Advancing collective action toward new Network-wide objectives

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, August 8, 2017

At the ESCR-Net Global Strategy Meeting in November 2016, over 140 representatives of Member organizations – working across four languages – defined shared objectives to collectively confront unjust systems and promote transformative alternatives to advance ESCR over the next five years. Since that time, several steps have been taken by working groups and across the network to begin to realize this vision.

The objectives meant to coordinate and shape collective Network-wide action over the next five years, are:

  1. Advocate shared alternatives to the dominant socio-economic model, grounded in an inclusive vision for realizing human rights and environmental justice;
  2. Center ESCR in public debates, decision-making, structures and practices, intensifying cross-network strategies for investigation, popularization, strategic action and campaigning, attentive to the roles of States, corporations and other actors;
  3. Secure justice for systemic ESCR violations, pursuing effective accountability, regulation, remedies and implementation through participatory approaches;
  4. Counter growing repression, reinforcing the credibility and capacity of human rights defenders and connecting reprisals to underlying ESCR issues;
  5. Strengthen connections between diverse struggles, challenging common global conditions and foregrounding the analysis and leadership of social movements; and
  6. Operationalize an intersectional approach in practice, foregrounding gender analysis and guided by communities confronting overlapping forms of oppression, exploitation and dispossession.

In defining these objectives, Members specifically acknowledged the need to defend ESCR in areas of armed conflict, post-conflict transitions and occupation.

The objectives respond to a shared analysis which was initiated by the Network’s Social Movement Working Group in the form of a Common Charter for Collective Struggle (“the Charter”). The Charter identifies a set of global conditions facing communities in every region, including: deepening inequalities, impoverishment and dispossession amid abundance, the corporate capture of public institutions and decisions-making processes, environmental degradation and climate change, and the closure of space to defend human rights with intensifying repression of individuals and organizations that work for rights defense. ESCR-Net Members affirmed the analysis expressed in the Charter, together with a call for engage in collective action to confront these conditions, during the Global Strategy Meeting (15-19 November 2016).

Reinforcing this call over the past several months, members have come together to advance collective work that confronts the above-mentioned conditions and generates and amplifies alternative models and practices.

In June, the Advisory Group to ESCR-Net’s System of Solidarity (SOS) met in Brussels  to offer guidance for the Network’s implementation of the fourth shared objective, focused on countering growing repression and bolstering the legitimacy of human rights defenders. Members evaluated global trends affecting human rights defenders as well as specific challenges facing women defenders and certain groups of advocates, including union organizers, corporate accountability advocates and indigenous peoples, who confront powerful interests. The Advisory Group agreed that effective measures to strengthen security and protection for human rights defenders require challenging their root causes, including the underlying economic and political forces that both perpetuate — and are sustained by — violence against those who work to advance economic, social and environmental justice.

The Advisory Group devised a strategic framework to operationalize the objective mentioned above, consisting of both reactive and proactive measures. Reactive measures include generating continued collective responses to threats/attacks against HRDs on behalf of the entire membership (including collective letters and petitions); referring cases requiring technical, material or logistical support to relevant mechanisms; and mobilizing decentralized actions by members around the world. Proactive measures would work to create an enabling environment for human rights defense, via fostering mutual learning and capacity-building for human rights defenders and working to shift public narratives regarding defenders. The Advisory Group has also encouraged the Network to ensure that efforts to bolster security, protection and wellbeing for human rights defenders are considered in all areas of thematic work. Echoing ESCR-Net’s new Strategic Plan, the Advisory Group urged the secretariat to further invest in capacity to mobilize members and strengthen security and protection.

The Common Charter for Collective Struggle also identified, as a common global challenge, the growing phenomenon of “corporate capture,” by which an economic (corporate) elite undermines the realization of human rights and environmental sustainability by exerting undue influence over domestic and international decision-makers and public institutions. Communities around the world have seen their human rights negatively impacted when corporate interests instead of wider public interest and participation shape policies, practices and institutions. Corporate capture occurs through legislative and policy interference, community manipulation, economic diplomacy, judicial interference, privatization of public security services, and revolving door practices. To confront this trend, ESCR-Net members will gather in Mexico City, in late August, to advance collective strategies to counteract corporate capture, with attention to popularization and alliance building, community-led documentation and mobilization, model legislative and policy reforms, and targeted campaign and advocacy actions. The Corporate Capture Project was initiated by the Corporate Accountability Working Group and is now working to building cross-working group collaboration in line with Network-wide attention to this issue.

In line with the first objective, members of ESCR-Net’s Economic Policy Working Group plan on gathering in Tunisia in November to discuss, and learn from, human rights-centered alternatives to the dominant socio-economic model. This Working Group and others are actively integrating gender analysis and operationalizing an intersectional approach – the sixth objective –  into their planning efforts and advocacy actions. Across the Network, that effort is often supported by the expertise and experience of the Women and ESCR Working Group, whose capacity provide strategic leadership on this objective has been recently enhanced by the election of its first Steering Committee. In efforts to advance the second objective, the ESCR-Net secretariat will be strengthening its capacity to foreground ESCR in public debates, popularize the shared analysis of members and facilitate strategic campaigning actions. Finally, consistent with a focus expressed by Members at the Global Strategy Meeting, ESCR-Net plans on holding a series of webinars in the third quarter of the year, to address the issue of ESCR, and the obligations of State and non-state actors, in conflict and post-conflict situations.

Via these, and other, collective initiatives, ESCR-Net members are collectively progressing toward the fulfillment of the Network’s new strategic objectives for the coming five years, and its mission to “make human rights and social justice a reality for all.”