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Equipping NHRIs to defend dignity

Graphic: Boy in New Delhi with shoe shine equipment

A new APF-CESR manual and video provides practical support and tools to monitor and promote economic and social rights.


The Asia-Pacific is home to more of the world's poor than any other region. Some 1.8 billion people face daily deprivations, including lack of food, the risk of disease, hazardous work and precarious living conditions.

A new manual published by the APF and the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) argues that this does not have to be the case.

Too often, laws and government policies create, perpetuate or exacerbate deprivations of many basic rights and limit people's opportunities for a decent life.

Defending Dignity: A Manual for National Human Rights Institutions on Monitoring Economic, Social and Cultural Rights highlights the responsibility on governments to create the conditions in which people can enjoy their rights, especially those on the margins of society.

The manual also explains that effective monitoring is essential for understanding the reasons why some groups of people experience human rights violations that are entirely preventable.

Defending Dignity sets out the critical role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) to hold governments accountable for violations of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as to help chart a path forward so that these rights can be a reality for all people.

This is especially important following the recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Graphic: Girls at school in Afghanistan

The manual provides a range of practical tools and strategies for examining laws, socio-economic policies and government budgets in order to assess their impact on economic, social and cultural rights.

It introduces the OPERA framework, developed by CESR, as a way to combine quantitative and qualitative evidence – including statistics and data, policy and budget analysis and personal stories – to visualise the scope and scale of chronic human rights deprivations and identify areas for reform.

Defending Dignity also outlines some key elements of effective report writing so that NHRIs can document their findings and make a compelling case for change.

The manual is complemented by a series of animations, which follow a fictitious human rights officer as she puts the monitoring principles into action on a pressing human rights issue in her country. The video resource also includes leading human rights experts from the Asia Pacific and beyond discussing different aspects of the monitoring process.


Children in Afghanistan collecting water

The Defending Dignity video resource includes an introduction and the following four sections:


Defending Dignity was developed by CESR in consultation with a reference group of Commissioners and senior staff from a range of APF members.

"Poverty, inequality and deprivation are not inevitable tragedies; they result when economic and social policy-makers disregard their human rights obligations," said Ignacio Saiz, Executive Director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights. "

"As independent bodies officially mandated to protect and promote all human rights across all spheres of public policy, NHRIs have a crucial role to play in holding government institutions and others accountable to their human rights responsibilities in the socio-economic and development arenas."

"This Manual responds to a strong call from our members to strengthen their work to promote and protect ESC rights," said Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director of the APF secretariat.

"It draws heavily on the experiences and perspectives of NHRIs in the region, as well as the expertise of CESR. We trust it will be a valuable resource for NHRIs and others working for human rights in the Asia Pacific and other parts of the world."


Image credits

  1. Boy in New Delhi with shoe shine equipment - APF/Michael Power
  2. Girls at school in Afghanistan - Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
  3. Children in Afghanistan collecting water - Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission