Assessing Fiscal Policies from a Human Rights Perspective: Methodological case study on the use of available resources to realize economic, social and cultural rights in Guatemala
In 2009 the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) and the Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales (ICEFI) produced a report titled Rights or Privileges? Fiscal commitment to the rights to health, education and food in Guatemala. A collaboration between an international human rights organization and a Central American civil society organization specializing in monitoring fiscal policies, the project aimed to assess Guatemala’s development efforts through the lens of its human rights obligations, and the particular role of tax and budget policies in fulfilling basic economic and social rights for the whole population. The project was part of ongoing efforts by CESR and other human rights and development practitioners to integrate human rights perspectives more comprehensively and systematically in the monitoring of economic and social development policies.
To assess Guatemala’s compliance with its development and human rights commitments, the study adopted a multidisciplinary approach, combining a range of quantitative and qualitative research techniques drawn from the fields of human rights law, public policy analysis and development economics. This paper provides a step-by-step explanation of the methodological approach designed for the Rights or Privileges project, in order to illustrate the application of CESR’s analytical framework OPERA (so called because it triangulates evidence gathered on Outcomes, Policy Efforts and Resources to make an overall Assessment). The paper is structured around each of the four steps in the framework. For each step, it explains the human rights standards or principles to be assessed and outlines the techniques and tools we used to measure them. Drawing from each of the report’s three focus areas, examples of our findings are used to illustrate the tools and techniques we used in the report and to show how these tools fit into the overall framework. In this way, it complements CESR’s publication The OPERA Framework: Assessing compliance with the obligation to fulfill economic, social and cultural rights.