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Bridging Trade, Investment, Finance and Human Rights: A Pilot Project in the Agricultural Sector

The Center of Concern and ESCR-Net are spearheading a pilot project on trade, finance, investment and human rights. The goal of the project is to increase the impact of human rights advocates on policy-making processes on trade, investment and finance, with a particular focus on the agriculture sector. The project is doing this by building the capacity of human rights advocates to effectively influence economic policy-making on trade, investment, and finance, strategically use their resources to influence this policy-making, and strengthen their collaboration with diverse groups worldwide already working on trade, investment and financial policy issues. One important virtue of this approach is that it will address trade, investment and finance policies in a holistic way, providing the basis for an integrated paradigm to assess the human rights obligations of financial, investment and trade organizations as well as governments. Another virtue is that, while the sector chosen for the pilot experience is agriculture, the project is amenable to replication in other sectors of the economy (manufacturing, services, etc.), thus opening the space for a transformative impact of the human rights community in each of these sectors. Representatives from the following human rights and trade organizations are participating, including Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales-CELS, Argentina, DECA Equipo Pueblo, Mexico, Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios Legales Alternativos-ILSA, Colombia, Terra de Direitos, Brazil, Land Center for Human Rights, Egypt, Kenya Human Rights Commission, Kenya, Women in Law in Southern Africa, Zambia, Southeast Asian Council for Food Security and Fair Trade-SEACON, Malaysia, Forum Asia-Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Thailand, International Gender Trade Network, Philippines, and Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute-SEATINI, Uganda.

After several preparatory conference calls, the group held its first workshop in Bangkok, Thailand from January 26-30, 2009. During the workshop, groups discussed the conceptual framework of a human rights approach to trade, investment and finance, a number of targets for advocacy on economic policy and challenges for human rights advocates, and then opened the floor for a mutual learning forum in which a number of cases from Indonesia, Ecuador, Egypt and Argentina were discussed by participants which use a human rights approach to trade, investment and finance issues. The remainder of the workshop was then devoted to a discussion of technical trainings on economic policy, and the creation of model training materials on economic policy affecting human rights in the agricultural sector. Our second workshop will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from July 22-26, hosted by SEACON. The aim of this workshop will be to further develop these training materials as well as develop a set of guidelines for evaluating governments' economic policies as they affect human rights in the agricultural sector.

Advocacy on a Human Rights Response to the Financial Crisis and Economic Recession

In response to a request by ESCR-Net members at our General Assembly in Nairobi and thereafter, the ESCR-Net Secretariat elaborated a Collective Statement on the Financial Crisis and Global Economic Recession in close coordination with interested members, participants and partners.  In this statement, widely translated and distributed, we call for a response to the financial crisis and economic recession that places human rights norms at the center of the agenda, in which people and the environment, not banks or business, are fundamental in economic policy-making.  This statement was elaborated to contribute to the proceedings at the UN Summit Conference on the Economic and Financial Crisis from 24-26 June.

To further build awareness and organizational linkages around the economic crisis, ESCR-Net also co-organized two events. People's Voices on the Crisis was co-organized with Social Watch and many others on the eve of the UN Summit on the Economic Crisis, to bring together people from the South and the North to transcend much of the current discourse regarding the crisis which presents this financial collapse as a result of imperfect information circulating in the market, presenting it instead as a failure of the economic model itself. We also organized the event, A Human Rights Response to the Economic Crisis in the US, on June 25, 2009. Co-sponsored by Marymount Manhattan College (MMC), Political Economy Research Institute (PERI), US Human Rights Network,Women of Color Policy Network (WOCPN), National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), and the Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University, we  looked at the impact of the economic crisis on the economic and social rights of people in the United States, illustrated how a human rights framework is needed to analyze why the manufactured crisis was generated, and provided human rights-centered economic policy alternatives looking forward. Audio and video of both events will soon be available on our website.

ESCR-Net further advocated for a human rights approach to the economic crisis by participating in various civil society fora as well as in 10 Days of Action: Countdown to Commitments, a collaborative effort by organizations and networks advocating for a more just, equitable and sustainable global economy.

Get involved!
For more information about our work or to get involved in these advocacy efforts on the financial and economic crisis, write to Niko Lusiani at

Extra-territorial Obligations (ETO) Consortium Work

ESCR-Net has formed part of the ETO Consortium since its inception, a network of some 30 NGOs, university institutes and individuals from different parts of the world who are preparing a "document of principles" on extraterritorial state obligations for economic, social and cultural rights. The work of the Consortium is based on cases from a wide range of fields relevant to extraterritorial obligations. Each case is developed by mixed teams of NGOs and academic experts. From the lessons learned in each case, along with the experience of movements and NGOs championing them, we plan to derived and cast into an international document the necessary conceptual and legal principles of ETOs. The 2nd conference of the ETO Consortium in Heidelberg, Germany in September, 2007, and the third will occur in Lancaster, England in September, 2009.

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