As bridges between the state and civil society, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) are well-placed to empower individuals in claiming their economic and social rights and encourage their participation in policy making. This is particularly important given that, more than a decade after the global financial crisis, some economic and social policies and decisions in Europe continue to not take due account of international human rights standards. Through our Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Working Group, we facilitate joint work on a range of issues, such as poverty, housing and social security.

HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH TO COVID-19 RECOVERY

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted not only in a global health crisis, but in the widespread exacerbation of social inequalities. Through their mandates, NHRIs were well placed to advise governments in guaranteeing that recovery efforts leave no one behind. 

To support NHRIs in guiding governments on national recovery and resilience plans, we partnered with OHCHR to develop a checklist in early 2022 that followed a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to recovery. Underpinned by five key human rights principles, it can assist NHRIs in their work protecting jobs and incomes, promoting gender and socio-economic equality, and upholding human rights norms that guarantee the inclusion of all members of society.  

ROLE OF NHRIS IN REALISING ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS

Showcasing how NHRIs help people realise their social and economic rights has been a constant part of our work in this field.  

In 2019, this was spotlighted as part of wider network activities. ENNHRI’s Annual Conference 2019 explored how a human rights-based approach to policies can aid the enjoyment of economic and social rights and improve economic and social cohesion. The conference focused on poverty, the right to housing, labour rights, justiciability, and promoting economic and social rights. 

The 2019 NHRI Academy also focused on sharing good practices on and enhancing NHRs’ capacity to implement economic and social rights.

Webinar series: Realising economic and social rights in Europe – Tips and tricks for NHRIs

ENNHRI launched a series of webinars targeted to build capacity of European NHRIs on different issues related to economic and social rights. The first webinar focused on a human rights-based approach to poverty reduction and measurement, while the second explored how NHRIs can better understand challenges and human rights violations of Older Persons.

Webinar series: Realising economic and social rights in Europe – Tips and tricks for NHRIs

HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH TO POVERTY REDUCTION AND MEASUREMENT

Poverty is not only a lack of income: it is a lack of access to human rights. Given their broad human rights mandate and position between civil society and the state, NHRIs are ideal actors to support a human rights-based approach to poverty reduction and measurement. 

Our guide supports European NHRIs to advance a human rights-based approach to poverty reduction and measurement, while also using the Sustainable Development Goals 

Download: A human rights-based approach to COVID-19 economic response and recovery – Protecting jobs, SMEs, and workers, including in the context of national recovery and resilience plans: Checklist for European National Human Rights Institutions

COE-FRA-ENNHRI-EQUINET COLLABORATIVE PLATFORM ON SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS

Since its establishment in 2015, we have participated in the CoE-FRA-ENNHRI-Equinet Collaborative Platform on social and economic rights. This has been together with the Council of Europe, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights and the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet).  

Platform members explore how to ensure that the European Social Charter and other international standards on economic and social rights are considered in the design and implementation of national legislation and practice. It also places NHRIs and Equality Bodies at the heart of these efforts.  

The last platform meeting in 2022 looked at strengthening cooperation between NHRIs, equality bodies and civil society organisations working on social rights. 

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS IN TIMES OF LIMITED RESOURCES (AUSTERITY)

Fiscal consolidation policies and reforms were widespread in Europe during the mid-2010s. During this time, ENNHRI prioritised work on human rights protection in times of limited resources.  

European NHRIs engaged with the UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt, the European Committee of Social Rights, and civil society to explore how human rights standards can guide economic policy. NHRIs also showed they can play an advisory role. Institutions from Great Britain, Greece and Ireland monitored austerity measures’ impact on vulnerable groups. Two events in 2013 discussed how economic policy-making can follow human rights-based methods. 

ECONOMIC, SOCIAL & CULTURAL RIGHTS WORKING GROUP

Our work on this topic is facilitated by our Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Working Group. It acts as a hub of experts and a platform to exchange knowledge, good practices and challenges that NHRIs face in this area. The Working Group also coordinates engagement with regional actors at the EU and Council of Europe and, to some extent, the UN. 

Co-Chair 

Christiaan Duijst – Netherlands Institute for Human Rights 

Co-Chair 

Katerina Charokopou – Greek National Commission for Human Rights 

Representatives of European NHRIs at the Greek National Commission for Human Rights for the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Working Group meeting (9 April 2019 – Athens, Greece)
ESCR Working Group (April 2019)

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence