Report from the Working Sessions

International Strategy Meeting on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Challenging Poverty and Inequality through Human Rights:

International Strategy Meeting on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and ESCR-NET General Assembly

Nairobi, Kenya
December 1 - 4, 2008


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The International Strategy Meeting on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, organized by ESCR-Net in Nairobi, Kenya from December 1-4, 2008, allowed a critical mass of Network members to come together to discuss achievements, obstacles and set priorities for the Network for the coming years. The working sessions on Budget Analysis and ESCR were geared toward informing new members of the work done by the Network and members to date as well as providing space for new project ideas and alliances to emerge. 

The first session gave examples of successful projects around the world.  Sessions 2 and 3 were geared toward providing conceptual analysis of the linkages between budget analysis and human rights obligations. Sessions 4 and 5 focused on obstacles and strategies for overcoming them.  Finally, Sessions 6 and 7 provided a space for participants to develop ideas for possible future collaborative action. Overall, there was consensus that budget analysis is most useful when it is integrated within the various streams of work to inform and strengthen advocacy in all areas. 


1.     Moderator, Ann Blyberg, ICHRP, USA

Ann introduced the topics for the working sessions on budget analysis and noted that participants were diverse and experienced and that they would have a lot to learn from each other. She pointed out that the meeting offered an exceptional opportunity for exchange and led the introduction of all members present for the session. After introductions, Ann quickly outlined the primary areas of work being done on budget analysis, such as transparency budgeting, gender budgeting, macroeconomics strategies, budgeting on particular rights, participatory budgeting and frontloading.  She finally encouraged people to talk of their work and think together how to collaborate on budget and human rights work and see the way forward with the Network.

2.    FUNDAR's Approach to Human Rights and Budgets, Gabriel Lara, FUNDAR, Mexico

Gabriel started by giving a background of the work done by FUNDAR in Mexico City. He pointed out that 10 years ago colleagues at FUNDAR started to develop a link between budget analysis and human rights relating to national social programs. That led to two basic tools. First, in 2002, they collaborated on the publication, Promises To Keep, which outlines how to undertake budget analysis work. Second, they also began writing Dignity Counts to train others on how to use budget analysis as a tool for analyzing national adherence to human rights obligations. A few years ago, the government of Mexico City, which has some independence from the federal government, through the Mayor, decided they would try to comply with human rights obligations. 

They developed a program by collaborating with groups working on specific rights issues, such as food, water, sanitation, etc. The City then invited FUNDAR to translate that program into a workable budget for the city. They used the core treaties to determine what the core of the right required to analyze the performance and allocations of the government. The coordinating committee came up with a matrix to use as a tool to identify red flags which indicate violations of rights and obligations and which policies should be implemented, using a performance budget, which is the currently tool of choice.  It focuses on outcomes from the allocations to determine adequacy of the funding. They began only on the right to health and water with the grassroots groups and NGOs, but they are now expanding to analyzing all rights. The major challenge is that for the last few years, allocations have not been increased.  This is the major challenge they are facing. Their current advocacy strategy is to focus on the lifetime bureaucrats, not the mayor or health minister who will only be in office for a few years. 

3.    Using Budget Analysis to Promote the Right to Health, Helena Hofbauer, International Budget Partnership, Mexico

Helena pointed out that the major issue in relation to budgeting the right to health is to move the conceptual framework from international treaties to national policies, then to move from national legislation to local policies and how these together affect service delivery. Human rights have struggled to have implementing legislation for a long time and it continues to largely be missing.  If we look at General Comment 14, we can see that there is a series of inter-related rights to ensure the right to health, such as: the freedom to make decisions about one's body and healthcare; entitlement to an adequate healthcare system; availability, accessibility, affordability, quality of the services provided; non-discrimination and equity; participation in decision-making; progressive realization; minimum core obligations; and international assistance and cooperation.  These elements link together in numerous ways when designing a program to move from international treaties to local policy implementation. 

In the plenary meeting it was emphasized that the participation of people in the process is extremely important. A model for implementation must be developed which includes people's participation.  These elements have been explored in a variety of ways in many countries and we must look at what it means to use these concepts to inform budget work. Costing out data for example, requires us to identify why a right is not being fulfilled, what is missing, what will it cost to cover that gap, and how to keep it cost effective.

In Mexico there is long-standing experience in doing this to decrease maternal mortality.  In South Africa, there was a struggle between the Ministry of Health and Finance in providing funding for anti-retrovirals. Only by identifying bottlenecks was the government able to address why the money was not adequately reaching the people. In Guatemala, the government was evaluated on their commitment to implementing what was required by them in the peace accords.  They found that the governments in electoral years was spending all the health budget in the first half of the year for electoral activities and there was not enough money to keep the health system functioning in the second half of the year. NGOs publicized what the government was doing and pushed that money must be allocated in the second half of the year for health services as well.  In Tanzania, a group began evaluating the cost of free delivery for all pregnant women and to what extent there was money to make that happen. In Cambodia, NGOs evaluated a line in the budget called "unallocated expenditure". The government had the discretion to spend this money as they saw fit as the year went on. The NGOs argued that this money should be prioritized for health, education and other essential rights.   

Budget analysis is and should be an adaptable and flexible tool that has the potential to have an impact on government and to implement ESCR. However, it's not a short term tool and policy makers need to realize it will take more than money alone to improve healthcare. Also, achievements of today can be undone tomorrow by unfriendly governments. Budget analysis must be a sustained effort. Targeted intervention and more money will not necessarily be enough to improve a particular right. Broad participation of the government, community groups and other stakeholders will be required at all levels to ensure budget analysis is an effective tool.  People must finally be empowered by the process to claim their own rights to consider the budget analysis process a success.    

4.    Public Interest Litigation: Implementing Effective Food Support Programs in India, Colin Gonsalves, Human Rights Law Network, India

Colin noted that the Right to Food case in India is the leading case in the world that has used budget analysis to gain a positive result for 350 million people in India.  It started with a single petitioner who was directly affected. India has 750 million people living under the poverty line and more children suffering from malnutrition than all of Sub-Saharan Africa. The court intervened in the case and the Attorney General of India was summoned by the Chief Justice of the Indian Supreme Court and told that generally the court agrees with the HLRN's petition, and that although India is a large country with limited resources the flab could be cut from elsewhere in the budget to cover the food program. The Indian Supreme Court said when it comes to implementation of fundamental rights it won't entertain the argument that the state has no money.  It will require the state to show that money was allocated to fundamental rights first. 

From 2000-2008, the Supreme Court passed a series of orders, such as the mid-day meal requirement which fed 150 million children. Supplementary nutrition for 160 million pregnant, lactating mothers and children from 0-6 years, was also implemented. Governments make numerous policy directives without properly funding them.  The NGO community was also very effective for moving these cases forward.  They taught themselves how to read budgets and involve themselves in the process, including with pension allocations, HIV/AIDS treatment and a right to work statute. 

Colin referred to his organizations website, have a list of the various cases and information. Colin believes there are three lessons that his African and Latin American colleagues can learn from what has happened in India because the Constitutions are similar: (1) locus standi: innovation in law which allows anyone to file a petition, (2) financial restrictions are no excuse, and (3) countries must meet international obligations in a period of globalization. 

5.    Gender Budgeting, Lourdes Colinas Suarez, UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mexico  

Gender responsive budgeting is about ensuring that government budgets and the policies and programs that underlie them address the needs and interests of individuals that belong to different social groups. Gender budgeting looks at biases that can arise because a person is male or female, but at the same time considers disadvantage suffered as a result of ethnicity, caste, class or poverty status, location and age. Gender budgeting is not about separate budgets for women or men nor about budgets divided equally. It is about determining where the needs of men and women are the same, and where they differ. Where needs differ, allocations should differ.  

The important questions to ask when undertaking gender budgeting include: where do resources go, and what impact does resource allocation have on gender equality; and what is the impact of government expenditure on women's everyday lives, especially women living in poverty? Gender responsive budget analysis helps to achieve gender equality by: making women's work economically visible; showing how revenue collection and changes in tax structure can impact on women differently from men; creating more transparency and accountability by detailing how money allocated to women is actually spent; providing policy-makers with inputs on differing priorities between men and women's expenditure needs; and increasing productivity and GDP.

Lourdes then highlighted UNIFEM's gender budgeting exercises and gave examples of the ways in which gender responsive budgeting in being implemented in various countries to equalize tax structures that had formerly disadvantaged married women.  In discussing Mexico, Lourdes noted a study carried out by a Mexican NGO called Equidad, which was a comparative study between Mexico and other countries in Latin America and Africa, aimed at addressing the effects of indirect taxes on income and expenditure in Mexican households. The results showed that households with a greater number of women experience lower fiscal burden in their expenditure than households with a greater number of men. However, the tax incidence of households with a greater number of women is higher. 

There have been positive developments. Last year, the Mexico City Budget Proposal was presented to the Legislative Assembly as a Gender Responsive Budget (with at least one program directed towards women or gender equity and at least one gender indicator for monitoring)This is a step forward but is still not enough - more resources for gender programs have been requested for 2009.  Lourdes commented that gender bias in the tax system in Mexico is a fruitful line of enquiry and that a rights-based approach to budgeting ensures that equity is a goal of economic policy.  Applying a rights-based approach to gender budgeting helps to identify and monitor the appropriateness of budget allocations and principles of non-discrimination. 

6.    Frontloading and the Protection of Rights, Erica Wortel, APRODEV, Switzerland

APRODEV became involved in this area of work through debt cancellation issues by asking how much debt cancellation will cost. They partnered with development agencies and budget analysis groups to start the project, to see if which methods were useful in determining costs, specifically looking at the allocation side of budgets.  They began a project in 2004 to see if it was really possible to "cost out" a right.  They then held an expert meeting in India to begin to formulate a program which could use this tool effectively.  They have learned many lessons from attempting this project, specifically that there is limited data available and that sometimes the issue has more to do with quality, participation and transparency than it does with actual allocations. 

Nonetheless, they have decided to move forward with the costing approach.  The project has become Budgeting Human Rights, which means including perspectives and costs of realizing human rights in the national budget cycle.  Costing can be used in several steps of the budget process, including programs and policies, which requires looking at macroeconomic policies as well.  Some Indian groups criticized the program by saying that costing is the responsibility of the government - once you start costing you cannot be sure that you have reliable figures and may not reflect reality. But they are very interested in continuing to link with new groups to explore the usefulness of this tool. 

7.    Discussion Period

  • Unidentified Speaker, question for Colin Gonsalves: Generally he believes that courts are the major problem and that advocacy must be done in the courts. What was the strategy in India to prepare the court to hear the case?
    • Colin's response: Believes there a large number of African courts which could be persuaded to do the same thing as India. India is not a progressive court and they are highly influenced by globalization. We actually shamed the court into acting by showing people starving next to wealthy ministers. A campaign can be waged to shame the court into intervening.
    • A single organization started with the case without a substantive background in the right to food, but just with a moral argument that it was wrong for so many people to starve in such a wealthy country. Our substantive knowledge grew over time, but we always had the moral high ground.
  • Humphrey Otieno, Nairobi People's Settlement Network, Kenya: Wants to know about specific tools for gender budgeting because they have been involved in developing a people's budget. The government has not been allowing the people to participate in the budget process. There is a great disparity between government officials and most people in Kenya. Before the budgets are finalized, they have been analyzing them to look at allocations for critical needs. Then they present their findings to the government. But they still need a more concrete tool to carry out his campaign.
    • Lourdes explains that several toolkits have been developed around the world, such as Diane Elson and also FUNDAR has one that is Mexico-specific.
    • Helena explains that most tools require the active, engaged and sustained participation of the public in defining how the budget will be spent. A different approach is Juancuri, Kenya are getting communities involved in how much Ministers are spending in their districts to encourage social auditing, to see what the money is being spent on and to hold them accountable.
  • Humphrey is more interested in how they can influence the budget on the front end rather than accountability, which is after the fact. He knows that this has happened in Brazil that people participated in developing the budget from the beginning allowing them to prioritize the services they thought were most important.
    • Helena stated that Brazil case was different because the government itself made the space for people to participate by requiring people to organize themselves and define priorities to contribute in the specific processes they created. But the groups in Kenya and India, who have not been given the space, have organized their own communities to demand to know what the money was spent on and what the plans are for the budget.
    • Gabriel also stated that the International Budget Partnership has a new guide on their website that can provide possibilities. It assesses various methodologies undertaken in countries around the world.
  • Ann Blyberg: Generally the tool that can lead a group all the way through all parts of the process does not exist yet. There are resources on community involvement and expenditure tracking but what hasn't been done yet is putting those together. There is gap in linking monitoring expenditures with community prioritization.
  • Nuria Becú, ACIJ, Argentina: Pointed out the ACIJ project to monitor the education budget in Buenos Aires. They only found out that the government planned to cut the budget by 40%, 2 weeks before it was to be approved. So they decided to work with the media and community groups. They were able to organize a march to the city office buildings and the government decided to change the budget within that short period of time. Public awareness and media was key. Groups should explore the use of the media more.
  • Helena Hofbauer: A government will never give us what we want. We have to claim participation.
  • Unidentified Speaker from Kenya: Access to information is the most difficult issue for us to do budget work here. Also, the media is owned by the same interests that control the government so using them to deliver a positive message is difficult. We have to strategize on new ideas that allow us to work outside the government process. They have figured out how to co-opt our attempts when we play by their rules.

8.    Issues that were tabled for further discussion

  • Access to information- experience / triumphs.
  • How to build a coalition on the budget issues
  • What do we do beyond identifying amounts?
  • Coasting- challenges faced and NGOs /CSOs.
  • Looking at revenue

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1.    How to Link Budget Work with ESCR Obligations? Proposal of a Framework, Ann Blyberg, IHRIP, USA (complete matrix available)

Ann, with others, developed a matrix a year ago which continues to be updated. The matrix analyzes revenue, allocations and expenditures in relation to the states obligations to protect, respect and fulfill human rights, as well as under the obligations of progressive realization, maximum available resources and non-discrimination.  Some of the situations assessed may not come up in reality, but in theory, and vice versa. For example, as taxes are increased by the government, the prices of food also go up so this leads to diminishing rights protections. For example, in December 2007, a partnership was developed to see how we can use budget analysis to influence human rights protections in relation to revenue and macroeconomic strategies.

2.    Roundtable Session - The three panelists all gave a very brief background on how they have utilized budget analysis in their various areas of work.  Then Gabriel Lara moderated an interactive discussion between them and the audience to flesh out the strategies they have used successfully, and what obstacles they have encountered. 

  • Radhika Balakrishnan, Marymount Manhattan University, USA

     Radhika explained how in response the first ESCR-Net meeting in Chaing-Mai, where there was a lack of engagement by economists, she decided to seek funding for a project focusing on macroeconomic policy and how it affects human rights. Also that she released a country study of Mexico where she looked at expenditures, taxation, implication of revenues for expenditures, and monitoring fiscal policy. She has also looked at trade and how it affects human rights, especially NAFTA, in terms of the right to food, as well as issues of social security and pension reform.  She also noted a paper she had written with Diane Elson called "Auditing Economic Policy", in the Essex Human Rights Journal. Currently creating a "how to" manual on evaluating macroeconomic policy. 

  • Jackie Dugard, CALS, South Africa

     Jackie's work has focused on the right to water and how ensure that it is extended to those who currently don't have access.  Particularly, there is currently a program in South Africa which includes a free basic water allocation, but it was insufficient to meet the needs of number of people in poor households.  In court it was argued that the city of Johannesburg had the resources to meet these needs.  They gave the examples of how much was spent on building of soccer stadiums versus water accessibility to poor neighborhoods.  They focused on the obligation of progressive realization at the same time as the requirement of maximum available resources. They engaged in budget analysis to determine the financial resources available as well as allocation for the rich versus poor citizens.  Another way to grapple with budget analysis work is to look at the costs of not providing a service or fulfilling an obligation.

  • Nuria Becú, ACIJ, Argentina

     Nuria explained that ACIJ has used budget analysis to support the right to education. In 2006, in Buenos Aires, 6000 kids could not go to kindergarten because of lack of vacancy in the schools.  They used budget analysis to determine the government was using money for schools in the northern part of the city and not the south, where the poor population is concentrated. In addition, they used budget analysis to find out that the government was not expending the entire education budget. They argued both that the government was not fulfilling its obligations to fulfill the right to education but also the issue of discriminatory treatment. The government was then forced to build school buildings in these neglected areas. 

3.    Moderator - lead questions, Gabriel Lara, FUNDAR, Mexico

  • Gabriel - How did you determine the government was misusing money for the benefit of the wealthy?
    • Nuria - We created our own tool because budget was not so specific. We divided the neighborhood by income and saw how the government was allocating the money. So we were able to see what projects government have done in the area. So we presented this to the human right committee. It got a lot of media attention and everyone started talking about the socio-economic discrimination.
    • Jackie - With water the government can set the tariffs using a block structure which sets the price as to level of income, by lowering the cost the more that is used. Therefore, the wealthy, who can afford to use more, end up paying less per litre than the poor.
    • Radhika - We look at taxation. We look at tax ratio if it's in line with other countries of similar income. We look if this affects the resources and amount of money that government will spend.
  • Gabriel - What has been your strategy to deal with lack of access to information and public participation? [The group decided to incorporate all participants into discussion of this issue - comments summarized below]
    • We started a law suit again, but we do not want to go to trial all the time so we presented a public policy.
    • Ask public officers to be open on how they use the money. We encouraged the public to attend the budget allocation forums.   
    • When we asked for information the government dumped 9000 pages of information on us and this was just as difficult as having nothing. 
    • Paying attention to budget assignments is important; sometimes its problem of personal capacity-building so the issue is to intervene and support implementation to avoid problems.
    • In Hungary, when the government knew that they were being followed on allocation, they allocated 30% of money to the poor schools but there was no follow up to make sure the schools had the capacity to use the money effectively. 
    • In 2004, women's rights groups in Nigeria wanted to focus on economic issues.  They evaluated both local and national budgets from a gender perspective.  They then partnered with government officials to teach them how to undertake budget analysis from a rights-based approach.
    • It is essential that the communities become mobilized to hold the governments accountable as well. 

      Some issues were proposed as overarching when undertaking budget analysis: 

      1. What resources are available and what are the plans for them?

      2. How effectively are the resources allocated being used?

      3. How does the services provider perform in implementing what they plan?

      4. Corruption issues

      5. Oversight bodies necessary

    • It will be useful if this meeting drafted a doc on showing how economic policy can be used to promote human rights.
    • Necessary to translate budget analysis at the community level.
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1.    Moderator, Joseph Gitari, Ford Foundation, Nigeria

2.   Helena Hofbauer, International Budget Partnership (IBP), Mexico

Helena has worked on budget work in many areas, but chose to highlight a case on children's right in which they utilized budget analysis to hold the South African government accountable.  It related to the child support grant in South Africa, which was evaluated as failing to meet principles of non-retrogression, progressive realization, and non-discrimination because it was not adjusted for inflation over time.  This program is support for children to receive government aid up to a certain age to pay for healthcare, education, etc. As the children aged, the amount was not increased to meet rising prices and they could not meet their needs.  Also, some children were excluded from the program or cut off from the entitlement incorrectly.  NGOs created an alliance to strategize on how to increase these grants. For several years these groups worked together to analyze the number and presented a proposal that could affectively protect the rights of these children.  They used arguments of non-retrogression and non-discrimination that were evidenced in the governments program. 

2.    Carolina Fairstein, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Argentina

Carolina also highlighted one case litigated by CELS. A mother did not have the health coverage to pay for treatment for her daughter. The mother applied for the health coverage and waited over a year without a response from the government agency. CELS called the office and they told them that the budget for the pension program could not be increased.  That the only way a new person could be covered was for someone who was currently covered to die. Many vulnerable people were left without any protection. So they argued that a pension was part of the human right to social security and that the government has the universal obligation to meet these needs progressively within maximum available resources, and without discrimination. This case occurred during the preparation of the budget in parliament so CELS prepared a paper documenting the governments' obligation and the failure to meet these obligations, such as failure to provide special protection to vulnerable groups. They gave copies to the various applicable ministries and had follow up meetings with them. After a month they agreed repeal that law limiting pensions to a certain number and the mother received her pension. If the government says it has no resources to meet a certain need, it should demonstrate that this is so. They must demonstrate maximum available resources have been used. In Argentina, the government underestimates the revenue they will raise during the year so if they get more they can spend it unaccounted for.  Carolina stressed that all ESC rights groups should look at the budget when trying to argue for implementation of rights.

3.    Ignacio Saiz, Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), Spain

CESR believes that we are far from ensuring that social policy is guided by human rights, therefore CESR is using budget analysis in the quest to put flesh on human rights issues and increase governmental accountability. Ignacio also stated that our task is to identify the human rights issues and translate them into policies. The human rights movement has not yet risen to the challenge to do this. We then make a way to ensure that the policies outlined are implemented by the government effectively. They must be spelled out in ways that can be operationalized.  Most government officials don't know what the minimum core requires; or that the obligation of non-discrimination requires them to reduce inequality in assigning resources and creating substantive equality; or that to ensure progressive realization, they have to keep increasing funding. Issues governments also need education include allocation and prioritization.  Fiscal exemptions and privileges must also be examined in budget monitoring. Requirements of accessibility means governments must examine the impediments to various groups to exercise their rights.  Country comparisons can create influential benchmarks to use when advocating with governments and at a minimum can point out egregious failures to ensure rights. 

4.    Discussion period

  • Unidentified Kenyan speaker: Kenya is trying to reduce tax exemptions for poor people, whereas the Ministers of Parliament never disclose income or pay taxes. 
  • Carole Samdup, Rights and Democracy, Canada: Rights and Democracy recently completed a series of case studies which showed that in some countries 70-80% of revenue comes from donor supplementary aid. This is called off-budget funding and it is a major problem when this money is used for essential programs. How can you hold the government responsible for their obligations when is no public participation in the allocation of the money?
    • Helena: This is common in many countries and there are different ways to approach this issue.  Why shouldn't donors be encouraged to require that their money be spent on essential social services? We shouldn't always channel money for social and economic rights through the government because it leads to corruption. Donors should and can also be held accountable. It can't really work one way or the other. The ESCR community and the government must work together. The economic models chosen by the country will not help to deliver the policies. 
    • It's not 100% clear on the pressure the states are under from the donor countries. It's right of state to protect rights.
    • Regarding progressive realization. Realistically we cannot have the budget increasing every year. To what extent is the retroactive budget stated. Progressive realization must be realized as increasing the quality as well as quantity and that can be continually improved.


1.    Moderator, Cornelieke Keizer, Equalinrights, Netherlands

Cornelieke reviewed some of the important discussion points from the previous sessions and introduced the topic of challenges to budget analysis work.  One example she highlighted was the difficulty of translating the numbers into a process which is accessible for the communities affected and getting them involved in the process.  She then announced that the group would be dividing into 2 sub-groups so they could have more in-depth guided discussions. These groups were Tracking Expenditures and Incorporating Women's Human Rights.  In the following session, the groups reported back on the results of these discussions.

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1.    Moderator, Helena Hofbauer, International Budget Partnership, Mexico

a. Report-back from Group 1: Tracking Expenditures

Common obstacles

  • Access to information
  • Awareness of community of their human rights
  • Corruption

Methods to overcome obstacles

  • Raising awareness for community to come up with priorities
  • Mobilization and engagement of public official,
  • Agreements with Public officers,
  • Monitoring of commitments

The group noted that it is good to cope with community challenges and there is a necessity of thinking more carefully on building the human rights framework and using it effectively on the ground.  There might be a difference in doing the budget analysis at the community level versus the top down approach.  One participant mentioned that they needed 4 years to train a community on the rights. Sustainability is another important aspect and challenge to consider. 

b. Report-back from Group 2: Incorporating Women's Human Rights

The group reported that it is useful to highlight different needs of men and women, whether governments have addressed these differences, and whether they have taken steps toward improving implementation of women's rights. At the international level, the group noted that things have improved.

Tackling challenges in gender budget formulation include:

  • Realizing gender is a social construction and creating a gender sensitive budget.
  • Policy makers must understand social constructions of gender to effectively fulfill this process.
  • Unmet needs for gender disaggregated data, which can be a powerful tool to influence governments.
  • Policies and legal frameworks must be considered.
  • Lack of access to information has also been a major barrier.
  • Problem of funding for doing this work.
  • Often limited to women's machinery, but it must be cross-cutting strategy.
  • Social movements must be part of the process.
  • Community involvement can be difficult and need more accessible methods for communities to be involved.
  • Must be involved in revenue side of budget as well.

ESCR-Net should work more to exchange information and experiences.  One possibility is that the Network could link with the UNIFEM project. CEDAW could/should also be used as a mechanism for budget analysis. 

Then the group began discussing larger conceptual issues and barriers in budget work:

The group discussed the difference between using a gender budget framework and a broader ESCR framework, the most important factor being to whom you are appealing.  This might be important to how you choose to frame the obligations you are presenting, such as discrimination versus broader implementation of human rights. 

The issue of lack of implementation also arose: even if the budget allocates enough to fulfill a particular right, if the money is not actually used or the programs not implemented correctly, then the budget still wasn't effective.  Performance budgets were then mentioned as possibly useful to monitor implementation of the money spent as well as revenue and expenditures.  However, many participants expressed that the challenge to getting effective indicators would making using these budgets very difficult.  Chile is one country that is using this model. 

Under-spending because of beaurocratic processes was also highlighted as a barrier. If money not expended in the financial year it is lost even if it was allocated properly.  This can also be linked to corruption because the ministries don't spend the money allocated on programs and then the money disappears.  The group agreed that human rights should be prioritized in terms of expenditures, so that social programs must be funded before other types of programs, including external debt, should be funded consistently throughout the year and that the debate should be reframed so that all governments expenditures can be defended on the basis of protecting human rights. 

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1.    Moderators: Nuria Becú, ACIJ, Argentina; Jackie Dugard, CALS, South Africa; Chris Grove, Consultant, ESCR-Net Secretariat

The group started by discussing pending questions and then moved into discussing whether they could find one frame or focus issue that could be agreed upon by everyone moving forward.

Here is a listing of ideas given by participants:

  • Prioritizing rights. E.g. lights for the city streets, which are necessary, but not a human right.
  • There needs to be more conceptual development on how to move this work forwards at the international level as well, beyond the important work that is happening at the local level.
  • The heart of economic and social rights is the idea of human development and we should focus on that.
  • One participant noted that it might be important to clarify that when we talk about "ESCR-Net" who do we mean? Do we only mean the Secretariat or do we also include ourselves as members, the working group if we form one? In other areas of the Network, the working groups have played active lobbying roles within the Network to move work forward and maybe this group should consider that.
  • Analyzing macro and micro economic policies
  • How public policies affect human rights
  • Public education of budgeting process and the time it takes for results.
  • Human rights budgeting offers another venue besides the courts for the human rights community to scrutinize the policies and level of implementation by states.
  • Shadow reports to UN Committees should include human rights budget analysis and be posted on the web.
  • List should be generated of people's needs and capacities and circulated on the list serve.
  • Useful to have simplified explanations of how to undertake a budget project for various contexts/communities.
  • Participants identified that the Secretariat has already undertaken some training seminars and plans for another this summer in Latin America.
  • Group should find out what would be useful to new groups interested in undertaking this work and creating simplified information for them.
  • Group should be proactive in getting budget information to Special Rapportuers.
  • Group should be in touch with Multilateral and Bilateral investment agencies to get information that could help further elaborate national budget projects.
  • The Secretariat has limited capacity, so the group should decide among themselves what they have the capacity to collaborate on.
  • Build capacity of Secretariat to function in more languages.
  • The Network can play a role with specific organization in the UN to encourage them to start looking more at budget and human rights issues.
  • The Secretariat should have more inter-linkages on the website for people to know what other groups are doing in the different organization and communicate on ways we can link with the social movements.

The group agreed to continue and finalize the discussion in the last session.

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The goal for the group this session was to discuss priorities of work them as an ESCR-Net Initiative, what they could contribute, and what they would ask that Secretariat provide in coordinating the Budget Analysis and ESCR work.  The group began by brainstorming what they believed to be the most important issues the group should focus on and how the Secretariat could best be utilized. 

  • There a need for the clearing house of useful tools. Maybe we could work together as a group to get more information produced and distributed. Maybe groups can do this according to the groups' priorities. The groups present must be willing circulate information they have and is relevant.
  • Guides developed must not be theoretical. If we work on a guide, it must be practical and implementable.
  • Must learn how to communicate better to keep each other informed. Surveys haven't really worked so far. There must be collaborative consultation - how to reach out and contact the appropriate person depending on your problem.
  • Spend more time in organizing the information available and disseminating and making it easily accessible.
  • We need to spend more time developing the goals we are trying to accomplish by using the human rights budgeting framework. Then this could help us refine what type of information we need to look for or capacity building tools we need to develop.
  • We need to develop more targeted strategies for accessing information, especially from corrupt governments.
  • Materials must be responsive and appropriate to the various situations occurring in various countries. There is no generic formula for doing budget work effectively.
  • Maybe we can facilitate local level groups to revise existing materials to be useful in their context.
  • Need resource people to be available to capacity build on both the budgeting and human rights for particular groups facing particular issues. The group that needs help articulates what they need and the expert will respond to that. Repository of experts who are willing to be available who have the technical expertise and time to assist. IBP has this capability for the groups they work with, but this is very intensive. Also have a mentorship program (training of trainers). But this is labor intensive.
  • If there are not many groups with this capacity and who can serve as trainers, maybe the group should fund-raise for that.
  • I need a list of human resources, who is a specialist in which area, that I can access on a website depending on the case that arises. We can look at ETO consortium guide as a model for this.
  • It would be useful to have an interactive blog space where information can be exchanged. List serves have been limited and online resources restrict people's input. But the groups participating must also have ownership and contribute actively to make the site dynamic and useful.
  • Useful website:, methods used for advocacy: you post on site and then write possible ways of collaboration.
  • Need creative ideas for advocacy methods, awareness raising and capacity building.
  • Need volunteer resources who can assist groups in budget analysis from the region that the questions are raised from.

Group listed the priority of ideas/projects as follows (no particular order). 

1.    Mapping information resources.

2.    Gather expertise and resources people in different regions, to do some conceptual re-thinking of budget work and how it can be more successful. 

3.    Sharing resources across different regions and have people post on blog or list serve.  Think through which are most useful and utilized so as not to overburden anyone. 

4.    Pushing for connection within the UN bodies to encourage Special Rapporteurs to look at indicators created through the budget analysis process.  

5.    Guides and toolkits. (a) capacity building at grassroots level, and (b) new topics for analysis that have not yet been addressed in the human rights budgeting field. 

6.    Capacity building generally, and specifically on linking to the media and access of information.

7.    Training of trainers.   

8.    Need to have a discussion on conceptual failures so we think of ways of creating new space for this work.

The group said that eventually they would like to consider organizing a human rights budgeting conference specifically which would be widely inclusive of participants, including IFI's, UN staff, educational institutions, etc.  If this idea is to move forward, a steering committee would need to be formed to carry the substantive aspects of these ideas forward. 

The group agreed there would be follow-up e-mails on these issues to continue the discussion. This will include how we will handle the priorities discussed above.  (See Possibilities for Collaboration document for final list of priority areas.) 

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