Inequality, the Global Economy, and Human Rights

2015-2017 Initiative on Inequality, the Global Economy, and Human Rights

The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice has launched a new initiative on Inequality, the Global Economy, and Human Rights.  Building upon the Center’s work in 2012-2014 on human rights fact-finding, methods and evidence, this new initiative shifts the focus to economic and social rights (ESR).  The aim of the multiyear program is to critically examine the role of international human rights law in regulating the global economy and countering its tendency to exacerbate inequalities.  By promoting research and scholarship focused on the intersection of the global economy and human rights, the Center seeks to enhance understanding of the structural causes of deepening inequalities, including the role of economic and fiscal policies.  It also seeks to strengthen community efforts to document the lived effects of those policies on the enjoyment of economic and social rights and to identify and reinforce channels of accountability for ESR violations.

We live in an increasingly transnational and staggeringly unequal world.  The surge in cross-border investments by multinational companies, the vast chasm that has opened between the global elite and the world’s poorest populations, and the explosion of global communication and information technologies, all challenge state-centered conceptions of community and approaches to regulation.  The growing gap between the rich and the poor within and between countries has spurred outcry from nearly all corners:  Protestors have taken to the streets across the globe, from Zuccotti Park to Tahrir Square, denouncing disparity and demanding democracy; headlines about the economic divide appear with increasing frequency in the press; anti-poverty and development organizations have made tackling inequality paramount; economists and political scientists have attracted attention with new studies on the causes and consequences of unequal wealth and income distribution; and policymakers, facing these mounting pressures, are finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the gulf between the “haves” and the “have nots”.  Yet, in this rising chorus, the voices of human rights scholars and practitioners have been far from prominent.

To address this gap, CHRGJ is developing a range of activities, including, among others:

  • convening interdisciplinary workshops that foster dialogue on the inequality dimensions of various contemporary human rights issues;
  • organizing an international conference on taxation and human rights, fall 2016;
  • coordinating the publication of a volume of new scholarship on these issues; and
  • hosting visiting fellows and student scholars-in-residence who are conducting research and writing on cutting edge issues in economic and social rights.

As reflected in numerous publications available on our website, CHRGJ has done substantial work in the field of ESR already, on issues ranging from the rights to water, food, and livelihood, to the use of interdisciplinary legal and social science research to improve documentation of ESR violations.  Throughout its work, the Center has consistently focused on the human rights obligations of powerful institutions and actors, such as donor governments and international financial institutions, in the face of deepening global inequalities.

The new initiative on Inequality, the Global Economy, and Human Rights, will expand upon the Center’s past experience to deepen interdisciplinary dialogues and scholarship on ESR issues.