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Development Account Projects

Strengthening Government and Civil Society Capacity to Incorporate Economic and Social Rights into Macroeconomic Policy


This project is based on an initiative implemented from 2007-2009 by Professor Radhika Balakrishnan, now at the Center of Women's Global Leadership, advised by senior academics of the University of Essex, UK, and FUNDAR, The Ford Foundation, ECLAC-Mexico and an Advisory Group (economists and human rights specialists). This phase was research-oriented and included the pilot of a process of analysis, development of a methodology framework, and policy recommendations that promoted the realisation of economic and social rights at the country level in Mexico and the United States with particular attention given to disadvantages associated with gender, class, race and ethnicity. In developing this process of analysis, the project aimed to look at human rights violations not only as an individual problem, but as a systemic process, because a micro or individual-level analysis can fail to capture the macro processes contributing to the violation. The goals of the pilot project were: to bring together and develop synergies between different strategies for realising economic and social rights – especially human rights approaches and progressive political economy approaches; and the development of a method for reviewing economic policy from a human rights perspective. The entry point was government obligations for economic and social rights (as specified in the international human rights system) and the extent to which macro-economic policy has complied with these obligations; as well as the level of civil society and government capacity to draw upon human rights norms, standards, obligations and procedures, and the analytical and policy development tools of progressive political economy. The areas covered in the first stage of the project were: fiscal and monetary policy, taxation, expenditure, trade policy and regulations of markets and property rights.

This proposal aims to develop a second phase, building upon the methodology and analysis of the first project and adapting it for dissemination and capacity strengthening purposes in the sub region of the Central American Isthmus and the Dominican Republic. It plans to bring together representatives of civil society and relevant government officers to strengthen their capacity to incorporate a rights based approach into macroeconomic policy taking into account that development means encouraging individuals and communities to claim rights and assume responsibilities and thus become effective citizens Hence, it is hoped that policy makers and civil society representatives in selected countries will strengthen their capacity to use the appropriate tools for the formulation and analysis of sustainable macroeconomic policies which incorporate the rights perspective in an effective, efficient and realistic manner.

The principles to be applied to the project, enabling the realisation of economic and social rights within macroeconomic policy include: the requirement of progressive realisation; the maximum use of available resources; the avoidance of regression, the satisfaction of minimum essential levels of economic and social rights; the promotion of non-discrimination and equality, participation, transparency and accountability in all processes. The human rights perspective uses as a standard the realisation of the individual human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The treaties that stem from the UDHR set out the obligations of governments towards these rights. The obligations implied by international human rights instruments have been spelled out more fully through a number of mechanisms, including General Comments and General Recommendations issued from time to time by United Nations (UN) treaty monitoring bodies and by experts in international law.

This project contributes directly to The Strategic framework and Programme of Work for the period 2010-2011 of the General Assembly (A/63/6/Rev1), which places the mandate of its programme on economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean within ECLAC''s purview, as derived from the Economic and Social Council resolution 106 (VI). Within this resolution the Council established the Commission for the purpose of contributing to and coordinating action towards the economic development of the region and reinforcing economic relationships among countries of the region as well as worldwide.

The project is related to the outcomes of several major UN Conferences and Summits such as the Millennium Declaration of 2000, the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna 1993, and the Fourth World Conference on Women 1995. At the Vienna Conference governments recognized that human rights are the first responsibility of governments. As such, the project proposes key human rights principles to provide a framework to analyze and formulate economic policies in the fulfilment of this responsibility.


To strengthen the capacity of national governments and civil society organizations to analyse and design macro-economic policy which incorporates the consideration of economic and social rights, with a particular focus on rights related to gender equality.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Increased knowledge and skills of relevant government bodies and civil society groups to apply human rights frameworks, specifically related to economic and social rights with a particular focus on gender equality, in the analysis and formulation of macroeconomic policy.
  • Institutionalisation of appropriate, contextualised frameworks and tools for the formulation of future macroeconomic policies which incorporate the human rights perspective, specifically related to economic and social rights with a particular focus on gender equality in economic/financial government bodies (such as the Ministries of Finance and Economy and Central Banks).
  • Increased level of cooperation through established partnerships between citizens from within civil society and economic/financial government entities (such as the Ministries of Finance and Economy and Central Banks) both within and across countries in the analysis of macro-economic policies from an economic and social rights perspective, in particular concerning those related to gender equality.

Implementation status: