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European legislators link financial regulation failure and human rights

As soon as next month, a resolution on the human rights impacts of the financial crisis may come to a vote in the European Parliament. In what could be an important step to advance the recognition of the links between finance and human rights, the resolution is, at the moment, being considered by a committee of the European Parliament in charge of Foreign Affairs.

Echoing the concerns raised by human rights organizations worldwide, the resolution would underscore some human rights dimensions of the recent financial crisis. The negative impacts of austerity measures countries have undertaken as a response to the crisis is one of them.  Progress towards achieving universal primary education has stalled since 2008, the draft says, and empirical evidence suggests that when education budgets are reduced, more children will prematurely leave school or not attend to join the workforce. Girls in particular are at a higher risk of being taken out of school and forced into child labour or domestic work at home.

The resolution also highlights “rising and volatile food prices are affecting millions of people struggling to meet basic needs.” The vulnerable situation of the elderly is also noted, as impacts of the economic crisis can be particularly acute for older people who may be at greater risk of losing their jobs and are less likely to be retrained and reemployed.

But the crisis does not affect only social and economic rights. Referring to the spreading protests in the Middle East and North Africa, the draft focuses on the impacts on civil and political rights “when governments in some cases limit freedom of expression or association in the context of growing discontent and economic hardship.”

The proposed resolution falls short of stating how to ensure financial regulators live up to their human rights responsibilities. Indeed, governments are responsible for both actions and omissions that lead to curtailing the enjoyment of human rights, and the action or inaction of financial regulatory bodies could not enjoy any privileged status in this regard. The European Parliament should, however, be encouraged and commended in taking this step to link the impacts of regulatory failure with human rights principles.

Read a commentary on the proposed European Parliament resolution

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