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Protecting people's rights and dignity

Graphic: Boys smiling

A new manual provides NHRIs with practical tools to help people defend their economic, social and cultural rights.


Defending people against inequality and deprivation is the focus of a new training manual for staff and Commissioners of national human rights institutions in the Asia Pacific region, which will be officially launched in the coming month.

Defending Dignity, published jointly by the APF and the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), highlights the responsibility on governments to create the conditions in which people can enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights, especially those on the margins of society.

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

In the Asia Pacific region, 1.8 billion people live in poverty. Their daily lives are continuously threatened by lack of food, the risk of disease, hazardous work and precarious living conditions.

Effective monitoring is essential to understand the reasons why some groups of people experience human rights violations that are entirely preventable, said Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director of the APF secretariat.

"NHRIs can and should hold governments accountable when this happens, as well as help chart a pathway so that economic, social and cultural rights can be a reality for all people in their countries," he said.

"However, monitoring national development plans, socio-economic policies and government budgets from a human rights perspective requires very specific skills and, to date, there has been limited guidance for NHRIs on how to undertake this important work."

Defending Dignity provides a range of practical tools and strategies for examining laws, policies and 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.

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

Defending Dignity was written by Allison Corkery, Director of Rights Claiming and Accountability at CESR, and developed in consultation with a reference group composed of senior staff and Commissioners from a broad range of APF members.

A number of case studies are featured throughout the manual that highlight the practical ways that APF members are already monitoring economic, social and cultural rights as part of their regular work.

Defending Dignity: A Manual for National Human Rights Institutions on Monitoring Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is available on the APF website.

Date: 30 March 2015


Image credits

  1. Boys smiling - AVI, Flickr Creative Commons