‘Austerity measures may violate human rights’ ~ United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


Half a decade has passed since the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States developed into a global financial crisis. In response, many countries undertook large-scale “bailouts” of virtually bankrupt banks. With the bailouts and other knock-on effects of the financial crisis, public deficits have risen sharply in many countries.

Students in a rally in Spain © EPA/JAVIER CEBOLLADAGovernments, notably in Europe, have responded to mounting deficits with “austerity” measures – making drastic reductions to public expenditure.

Austerity has entailed rapid decreases in standards of living as cuts have been made to public services and social protection, while unemployment levels have risen dramatically.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 23 October 2012, the Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, noted that although States face tough decisions when dealing with rising public deficits, austerity measures are potentially violations of the legal obligations of States Parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

“All States Parties should avoid at all times taking decisions which lead to the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights,” Pillay said, citing an open letter to States Parties from the Committee earlier this year. The letter elaborated the Committee’s position on austerity measures.

By ratifying the Covenant, States Parties have a legally binding obligation to progressively improve, without retrogression, universal access to goods and services such as healthcare, education, housing and social security and to ensure just and favourable conditions of work, without discrimination, in accordance with established international standards.

These rights must be achieved by using the maximum of available resources. However, Pillay pointed out that austerity measures are also a disincentive to economic growth and thereby hamper progressive realization of economic and social rights.

The Committee had pointed out that social insecurity and political instability, as seen in parts of Europe today, were also potential effects of the denial or infringement of economic, social and cultural rights. The poor, women, children, persons with disabilities, older persons, people with HIV/AIDS, indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities, migrants and refugees were particularly at risk, the Committee had noted.

In a recent statement, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed concern over rising social tensions inflamed by the effects of the economic crises in Greece and Spain and the broader adverse impacts of austerity measures on the most vulnerable.

Several United Nations human rights experts have recently highlighted how austerity measures are incongruent with economic, social and cultural human rights and called for banking sector reforms and human rights-based approaches out of financial and economic crises.

United Nations Officer of The High Commission for Human Rights

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6 thoughts on “‘Austerity measures may violate human rights’ ~ United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

  1. Humanity2012 says:

    Question is will Anything be Done to Reverse the Con Dems Measures Get the
    Con Dems Out of Office and Redistribute Wealth from Rich to Poor or will
    Social In Justice and Capitalist Exploitation Continue ?

  2. Humanity2012 says:

    Mass Civil and Human Rights Protests are Needed in London and Throughout the
    United Kingdom

    This Diabolical Regime is Not Fit to Hold Office and Stealing from the Poor and
    Vulnerable is a Crime against Humanity

    The National Socialist Regime Persecuted the Poor and Vulnerable whilst People
    Buried their Heads in the Sand and Acted the Ostrich

  3. Humanity2012 says:

    Looking at the ” Welfare Reform Act 2012 ” it is Very Appalling and a Reason for
    the Con Dems being Out of Office

    We Need the Worst Aspects of this Act Scrapped

    It Must be a Requirement that whoever is in High Office Cares For the Poor and
    Vulnerable including Adequate Financial Provision

  4. Humanity2012 says:

    Austerity Measures are a Crime against Humanity just as those who have Acted the
    Ostrich have Colluded with this Crime against Humanity

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