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Who Will Be Accountable? Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda

In September of 2000 world leaders met at the Millennium Summit to establish a framework of goals to be met by 2015. The global community is now beginning to seriously assess its failures and successes and possibly establish a new development agenda. A recent joint publication by the CESR and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Who Will Be Accountable?  Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda,” puts forth a shifted focus onto accountability which it contends must involve a domestic and global framework. Domestically, State leaders must be more accountable to the demands and concerns of their citizens rather than to their donors. Globally, international actors must be more accountable to the individuals and communities abroad in whose interests they claim to act. While certain financial actors have made important progress in developing policies and systems of accountability, their voluntary and self-regulatory nature means that significant gaps in accountability remain to be addressed.

 

The publication argues that International Financial Institutions (IFIs) have had a mixed impact on human rights and accountability. In many regards IFIs have contributed to governments’ efforts to fulfill their human rights obligations. However, the publication documents many of the detrimental effects attributed to IFIs which have been largely unaccountable with regard to human rights. The CESR and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights claim the most important missing element of accountability for IFIs is enforcement specifically the ability to ensure that appropriate corrective action is taken when required. Redress via formal court processes is claimed to be theoretically possible when IFI-supported programs have clearly caused or contributed to human rights violations. Attempts have been made to do so but with only symbolic importance and the overall prospects for timely and effective action have been limited.

 

The publication goes on to note that credit ratings agencies and export credit agencies have also been largely unaccountable. Credit ratings agencies provide independent opinions on the creditworthiness of an entity or debt, financial obligation or financial instrument. Their assessments strongly influence the sentiments of international investors and the interest rates at which Governments can borrow on financial markets, and thereby the resources available for the realization of human rights.

 

Export credit agencies (ECAs) are public or quasi-governmental institutions (or consortia of public and private companies) that provide domestic corporations with government-backed loans, guarantees, credits and insurance to support exports and foreign investment. While promoting exports and investment is not necessarily problematic, ECAs generally have minimal transparency, accountability and safeguards related to human rights, corruption or the environment. Adverse impacts from ECA-funded projects can be severe. The publication argues that states need to do more at the national level to ensure that ECAs do not support projects that violate human rights, and to ensure independent investigative procedures and redress where necessary.

 

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