Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights (A/69/297)

Organization(s): UN Human Rights Council
Author: Philip Alston
Regions: World
Year: 2014
Language: English

The present report focuses on the implementation of the right to social protection through the adoption by all States of social protection floors. The very widely endorsed Social Protection Floor Initiative aims to guarantee basic income security and access to essential social services for all. In the report, the Special Rapporteur reviews the reasons for the marginality of social protection during most of the twentieth century and then traces the evolution of the concept of social protection floors and notes its defining characteristics. While international organizations have played an important role, social protection initiatives by countries in the global South have also been indispensable catalysts.

In the report, the Special Rapporteur examines the key challenges that must be addressed if the initiative is to be successful. They include overcoming the ambivalence of key international actors, including especially the World Bank, towards the concept; the lack of sufficient legal recognition of social protection as a human right; and misgivings as to the affordability of social protection floors. He argues that the draft produced by the Open Working Group of the General Assembly on Sustainable Development Goals on 19 July 2014 is a considerable disappointment in terms of its approach to both human rights and social protection.

In the report, the Special Rapporteur calls for civil society groups working in the human rights field to engage with the Initiative in a way that has not happened to date and for the World Bank to adopt a new approach that is genuinely supportive of it. He also suggests greater engagement with the Initiative by both the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the special procedures mandate holders. He concludes that universal promotion of the right to social protection, through the adoption of social protection floors and closely related initiatives taken within an overall human rights-based framework, should become a central goal for all actors within the human rights and development contexts. It should be seen not only as an initiative designed to promote economic, social and cultural rights, but also one that has great potential to improve the enjoyment of civil and political rights by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

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Social Protection and Human Rights