European & International News

New website exposes impact of financial sector on human rights

[Brussels, 10 December 2012] A task force of human rights organisations and networks today launched a website devoted to
highlighting the globally growing concern about the impact of financial regulation on human rights. The harm caused by the financial crisis to living conditions worldwide is well documented. Livelihoods, poverty, human rights, freedom of expression and mobility, identity and sexuality have come under pressure and been radically altered since the onset of the crisis. “Yet, financial regulation continues to be treated as if human rights did not need to be part of the discussion,” said Aldo Caliari, of Center of Concern, which coordinates the initiative. “We have set out to change that.”

The website –accessible at www.rightingfinance.org- was developed an initiative entitled “A bottom up approach to righting financial regulation”. Its members are the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), CIVICUS Alliance, the Center of Concern, ESCR-Net, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), IBASE, Social Watch and the Norwegian Center for Human Rights.

Especially since the eruption of the Great Recession in 2008, human rights experts, monitoring bodies, social movements and diverse civil society organisations have become increasingly vocal on the connections between finance and human rights. Earlier this year, a UN committee in charge of monitoring economic and social rights issued a letter to governments expressing concern about the protection of economic and social rights in the context of austerity programmes implemented in the wake of the crises. Women’s organisations have found that women bear the brunt of these programmes which eliminate or reduce social services.

In the European context, the budget cuts are steps backward in fulfilling human rights commitments, and come in the throes of budgetary commitments of some EUR 4.5 trillion made to rescue financial institutions. “Unforeseen levels of spending for bank rescues highlight the unacceptable injustice of not placing human rights at the heart of the financial regulation process –from beginning to end,”
said Nicholas Lusiani, of CESR.

The website will serve to capture views from a human rights perspective on all areas of financial regulation, such as financial sector taxation, derivatives regulation and the impact of hedge and private equity funds. It is being launched on a highly symbolic day that commemorates the anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. This year’s celebrations focus on the human rights principle of participation in the decisions which affect people’s lives—particularly
pertinent as people worldwide fight to engage in better oversight of global financial markets. “Today of all days we should remember actions and inactions by governments in regulating financial markets are to be judged by the same Universal Declaration on Human Rights that applies to any other government (and third parties) activity,” said Roberto Bissio, of Social Watch.

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