Focus Four: Human Rights in International Economic Policy

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Sun, Jan 29, 2017

New tax and human rights tools

Participation, accountability, transparency and access to information are critical human rights principles that apply to fiscal policies. Likewise, human rights duties of international cooperation and assistance compel states to consider how their tax policies affect human rights beyond their borders. 

The publications “Civil and Political Rights in Tax Policy” and ”Tax Policy and International Cooperation and Assistance for the Achievement of Human Rights,” are the last two in a series of four advocacy tools launched by the RightingFinance Initiative. Completing the previously launched set of advocacy tools, they offer further guidance on the meaning of human rights obligations for making and assessing tax policy.

Click here for all advocacy tools on tax policy and human rights.

What should companies be letting you know about their operations?

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Sun, Jul 31, 2016

What should companies be letting you know about their operations?

In the quest to make investors accountable for the environmental and human rights impacts of their activities, regulations on corporate disclosure can be a powerful tool. Responding to a call for comments by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Center of Concern and other organizations pointed to indications of growing shareholder interest in data on sustainability, and make the case for re-interpreting the concept of “materiality” that conditions which information companies should report.  “Society’s expectations of companies’ social and environmental responsibilities have changed over the four decades since the SEC first considered requiring better disclosure of environmental and social facts, as has the composition of the investing public,” the organizations said.

Investment treaties and land-related human rights struggles

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Fri, Jun 10, 2016

Investment treaties and land-related human rights struggles

The commodity price hikes of 2007-2008 and the ensuing wave of transnational land deals for agribusiness investments in low- and middle-income countries placed land rights at the center of international development discourses.

A recent blog appeared on RightingFinance examines how the economic sources of pressure on land rights are evolving and where they are likely to come from in the near future.

Read full article.

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Mon, May 9, 2016

Applying human rights to tax policy-making and assessment

Last April, the “Panama papers” — more than 11 million documents leaked from a secretive law firm in Panama – exposed the tax evasion and avoidance maneuvers of companies and high net worth individuals. Some experts say that what the leak exposed represents just the tip of the iceberg. But the human rights impacts that come as a result of depriving States of public revenue are the even bigger iceberg and deserve urgent attention.

The first two in a series of advocacy tools by the RightingFinance Initiative offer guidance on how human rights obligations are relevant to the process of designing and evaluating tax policy.

The publications, “Equality and Non-discrimination in Tax Policy” and “Maximum Available Resources, Non-retrogression and Minimum Essential Levels in Tax Policy,” lay out legal foundations for the human rights principles featured in their titles, applications to tax policy, and guiding questions for reflection.

Click here to read a blog on these publications.

CoC speaks at international legal scholars gathering on austerity measures and human rights

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Mon, Mar 28, 2016

CoC speaks at international legal scholars gathering on austerity measures and human rights

On March 31 2016, RBW Project Director Aldo Caliari will speak at the panel “Economizing Justice in Times of Debt and Austerity.” The panel is part of the 110th American Society for International Law Annual Meeting, held in Washington DC from March 30 through April 2. Looking at the experience of countries that have recently undergone financial crises and implemented bank bailouts and austerity measures the panel will explore issues such as: how was the debt incurred and is it legitimate, how should the burden of adjustment be shared, what human rights obligations do the various international creditors have, and what should be expected of sovereign debt restructuring processes moving forward?

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Sun, Dec 20, 2015

Not a good New Year’s resolution: the 2016 coming fiscal adjustment

Two new studies find that next year will mark the beginning of a second major period of contraction of expenditures globally in pursuit of austerity measures (e.g. reductions in wages, social safety nets and health and education subsidies). While the global financial crisis of 2008 seems far behind, this research shows that its effects are not, and budget reductions, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, are expected to impact 132 countries and hover around this level until 2020.

The good news, the authors state, is that austerity is not inevitable: alternatives to adjustment exist in all countries, if only the political will to implement them can be found.

Read more.

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Wed, Nov 18, 2015

Should infrastructure investors be exempt from human rights duties?

As this year’s Business and Human Rights Forum (November 16-18) and Group of 20 Summit (November 14-15) take place, RBW Project Director Aldo Caliari takes a look at a striking dissonance between what is happening in each of these venues. At the Forum on Business and Human Rights, the main theme will revolve around a report on measuring implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The G20 is expected to adopt the second of two reports that contain “effective approaches” to implementing the High Level Principles on Long Term Investment Financing by Institutional Investors. Expected to guide the engagement of trillions of dollars-worth investors in infrastructure, the latter make no mention of the Guiding Principles.

Read blog appeared on RightingFinance and the London School of Economics' Measuring Business and Human Rights project.

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Mon, Sep 28, 2015

Financing human rights: Historic summit ups the opportunities, but also the risks (September 2015)

In the wake of the "Transforming Our World 2030" Summit, RBW Project Director Aldo Caliari reflects on financing for human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals just adopted by Heads of State of all the world as part of the 2030 development agenda.

Should pension funds jump into the infrastructure investment bandwagon?

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Mon, Jun 22, 2015

Should pension funds jump into the infrastructure investment bandwagon?

Within the new infrastructure finance agenda emerging in the Group of 20, World Bank and other fora, the USD 85 that institutional investors, and in particular pension funds, are estimated to hold in savings, are seen as playing a starring role. In a blog appeared on RightingFinance, RBW Project Director Aldo Caliari queries human rights risks of such investments and makes recommendations for addressing them.

Read full blog.

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Tue, Jun 9, 2015

CoC-authored chapter featured in Fair Finance Guide


The international civil society network Fair Finance Guide International (FFG) recently launched its report on Transparency and Accountability in the Financial Sector. The report examines key aspects relating to transparency and accountability, and to reporting about tax related issues, as they apply to 47 banks in the seven countries where FFG is active. The report includes a contribution authored by CoC team member Aldo Caliari: “Transparency of banks’ environmental, social and human rights - the case of the United States."