Social Watch Report 2012: Rights as the basis of sustainable development

Repression in Yemen: gross
human rights violations in an
unsustainable country.
(Photo: HRITC)

Rights are the basis of sustainable development, said Roberto Bissio, coordinator of Social Watch, when asked to summarize the conclusions of the new report of this international network of civil society organizations, launched at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Friday, on the eve of the Human Rights Day. Over sixty national reports by independent citizen groups form the core of the Social Watch Report 2012, which this year focuses on the rights of future generations.

Social Watch demands that "bilateral and multilateral development agencies have to be made accountable for their human rights impact”.

“The adoption and implementation of the human rights approach is essential if sustainable development is to become a reality for all, especially the world’s marginalized,” noted, on other chapter of the report, Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, and Shivani Chaudhry, Associate Director of the Housing and Land Rights Network, India.

“Failure to embrace this approach will lead to more hunger, dispossession, homelessness, landlessness and environmental degradation across the globe. The impact of rights violations will be particularly severe for women, children, indigenous peoples, coastal communities, forest dwellers, small farmers, landless workers, and the urban poor,” they remarked.

“Development, if truly sustainable, needs to take place for and through people; human rights have to be placed at the core of any developmental approach,” wrote on another chapter Mirjam van Reisen, professor of theTilburg University, and Simon Stocker and Georgina Carr, both members of Eurostep. “At the same time living conditions and general well-being have to be improved in a sustainable manner. In this regard emphasis should be placed on promoting gender equality, advancing women’s rights and empowering women,”

“The human rights framework sets clear goals for well-being indicators,” Bissio added in the overview, and he explained that “basically all of the first six Millenium Development Goals can be read as a request to fulfill existing rights in accordance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” such as the rights to food, to health, to education for all girls and boys, the reduction of infant mortality, the universal attendance of all births by trained personnel, the universal access to safe water and sanitation and even the universal access to phone and internet services.

“If fulfilment of basic dignity levels of enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights is not incompatible with sustainability and achievable with existing resources, not doing so is not just an ethical fault but also a threat to the global system, increasingly perceived as unjust, unfair, designed to create more and more inequality and therefore illegitimate,” remarked Bisiso.

He added that “when basic civic and political rights are absent civil society is unable to organize peacefully”, people “cannot make their voices heard and the quality of government policies suffers,” and he mentioned the cases of Eritrea, Burma, Palestine under foreign occupation and Yemen “teetering on de edge of civil war.” Those circumstances prevent any progress towards sustainable development, according to the coordinator of Social Watch based on the 66 national studies published on the Report, all of them produced by grassroots organizations.

Social Watch Report includes the Joint Civil Society Statement to call the Group of 20 to embed human rights in the plans of financial Regulation. “Human rights should be at the core of economic recovery,” reads the text, signed by dozens of organizations. “Only an enduring commitment to respect, protect and fulfil legally binding […] obligations enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and core international treaties can provide the basis for reforms to ensure a more sustainable, resilient and just global economy.”

It also contains It also contains the data of the most recent measurement of the Basic Capabilities Index (BCI), indicator that combines infant mortality rates, the number of births attended by trained personnel and enrolment rates in primary school. This year Japan is in the top position and Chad at the bottom. The global BCI shows progresses between 1990 and 2011, although in general the progress slowed down between the previous decade and the next one. Since 2000, the BCI moved up just 3 points (100 is the maximum value), while world CO2 emissions, that had fallen in the last decade of the 20th century, moved up from 4.1 tons per capita to 4.6 tons. World trade and per capita income also grew faster than the social indicators.

This edition includes the most recent measurement of the Basic Capabilities Index (BCI), indicator that combines infant mortality rates, the number of births attended by trained personnel and enrolment rates in primary school; the Gender Equity Index (GEI) and the new Social and Economic Rights Fulfillment Index (SERF Index), that determines the extent to which countries are meeting their obligations to fulfill five human rights enumerated in the International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: the right to food, the right to adequate shelter, the right to healthcare, the right to education, and the right to decent work.

Read more
Overview of the Social Watch Report 2012 (full version):
Social Watch Report 2012 website:
Civil Society Statement: