One of the most significant challenges facing human rights groups is doing an effective job of monitoring and documenting governments’ actions that impact rights. This task has become increasingly complex in recent years as more groups have included economic and social rights issues in their scope of work. Monitoring and documenting these issues often require a larger skill set than does most monitoring of civil and political rights issues.
One of the “tools” that has been identified as important in economic and social rights work (and increasingly, in all human rights work) is budget analysis, tracking expenditures, and other types of work related to government budgets. Because of the central role that these skills can play, particularly in work on economic and social rights, in the past few years IHRIP has focused more and more of its attention on encouraging and facilitating groups to learn about and add budget work to their research, analysis and advocacy “tool set.”
Human rights budget work is still young. Many groups around the world are interested in learning about its possibilities. IHRIP is currently involved in a range of initiatives designed to provide opportunities for groups to learn about the work.
One of IHRIP’s initiatives a web page on “Human rights budget work around the world,” which has been developed in response to requests from groups involved in or interested in human rights budget work, so that they can keep up-to-date with work in different countries and learn more about how to undertake the work.
Effective human rights budget work depends on collaboration with other groups, and IHRIP is no exception. In this work, IHRIP coordinates its efforts with members of the Human Rights Budget Group (HURIBUG). HURIBUG currently comprises four civil society groups that have significant experience in explicitly integrating a human rights framework in their budget work. HURIBUG members, in addition to IHRIP, are:
- The International Budget Partnership (US, Mexico, South Africa, India)
- Fundar–Centro de Análisis e Investigación (Mexico)
- The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) (US)
Books and guides can provide important, basic information about a topic. It is with this in mind that IHRIP has collaborated with a number of other organizations, working at the national, regional and international levels, to produce two publications for civil society groups (as well as interested governmental bodies and agencies) on human rights budget work:
Resources on human rights budget work
Budget Work to Advance the Right to Food: “Many a slip…”, while focused on the right to food, sets out a methodology for using budget analysis on issues affecting a range of rights. The guide focuses on situations where the right to food is at risk and where the government’s budget appears to be a significant factor in the situation. It provides suggestions for a step-by-step process for analyzing the situation and relevant aspects of the government’s budget, to identify the precise role the budget plays, and to arrive at recommendations that should lead to improvements.
Dignity Counts: A guide to using budget analysis to advance human rights was published in 2004 by IHRIP together with the IBP and Fundar. Dignity Counts, which focuses on a right to health situation, was the first publication to explore the relationship of human rights to government budgets and to propose processes for analyzing budgets from a rights perspective.
Resources on economic and social rights work
While the full range of IHRIP’s publications is included elsewhere on this site, because budget work is most closely associated with economic and social rights work, mention is made here of two resources that IHRIP has produced on ES rights work:
Circle of Rights–Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Activism: A Training Resource, developed in collaboration with the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) and published in 2000, comprises chapters on specific rights (food, housing, health, etc.), on the ESC rights of specific groups, domestic legal systems and ESC rights, and on taking ESC rights issues to regional and international bodies.
Out of the Shadows is a 50-minute video, produced in 2000, that introduces the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and shadows two NGOs, one in Argentina, the other in Canada, that submit alternative reports and make other interventions to the Committee. The video is designed to inform viewers about how civil society groups can approach Committee and utilize its findings in their work back home.
To order one of these resources, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Supplementing its printed resources, IHRIP designs and sponsors participatory learning programs, held at the national, regional and international levels, on aspects of human rights activism. Most recently these programs have focused on human rights budget work. The latter introduce participants to economic and social rights analysis, government budgets and budget processes, budget analysis tools, integrating budget and human rights analyses to address situations of concern, and integrating the findings into budget advocacy.
Recent programs have been:
- The 1st Latin American Regional Learning Program on Budget Analysis and Economic and Social Rights, a 10-day program conducted in Spanish and held in Buenos Aires in August 2009, which drew more than 20 participants from Latin America and the Caribbean. This program was co-sponsored with the IBP, Fundar, ESCR-Net, the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales and the Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia.
- An Asian Regional Learning Program on Budget Work to Advance Economic and Social Rights, co-sponsored with the IBP, the Asian Institute for Human Rights and other organizations. This program was held in 2008 in Chiangmai, Thailand.
- In 2007, the Foundation for Human Rights and Democracy (FOHRD) in Liberia hosted and co-sponsored with HURIBUG a West African Learning Program on Budget Analysis and Economic and Social Rights. Participants were from civil society groups in West Africa. In 2005 and 2006, HURIBUG member organizations, together with local organizations, sponsored international learning programs with a similar focus.
- In 2005-2007 IHRIP, together with Fundar, developed and helped teach a learning program for members of the National Assembly in Sudan on human rights and government budgets. In 2007 the two organizations also undertook a learning program for Sudanese civil society groups on the same topic.
In past years, IHRIP designed and sponsored learning programs on ESC rights work. From 2002-2004 it collaborated with Dignity International in offering week-long international workshops on this topic. In 2007 at the request of the Human Rights Unit of the UN Mission to Sudan, IHRIP offered two learning programs on monitoring ESC rights for the Unit’s Human Rights Program Officers.
A further dimension of IHRIP’s work is enabling organizations to learn from each other’s experiences through facilitating the exchange of staff between organizations. The Program has been facilitating these types of exchanges across a broad range of human rights work for more than 20 years. In the past year, however, IHRIP has narrowed the focus for these professional development exchanges to human rights budget work. The opportunities now are open to:
- Groups already involved in human rights budget work who want to enhance their knowledge and skills
- Human rights groups interested in learning more about budget work, and
- Organizations already involved in budget work who want to learn more about a human rights framework and how to integrate that framework into budget work.
Although the formats for the exchanges may vary, the most typical is one where a staff member from one organization spends 3-4 months with another organization, learning about a specific aspect of the host organization’s work through discussions with staff as well as observation of and participation in the organization’s day-to-day work.
If you or your organization is interested in pursuing such an exchange, please write to email@example.com to request an application form.
IHRIP (and its HURIBUG partner organizations) also regularly provide advice and technical assistance on different aspects of human rights budget work. This work typically involves one-to-one discussions, whether at a distance or in person, that focus on specific areas of interest or concern to the other organization. An example of such a project is one where, in 2008, IHRIP advised an NGO in Sudan, on a project it was undertaking on the government’s health budget as it related to maternal and infant mortality in the country. IHRIP’s contribution was in advising on a rights framework for the project and integrating human rights standards into the budget analysis.