and Aoife Nolan, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Switzerland 

Ø       Bruce Porter, Social Rights Advocacy Centre, Canada

Ø       Malcolm Langford, Norwegian Centre on Human Rights, University of Oslo, Norway


Optional Protocol Leading Organizations:

ESCR-Net is a Member of the Steering Committee of the NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol. Other Steering Committee Members are:


Ø       Ian Seiderman, Amnesty International, UK

Ø       Claude Cahn, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Geneva

Ø       Sandra Ratjen, FoodFirst Information and Action Network, Germany

Ø       Christian Courtis, International Commission of Jurists, Geneva

Ø       Elin Wrzoncki, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, France

Ø       Janine Moussa, International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia-Pacific, Malaysia

Ø       Ercilio Moura, Inter-American Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development, Colombia

Ø       Bruce Porter, Social Rights Advocacy Centre, Canada

Ø       Magdalena Sepulveda, in her individual capacity, Chile

Ø       Lilian Chenwi, Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape, South Africa


·          The Social Movements Working Group strives for social justice and the empowerment of communities affected by ESCR violations. Building the capacity of social movements and grassroots groups to incorporate human rights into their work and linking them to a wider network of human rights advocates and organizations, the work of the Social Movements Working Group has focused on solidarity visits, mutual learning and the development of a process for solidarity actions. The Social Movement Working Group has also constituted a permanent platform for international cooperation among diverse social organizations who are facing the same challenges and who are otherwise divided by language and geographical barriers. Furthermore, this Working Group looked to increase the voices of its Members and brought attention to their work by facilitating networking opportunities with organizations working at the international level.  


Leading organizations:

Ø       Renji G. Joseph, Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Development of Communities, India

Ø       Suzanne Shende, Comité de Emergencia Garífuna, Honduras

Ø       Legborsi Saro, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Nigeria

Ø       Karn-onsri Prasittiporn, Assembly of the Poor, Thailand

Ø       Kailash Awasya, Narmada Bachao Andolan


·          The Budget Analysis and ESCR Initiative strives for transparency and social justice by building a powerful bridge between public budget analysis work and human rights. ESCR-Net has worked with partner organizations to increase the understanding and capacity of national level organizations to incorporate budget analysis skills to their human rights work by contributing to the development of a yearly training on Budget Analysis and Human Rights.  In addition, ESCR-Net has been part of the creation of educational resources, as well as facilitated joint actions, research, and exchange of information, through a discussion group formed by close to 300 participants. The aim throughout is to conceptually advance the link between budget analysis work and the obligations imposed by economic, social and cultural rights. 


ESCR-Net works in partnership with the following organizations:

Ø       Ann Blyberg, International Human Rights Internship Program, United States

Ø       Helena Hofbauer, Vivek Ramkumar and Shaamela Cassiem, International Budget Project, United States

Ø       Gabriel Lara, Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación, Mexico


·          The Trade, Investment, Finance and Human Rights Initiative advocates for a trade and investment regime in compliance with the international human rights framework. To that end, this initiative, through its listserve comprised of more than 300 participants, has facilitated connections and discussions among human rights and policy-oriented groups to strategically reflect on the intersections between trade and human rights. It has also undertaken a mapping of the work that is being done in this area with the goal of identifying gaps, needs and opportunities for collaborative actions. Currently, within this initiative a pilot project is being implemented that aims at increasing the capacity of human rights advocates to impact on international policy-making processes on trade and finance, by testing an innovative approach to ensure consistency of trade and financial policies with international human rights law.


Leading organizations:

Ø       Aldo Caliari, Center of Concern, United States

Ø       Caroline Dommen, 3D → Trade - Human Rights - Equitable Economy, Switzerland


·          The Thematic Discussion Groups facilitate dialogue between organizations and individuals working in specific fields of ESCR. ESCR-Net participants use the thematic listserves to post information requests, seek support for ongoing campaigns, as well as share strategies and discuss current developments in the field. In addition, several of the thematic listserves also function as the main communication channel for members of the corresponding working group to keep updated and organize working group actions. ESCR-Net currently has seven Discussion Groups in which more than 2000 individuals, organizations and other interested actors participate:


o         Discussion Group on Women and ESCR

o         Discussion Group on Human Rights and the Environment

o         Discussion Group on the Right to Health

o         Discussion Group on Adjudication of ESCR

o         Discussion Group on Corporate Accountability

o         Discussion Group on Trade, Investment and Human Rights

o         Discussion Group on Budget Analysis and ESCR

IV.                 Overview of Organizing Structures of the Meeting

Three representative bodies have been formed to organize and make all decisions regarding this gathering. First, the International Organizing Committee (IOC)[2]—made up of elected representatives from all areas of ESCR-Net’s work, the Board, the Local Organizing Committee and the Secretariat—will decide on the working agenda for the meeting, speakers and participants, as well as assist in outreach in the respective regions and areas of work.


Second, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC), formed by leading ESCR organizations in Kenya, will contribute input to the International Organizing Committee on the conference title, the thematic and regional agenda, suggestions of speakers and participants and will define and organize local activities, local events and on-site visits. The LOC will also mobilize local participation; and organize publicity and visibility efforts in Kenya.


Third, the Logistic and Financial Team (formed by the representatives of the LOC and the Secretariat) will be responsible for all logistics and financial decisions regarding the conference. Finally, the ESCR-Net Secretariat acts as the main coordinating body between the others, and ensures the implementation of all the decisions.

V.                   Criteria to select Participants and allocate available funds

Participation in the International Strategy Meeting and ESCR-Net General Assembly is open primarily to groups and individuals that are Members[3] or active participants of ESCR-Net. Groups and individuals working on ESCR issues and/or using an ESCR approach—from local grassroots organizations to international NGOs—are also welcomed to participate. Decisions on participation will be made by the International Organizing Committee, with the input from the Local Organizing Committee and ESCR-Net’s Working Groups and Initiatives (please refer to Sections III and IV of this document for information on these bodies). Criteria to decide participation as well as funding allocation include:

1.      Priority will be given to those Members or participants of ESCR-Net that have been active in one or more of the Working Groups/Initiatives of the Network, or that have been responsive and engaged with the Network’s actions.

2.      For applicants not previously active within the Network, priority will be given to groups working with ESCR and/or using an ESCR framework or approach, or who have a proven interest in using this approach. Within this group, priority will be given to organizations that have an interest in, and commitment to, continue participating in the Network after the meeting.

3.      Geographic diversity (both within and across regions) will be considered, and a strong representation of participants from the Global South will be ensured.

4.      Strong representation from community-based organizations, grassroots’ groups and social movements will be sought.

5.      Gender balance and age diversity will be considered.

6.      Diversity of thematic areas will be considered.

7.      Subject to space, organizations may send more than one participant but only one of them will be eligible for funding.

8.      Priority will be given to organizations rather than individuals.

9.      Priority for funding will be given to organizations that would not otherwise be able to attend.

10.  Participation is subject to the space constraints of the Meeting venue.

VI.                 Available funding

We hope to ensure far-reaching participation in this meeting, especially amongst grassroots groups and social movements. We anticipate at this time that we will not be able to provide financial support to all interested partners. Thus, we strongly encourage all interested participants to begin exploring funding possibilities through your own organization’s donors and other sources.

In order to share our efforts to provide the space for collective action, participants will be asked to cover, within their possibilities, at least a portion of the cost of their participation. In exceptional circumstances, if the organization or individual is not able to cover a portion of the cost of their participation, the International Organizing Committee will consider the possibility of assisting, based on a statement of financial need.

We also want to encourage organizations with a strong funding base to consider assisting other organizations in need. If you believe you can be of assistance in this way, feel free to contact us shortly to discuss this possibility. By joining our fundraising efforts, we will be able to allow for participation of those who may not otherwise be able to attend, thereby broadening the reach and impact of this global event.

VII.                Languages of the Meeting

As a diverse Network of groups and individuals from more than 50 different countries, ESCR-Net recognizes the value of language diversity and the power of communicating across language barriers. All efforts will be made to provide interpretation during the Meeting, depending on the participants’ language needs and the organizers’ capacity. All information related to the Meeting will be sent in Spanish, English and French, official languages of work for ESCR-Net.

 VIII.              Partner organizations


ESCR-Net was launched at the Inaugural ESCR-Net Conference, Creating New Paths towards Social Justice, held in Thailand in 2003. Close to 300 activists from over 50 countries around the world gathered to discuss collaborative strategies to advance economic, social and cultural rights and to initiate the creation of governance and working structures. Participants elected the first ESCR-Net Board and gave the Network a mandate for its future functioning.  The ESCR-Net Inaugural Conference was an unprecedented event for the ESCR field in terms of its nature, diversity, representation and reach. It generated remarkable impetus that translated into actions to advance collective work and develop new skills and tools to more effectively challenge violations of economic and social rights.


Since its launch, ESCR-Net has developed into a valuable vehicle for collective work among organizations from different regions of the world. ESCR-Net seeks to demand accountability for economic, social and cultural rights violations from state and non-state decision-makers by influencing the international debate and advocating for the use of the human rights framework. To that end, ESCR-Net: facilitates the development of a collective voice to fight against ESC rights’ violations worldwide; organizes advocacy actions and joint projects among Members to redress ESC rights’ violations; strengthens ongoing mobilizing efforts by communities in defending their rights by building a bridge between local struggles and the international fora; provides a channel for sharing information and discussing issues in the field of socio-economic rights among different groups around the world; advances new tools and key resources to effectively address gaps and new and complex challenges for the field, including through workshops and trainings; acts as a repository of vital and updated information and case law for activists working on economic, social and cultural rights worldwide.


Kenyan ESCR Coalition

The Kenyan ESCR Coalition is a grouping of a number of local organizations working on economic and social rights issues. Its main focus now is to partner with ESCR-Net in the organization of the International Strategy Meeting, ideally going on to form the foundation for a sustainable national working coalition on ESCR. At this early stage, its membership is more or less open, but the more consistent members are: Hakijamii (convener), Kenya Human Rights Commission, Kituo Cha Sheria, Basic Rights Campaign, Kenya Land Alliance, Shelter Forum, Citizens Assembly, Institute for Law and Environmental Governance, Beacon, Haki Focus, Mazingira Institute, Kenya Human Rights Institute, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Nairobi Peoples' Settlement Network and the Eastern Africa Coalition on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These organizations have established remarkable track records in human rights research and advocacy.

IX.              Application Procedure

The application process is now closed.




[1] Working Groups are comprised of and coordinated by Members based in different countries. They respond to emerging issues or strategic opportunities within the field of ESCR. Initiatives are those areas of work that have not been formalized through a Working Group. 

[2] As representative of the Local Organizing Committee: Odindo Opiata (Hakijamii, Kenya); as representative of the African region:  Felix Morka (Social and Economic Rights Action Center, Nigeria and ESCR-Net Board Member); as representatives of ESCR-Net Board: Shanthi Dairiam (Founding member of IWRAW Asia Pacific and member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Malaysia) and Manal-El Tibe (Egyptian Center on Housing Rights and Evictions, Egypt); as representatives of ESCR-Net’s areas of work:  Ann Blyberg (International Human Rights Internship Project (IHRIP), USA) for Budget Analysis and ESCR;  Tricia Feeney (RAID, UK) for Corporate Accountability; Renji G. Joseph (Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Development of Communities, India), Legborsi Saro Pyagbara (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Nigeria) and Suzanne Shende (Comité de Emergencia Garífuna de Honduras) for Social Movements; Bruce Porter (Social Rights Advocacy Center, Canada) for Adjudication of ESCR; as representatives of potential new areas of collective work/other ad-hoc considerations:  Leandro Franklin Gorsdorf (Terra de Direitos, Brazil) - Right to land, housing, environment/Ample trajectory in working in collaboration with social movements in Brazil;  Areli Sandoval (Equipo Pueblo, Mexico) for Trade, Finance, Investment and ESCR; as representative of ESCR-Net Secretariat: Suad Elías and Julieta Rossi (ESCR-Net, USA).  

[3] Being a member of a Discussion Group or a Working Group is different from formal Membership in ESCR-Net.  In addition, if you filled out a questionnaire during the initial stages of formation of the Network and/or participated in the Inaugural Conference in Thailand in 2003, it does not mean you automatically became a Member of the Network. The ESCR-Net Governance Document, adopted on December 1, 2004, opened the possibility of formal membership in ESCR-Net. ESCR-Net Members are those who have formally submitted applications and been approved according to this document. To view the profiles of ESCR-Net Members, as well as the current list, please view the Our Members section of our website: