Defending Dignity: A Manual for National Human Rights Institutions on Monitoring Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF) and the Center for Economic and
Social Rights (CESR) are pleased to present Defending Dignity: A Manual for National Human Rights
Institutions on Monitoring Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Despite significant economic growth in recent decades, poverty levels in the Asia Pacific remain
unacceptably high. While governments have committed to progressively realize economic, social and
cultural rights (ESCR), these commitments are yet to become a reality for the 1.8 billion people in the
region who live in poverty. Their lives are continuously threatened by lack of food, the risk of disease,
hazardous work and precarious living conditions.
National human rights institutions (NHRIs) across the Asia Pacific – in emerging economies such as
India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, as well as in transitional countries such as the Maldives,
Nepal and Palestine – have been vocal advocates for the adoption of a human rights-based approach
to development. However, for such an approach to be meaningfully implemented, governments must
be held to account when their development plans or socio-economic policies fail to address patterns
of preventable human rights deprivations, such as hunger, illiteracy, unsafe drinking water, lack of basic
health services, social discrimination, physical insecurity, and political exclusion.
Effective monitoring is essential for ensuring accountability. It can highlight when laws and policies
cause, continue or worsen deprivations of ESCR. However, this kind of policy monitoring requires close
examination of areas that were, until relatively recently, considered to be beyond the reach of human
rights law. As a result, there has been limited guidance for NHRIs on how to address these issues.