SDGs and Economic & Social Rights under the Brexit Uncertainty

cover spotlight sdg 2017 reportThis text introduces the UK chapter of the Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2017 international report, with other contributions from Social Watch, Third World Network, the Global Policy Forum and the Center for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, among others. 

“While the Sustainable Development Goals themselves are not framed explicitly in the language of human rights, virtually all of the Goals correspond to the contents of key economic, social and cultural rights.”—UN Secretary-General, December 2016

This report examines the progressive realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and economic and social rights in the UK. Specifically, it focuses on three issues: a) the impact of welfare reforms on the right to an adequate standard of living; b) substantive equality; and c) human rights-based accountability for the implementation of the SDGs.

The present and future of economic and social rights in the UK will depend considerably on the legal and policy consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. In March, the UK communicated formally its intention to leave the EU, and the negotiations only began in late June. What follows will therefore frame economic and social rights in the context of the uncertainty derived from Brexit.

Author: Koldo Casla

Read more…

International human rights can help reverse yet another heavy blow on sexual and reproductive health

My Body My ChoiceThis article was published first in UK Human Rights Blog

Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are not safe and accessible in all corners of the United Kingdom.

Abortion is still a crime in Northern Ireland. Women who choose to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights have to travel to mainland Britain, but they have to face costs (about £900 in this recent case) that would not apply if they lived in England, Wales or Scotland.

By a majority of 3 to 2, the Supreme Court has ruled that, while this situation does in principle concern the right to enjoy a private and family life without discrimination (Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights), the difference in treatment is justified because the decision on this matter falls under the powers of the devolved administration of Northern Ireland (paragraph 20 of the Judgment). And therefore the human rights of women living in Northern Ireland are not being breached.

Well, international human rights bodies beg to differ. Continue reading “International human rights can help reverse yet another heavy blow on sexual and reproductive health”

Evicted rights in Spain: no room of one’s own

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This article was first published in OpenGlobalRights (Open Democracy)

If Virginia Woolf needed a room of her own to write fiction (and much more), Paula needs a place to call home to live her life and to raise her kids. But ineffective policies are blocking her at every turn. Paula is just one of thousands of women who cannot escape the trap of insecure housing after going through an eviction in Spain.

More than 30,000 households were evicted from their rented homes last year alone, as in the previous one, and the one before. The number of households evicted from mortgaged properties does not fall far behind.

Going through an eviction is a traumatic experience for everyone, but Amnesty International has documented that women often experience it differently—and more frequently. Women are overrepresented in part-time jobs, find themselves at the lower end of the pay gap, and regularly bear domestic care duties. Single-parent families, which are predominantly headed by women (in more than eight out of ten cases), often live in rental accommodations. Official statistics show that these families also face higher than average rates of poverty, social exclusion and material deprivation.

Amnesty International interviewed 19 women and four men who either have gone through an eviction or are at risk of being evicted. At least seven of them complained that the judge had not enquired about their personal circumstances. “We did not get the chance to explain our situation to the judge,” said Ana. A female judge in Barcelona confirmed this problem, saying: “When we receive the eviction suit, we have absolutely no idea who lives there.”

Continue reading “Evicted rights in Spain: no room of one’s own”

Derechos desahuciados en España: Sin habitación propia

ai report coverEste artículo fue publicado en OpenGlobalRights (Open Democracy)

Si Virginia Woolf reclamaba una habitación propia para escribir literatura (y para mucho más), Paula reclama un lugar al que poder llamar hogar para vivir su vida y criar a sus hijos. Pero políticas ineficaces le cierran el paso. Paula no es sino una de las miles de mujeres que no pueden salir de la trampa de la vivienda insegura tras un desahucio.

Más de 30.000 familias protagonizaron un desahucio por impago del alquiler el año pasado, al igual que el anterior, y el anterior. El número de familias afectadas por desalojos de origen hipotecario no es muy inferior.

Un desahucio es una experiencia traumática para cualquiera, pero Amnistía Internacional ha documentado que las mujeres lo sufren de manera diferente, y más frecuentemente. Las mujeres están sobrerrepresentadas en los trabajos a jornada parcial, se encuentran en la parte inferior de la brecha salarial, y con frecuencia se hacen cargo de las responsabilidades de cuidado familiar. Las familias monoparentales, predominantemente encabezadas por mujeres (en más de ocho de cada diez casos), suelen vivir en pisos de alquiler. Las estadísticas oficiales muestran que las mujeres en España se enfrentan a tasas más altas de pobreza, exclusión social y privación material.

Miembros de Amnistía Internacional entrevistamos a 19 mujeres y cuatro hombres que o bien habían pasado por un desahucio o corrían el riesgo de ser desahuciadas en un futuro próximo. Al menos siete de ellas lamentaron que durante el proceso el juez no mostró interés por sus circunstancias personales. “No tuvimos ocasión de explicarle nuestra situación”, nos dijo Ana. Una jueza de Barcelona nos lo confirmó: “Cuando recibimos una demanda de desahucio, no tenemos ni la menor idea de quién está viviendo allá”. Continue reading “Derechos desahuciados en España: Sin habitación propia”

General Election: What do the manifestos say about the socio-economic equality duty?

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This article was published first in Left Foot Forward

Lucy Shaddock, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager, The Equality Trust; and Koldo Casla, Policy, Research and Training Manager, Just Fair

The countdown is on to the General Election, and party manifestos have been coming thick and fast. There’s plenty of rhetorical commitment to a more equal and fair society, with the Conservatives proclaiming that they ‘abhor[s] social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality’, and Labour declaring itself ‘the party of equality’. The Liberal Democrats say they will focus on ‘breaking down the barriers that hold people back’, while Plaid Cymru wants a country based on ‘fairness and equal opportunity’. The Green Party promises to ‘fight for equality, and for a society where nobody is left behind’, and the SNP says ‘tackling rising inequality must be one of the key priorities of the next parliament’.

They all use the word ‘rights’ a good number of times. In fact, for the first time in too many years no serious political party threatens to repeal the Human Rights Act in the next Parliament, which is only thanks to the tireless campaigning of so many activists up and down the country.

There are many levers available to policymakers to ease our social divisions – taxation, spending, investment and regulation offer opportunities to tackle inequality. We need them all: the UK has among the most unequal incomes in the developed world, and an eye-watering wealth gap that sees the richest 1,000 people hoarding more wealth than the poorest 40 per cent of the population combined. This economic gulf hurts us. It undermines our enjoyment of human rights by harming our physical and mental health and by hindering our education, it damages our economy, restricts social mobility, reduces levels of trust and civic participation, and weakens the social ties that bind us.

How many of the parties have put their money where their mouth is and committed to reducing socioeconomic inequality as a legal public duty? Continue reading “General Election: What do the manifestos say about the socio-economic equality duty?”

Why are Basque nationalists coming to the rescue of the Spanish conservative government?

This article was published first in Open Democracy under the Can Europe make it? series

With only five seats in a Parliament of 350 Members, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV-EAJ) is playing a crucial role in Spanish politics.

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In a hung parliament, PP’s conservative government can only rely on its 134 MPs and two more that tend to be loyal. About 40 seats short, the government has to negotiate each legislative initiative with the opposition, where two parties stand out as most likely allies in tumultuous waters: the 32 MPs of the central-liberal Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) and the mentioned five from PNV-EAJ. After some political juggling, their support can be enough most of the time.

However, while Ciudadanos is comfortable with PP’s economic policies and anti-devolution Jacobinism, ideology does not explain the PNV-EAJ’s position. PNV-EAJ is closer to the social-democratic PSOE (allegedly closer than PSOE leaders towards each other), and in fact, they share power in the Basque government, in the three Basque provincial governments and in many local councils, including the three main cities.

Even Podemos (“We can”), which is supposed to be to the left of everybody else, included in its Ikea-style 2016 manifesto the expansion of the Basque welfare regime to the rest of Spain, and the recognition of the right to self-determination of the Basque Country and Catalonia, all of which suggests that there could be room for mutual understanding with them too.

But the PNV-EAJ has made a different choice. In essence, Mr Rajoy needs the moderate Basque nationalists to remain in power, and the Basque nationalists know it all too well. After weeks of negotiations, PNV-EAJ has just confirmed it will support the approval of the Spanish budget. Less than one month ago, with its abstention PP facilitated the approval of the Basque government’s budget in the Basque parliament.

Considering the ideological mismatch and the significant disagreement about the very idea of nationhood, how come Basque nationalists seem willing to reach agreements in Madrid with a conservative and unionist party haunted by corruption scandals? Continue reading “Why are Basque nationalists coming to the rescue of the Spanish conservative government?”

Aprendamos a criticar sin condenar, literalmente hablando

1Este artículo fue publicado en El Huffington Post

La hemeroteca estos días nos ha dejado tres historias distintas pero que tienen algo en común.

Como pidieron políticos y varias administraciones, la semana pasada la Fiscalía abrió diligencias que obligaron a inmovilizar el autobús con el que Hazte Oír lanzaba mensajes tránsfobos por las calles de varias ciudades españolas. Al parecer, existía un riesgo de “alteración de la paz pública (y) de creación de un sentimiento de inseguridad o temor” entre personas transexuales, especialmente menores.

En Las Palmas de Gran Canaria un drag queen se vistió de virgen y de jesucristo para ganar un concurso durante el carnaval. El show fue puesto en conocimiento de la Fiscalía por si pudiera constituir un “delito contra los sentimientos religiosos”. El sujeto en cuestión aseguró públicamente que él no quería ofender a nadie. Resulta que la intención de ofender es precisamente uno de los elementos indispensables de este curioso tipo delictivo, así que nunca sabremos si estas explicaciones son genuinas o son por si las moscas.

EITB ha emitido un programa humorístico (¡!) en el que la farándula euskaldun se deshace en estereotipos sobre “los españoles”, que son unos chonis, machistas, corruptos, ignorantes, fachas y muy-muy paletos. No sé cuál es el escándalo, la verdad, porque los vascos ya lo sabíamos: lo absorbimos acríticamente primero de los payasos de la tele, luego en la ikastola, y más tarde en la herriko taberna. Todo el mundo sabe que la facilitad de influir sobre un vasco es tan sólo comparable con la de corromper a un español. En cualquier caso, Ciudadanos y UPN ya han anunciado que van a llevar el tema a los tribunales porque el programa “incita al odio”. Han recordado que quien ríe el último, ríe mejor, y supuestamente el último en reír tiene que ser un juez.

¿Qué tienen en común estas tres historias? Continue reading “Aprendamos a criticar sin condenar, literalmente hablando”