Skip to main content Skip to footer

Strengthen and Ensure Economic and Social Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) guarantees a full range of economic human rights: the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of oneself, including the right to food, clothing, housing, medical care, and necessary social services.

Yet the international crises of growing poverty and continuing hunger amidst wealth, exemplify how governments have fallen short on their human rights commitments. The broad political program to deal with the current crisis, called the "Washington Consensus," is a philosophy espoused by international financial institutions that seeks to restructure the global economy in ways that permit greater corporate control and profit taking. A soft, liberal middle-of-the-road agenda put forth by mainstream development organizations merely puts an environmentally and socially 'friendly face' to these policies by adding social and environmental clauses and side agreements. This fails to challenge the root cause of human rights violations within the dominant model, and becomes a 'sugar coating on a bitter pill.'

The Oakland Institute is opposed both to the conservatism of the Washington Consensus and the liberalism that seeks to modify, rather than fundamentally challenge the social-economic model. Social movements around the world - Anti-Privatization Forum in South Africa; La Coordinadora: coalition to challenge water privatization in Cochabamba, Bolivia; Korean Peoples' Action Against FTA and WTO; Farmers movement in India; Poor Peoples' Assembly in Thailand; Movement of Landless Workers in Brazil; the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in the U.S. - are using the framework of human rights to organize and build national and international support for their struggles. However, the framework of human rights is still selectively applied to mostly third world countries and is focused exclusively on political rights to the exclusion of economic, social and cultural rights.

The Oakland Institute is working to strengthen and promote the human rights framework internationally as a powerful discourse to counter the economic efficiency arguments that exclude human and environmental values. We work to reshape the human rights discourse in the direction of universality (i.e. apply it to the U.S. and other rich countries as well) and indivisibility (i.e. economic and social rights cannot be separated from civil and political rights) and especially as we challenge the privatization of the commons, such as land, water, and seeds.

Related Publications