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Human Rights and 21st Century ChallengesPoverty, Conflict, and the Environment$

Dapo Akande, Jaakko Kuosmanen, Helen McDermott, and Dominic Roser

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198824770

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198824770.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 September 2020

The Promise and Pitfalls of the Sustainable Development Goals

The Promise and Pitfalls of the Sustainable Development Goals

Has the Time Come for a Rights-Based Approach to Poverty Reduction?

(p.266) 12 The Promise and Pitfalls of the Sustainable Development Goals*
Human Rights and 21st Century Challenges

Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona

Kate Donald

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter will critically address the contribution of a human rights-based approach in addressing persistent poverty. Using the commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a lens, it will examine how a human rights approach should influence the conceptualization and measurement of poverty, and the policies and financing instruments used to tackle it. The authors examine several crucial policy and action areas, such as social protection, gender equality, fiscal policy, improving participation and accountability, and contrast the prevailing ‘traditional’ development approach with an approach grounded in human rights. It asks how far we have come in changing the paradigm and what are the crucial actions needed to realize the ‘transformation’ envisaged in the SDGs, including the elimination of extreme poverty.

Keywords:   human rights, poverty, inequality, development, sustainable development goals, 2030 Agenda, rights-based approach, resource mobilization

I. Introduction

The way that we think about poverty has changed hugely over the course of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Whereas before the archetypal image of poverty was of starving orphans in rural sub-Saharan Africa, now many people (especially in the development, social justice, and human rights fields) may think of a homeless person on the streets of bustling prosperous cities. Whereas before the charity and aid approach to tackling poverty predominated, now many more people are questioning the structural underpinnings of our economies and societies and the systemic injustices that may plague them. Today, in the public debate and public consciousness, poverty is not restricted solely to Africa or Asia, and poverty and inequality in countries such as the United States and austerity-hit Greece are widely acknowledged and discussed.

This considerable transformation is partly the result of success: the world has made great strides in reducing extreme poverty in the ‘developing world’ in the last few decades. Globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty declined by more than half from 1990 to 2015.1 However alongside these laudable strides, certain failures have come more clearly into focus, not least the widening gap between the rich and the poor and the ever more intense concentration of wealth among a tiny number of elites.2 Environmental degradation and the devastating current and future impacts of climate change are also coming further into focus and posing a profound challenge to an economic model which relies on continuous economic growth and expanding consumption.

(p.267) Meanwhile, the global demographics of poverty have shifted. Most of the world’s (income) poor (those living below $1.90 dollar per day purchasing power parity (PPP)) now live in ‘non-poor’ countries, with middle-income countries now home to 73 per cent of the world’s poor.3 Extreme poverty in these countries is also very real—recent research shows that persons living below the international poverty line in middle-income countries have a similar standard of deprivation to those in the poorest countries.4

At the same time, austerity policies implemented in the aftermath of the 2007–08 financial crisis have driven up poverty rates (and related phenomena such as homelessness) in high-income countries.5 The financial crisis and various political shifts have also impacted on aid flows. Intensified globalization has also in many cases shifted the locus of economic power (including from states to large transnational corporations), with profound and varied impacts on labour forces and wages worldwide.

Alongside other factors, the human rights approach has had some impact in changing norms and discourse around poverty, including by increasing recognition of the interrelationship of poverty with discrimination and entrenched inequalities (along lines of gender, class, race, migration status, religion, and others). However, in a world of widening economic disparity, in the aftermath of financial crisis, and with poverty increasingly recognized as manifesting in different pernicious forms, what next for the rights-based approach to poverty?

This chapter will discuss the question of how far we have come with regards to a rights-based approach to poverty through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are likely to direct or at least frame poverty reduction and related development efforts until 2030. Moreover, in many senses the SDGs, their targets and the process of deciding and implementing them embody the peculiar (p.268) mix of progress, challenges, and contradictions facing the field of poverty and human rights.

II. The SDGs—A Paradigm Shift?

On 1 January 2016, the world officially began the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development after its adoption by 193 countries in September 2015.6 With its 17 SDGs and 169 targets, the Agenda covers a comprehensive set of issues across the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social, and environmental.

The 2030 Agenda is hugely ambitious: it seeks to ‘end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment’ (Preamble).

SDG1 aims to ‘[e]nd poverty in all its forms everywhere’ by 2030. It has seven targets including: to ‘eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere’ (1.1); ‘reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions’ (1.2); and ‘implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors; and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable’ (1.3). Target 1.4 includes one of the few explicit mentions of ‘rights’ in the goals and targets, aiming to ‘ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources’ including land, property and inheritance. A brief analysis of some of these targets and their implications is made in the next section.

From a pragmatic point of view, while it is important to remain critical of the flaws of the SDGs, we argue that human rights advocates will achieve better results by working with it rather than ignoring it. Unfolding the potential of the SDGs might be a powerful vehicle for human rights realization and a feasible way to address the historic levels of inequality that are negatively impacting our societies.

Despite the progress made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000–15), the high levels of poverty and inequality today call into question the effectiveness and sustainability of several poverty reduction policies implemented in the past. Making further and better progress seems to require moving away from ‘business as usual’ by improving existing strategies and adopting new ones. Moreover, our increased knowledge of the devastating pace and impact of climate change requires an urgent turn away from models of poverty reduction which rely on continuous economic growth (with accompanying increases in consumption and carbon emissions) to lift large numbers of people out of extreme poverty. (p.269) Instead, the daunting challenge is to find a way to tackle poverty while respecting planetary boundaries.7

The SDGs, which are self-proclaimed as ‘transformative’, prompt us to review all perspectives and approaches critically, including a human rights approach. In fact, the 2030 Agenda recognizes that a rights-based approach should underpin all poverty reduction efforts (2030 Agenda, paras 18–20).

However, despite the explicit anchoring of the new Agenda in human rights norms and principles in the Declaration, clear human rights language was resisted by some governments in the drafting of the goals and targets. This calls into question how far we have really come in bringing together the human rights and development agendas, and certainly how far-reaching the acceptance of the human rights-based approach to development has been even after several decades in place.

The exclusion of stronger human rights language undermines the international human rights framework adopted by the same states and contradicts the commitment they have made to a rights-based approach to development over decades, included in international instruments8 as well as in national policy documents.9

Yet, even if the commitment to human rights in the SDGs is not as strong as one might wish, the references to human rights in the Declaration might be the lever to unleash the transformative potential of the 2030 Agenda, linking the SDGs with legally enforceable rights and internationally agreed standards. Such norms and standards limit the discretion of policy-makers in the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies. A human rights approach might be one of the essential elements needed to make comprehensive progress towards the goals, and can certainly provide alternatives to the approaches of the last decades.

III. A Human Rights-Based Approach to Unfold the Transformative Potential of the 2030 Agenda

This section examines how emerging contributions from a human rights perspective may assist in understanding and realizing the radical potential of the SDGs. (p.270) There are of course many areas of the SDGs which would benefit from a human rights approach but we have chosen those we consider to imply the most significant step forward from the MDGs. Under each of them, a brief description is given of the dominant poverty reduction approaches that have been implemented over the last decades and then we examine how the SDGs might represent an improvement or a new approach—or where they might fall short. We then go on to describe what a human rights approach would imply in terms of strategy and policy, and where appropriate we analyse the likely obstacles to the flourishing of a rights based potential.

A. Anchoring the Concept of Universality

During the fifteen years of the MDGs Agenda (2000–15) there was a significant decline in global poverty. Yet, the results were very uneven. While in China and India there was a dramatic decrease in poverty, it remains stubbornly high in sub-Saharan African countries and South Asia.10 Moreover, there are deep pockets of poverty within countries as well as an increase in poverty in developed countries, most notably in Europe, in recent years.11

The gains have also been uneven across population groups, with women and children disproportionately remaining stuck in poverty.12 Even where progress has been made, gains remain fragile.

The 2030 Agenda recognized these significant shortfalls of the MDGs and committed ‘to address their unfinished business’. To some extent, the SDGs were built on a different model of what development is and where it happens. They include several issues that human rights advocates have long recognized as intrinsic to equitable development but have been left out from the MDGs, such as inequality and discrimination, peace, violence against women, and good governance as well as the crucial environmental dimension.

A critical difference between the two agendas is the concept of universally. Unlike the MDGs which were largely focused on poor countries, all the SDGs are intended to apply to all countries. This provides a crucial recognition that no country in the world is sustainably developed; poverty and inequality and environmental degradation exist everywhere, and all countries must do their part both domestically and on the global stage. This concept of universality is also more in line with the international human rights framework and helps to correct the (p.271) skewed power and accountability dynamics reinforced by the MDGs’ focus on poor countries.

Target 1.2, which requires all countries to tackle multidimensional poverty with the national poverty line as a benchmark, is particularly important in the context of this universal approach, and in contrast to the MDGs’ myopic focus on dollar-a-day extreme poverty in the developing world. In the SDGs, governments pledge to eliminate this extreme poverty (now measured as less than $1.90 a day) rather than just reduce it. Such ‘zero targets’, where states pledge to eradicate rather than just scale back grave injustices, occur at several points in 2030 Agenda (eg Target 5.1 to end discrimination against women and Target 5.2 to eliminate all forms of violence against women) and are certainly more in line with long-standing legal human rights obligations. Target 1.3 on social protection is also pertinent for all countries, given that austerity measures in many developed countries have resulted in cuts to social protection programs13 and higher poverty levels.14

The fact that developed countries have committed to tackling poverty domestically as part of a global development agenda should be seen as an important opportunity to increase scrutiny of, and accountability for, poverty in these countries. In addition, developed countries also continue to have responsibilities regarding the ways in which their actions (and omissions) impact poverty levels in the developing world.15

While the MDGs included a goal on the Global Partnership for Development (MDG8), this was one of the most off-track and neglected MDGs.16 Consequently, SDG17 seeks to ‘revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development’ with a more comprehensive approach that includes new elements that are important from a human rights perspective, including on policy space, policy coherence, macroeconomic stability, and civil society partnerships. Compliance with these targets should have strong implications for the actions of developed countries and their impacts overseas, requiring a robust political commitment from rich nations that was decidedly lacking under the MDGs.

The responsibilities of developed countries for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda overseas can be viewed in line with their extra-territorial human rights obligations and obligations regarding international assistance and cooperation. In particular, targets on policy coherence can be usefully interpreted through the obligation states have to refrain from any conduct that impairs the ability of another state to comply with its own human rights commitments, and to avoiding conduct that would foreseeably risk impairing the enjoyment of human rights by (p.272) persons beyond their borders.17 Increasingly, human rights monitoring bodies are addressing the responsibility of states for extraterritorial impacts of tax abuses, as they may undermine the ability of another state to mobilize resources for the progressive realization of economic, social, and cultural rights and substantive equality.18

However, the political will around Goal 17 from rich nations remains very questionable, especially in light of the way many actors are emphasizing the role of ‘partnerships’ with the private sector for financing the agenda rather than ‘the global partnership for development’ between states.19

B. Giving Meaning to the Principle of ‘Leave No-One Behind’

The 2030 Agenda centres on the pledge to ‘leave no-one behind’. This promise was viewed as a paradigm shift as it commits to prioritize those who are most marginalized and disadvantaged rather than be satisfied with aggregate progress.20 This was one of the major critiques of the MDGs,21 where the indicators were consistently worse for disadvantaged groups in every region. However, the meaning of this new development mantra remains contested, with some actors seeming to interpret it as encapsulating only the need to reach the poorest people (in terms of income)—in essence recapitulating the MDGs’ focus primarily on addressing extreme poverty.

To ensure that this commitment remains meaningful, it should be linked with the human rights obligations of equality and non-discrimination, and related human rights-based concepts such as substantive equality, horizontal inequalities, intersectional discrimination, and indirect discrimination.22

(p.273) 1. Non-discrimination and substantive equality

The principle of ‘leave no-one behind’ can be given a more precise meaning by linking it with the human rights obligations of equality and non-discrimination. These principles have been included in many national legal systems (eg constitutions and anti-discriminatory laws) and international human rights instruments. Thus, these principles refer to an extensive array of legal obligations that states have voluntarily assumed through domestic, regional, and international human rights commitments. Their content has been further confirmed and developed by national courts and international tribunals.23

Looking at the principle of ‘leave no-one behind’ from a human rights perspective—in particular interpreting it through the specific understandings of non-discrimination and substantive equality that have been developed in human rights law and jurisprudence24—can help in a number of ways (see Chapter 20 in this book). For example, to reach substantive equality through the SDGs and beyond, we must examine the outcomes and not just the intentions of laws and policies,25 ‘ensuring that they do not maintain, but rather alleviate, the inherent disadvantage that particular groups experience’.26 In addition, meeting SDG1 on poverty and SDG10 on inequality will certainly require the adoption of affirmative or positive actions to move towards equality in practice and eliminate conditions that cause or help to perpetuate discrimination.

At the same time, it will be critical to implement the commitment to leave no one behind in tandem with the universality principle that underpins human rights and the 2030 Agenda. This will require balancing prioritizing the situation of the worst-off with universal, inclusive policies. An approach which merely pinpoints those deemed the poorest in terms of income and seeks to address only one element of their deprivation is likely simply to repeat the results of the MDGs, and may also increase stigmatization and exclusion (see social protection section below).

From this perspective, ‘leave no-one behind’ requires much more than merely undertaking legal reforms (repealing or amending any discriminatory legislation),27 improving data collection, and targeting poverty relief programs at (p.274) so-called vulnerable groups. It essentially requires looking at the political dimensions of exclusion and discrimination, seeking the transformation of the institutions and structures that inform and reproduce unequal power relations in the society along gender, race, ethnicity, class, disability, and other grounds.

2. Inclusivity through participation

Most importantly, the pledge to ‘leave no-one behind’ will be empty if it does not include a commitment to meaningful participation of the relevant communities in the design and implementation of policies and programs designed to affect them, and in monitoring progress. Too often, ‘leave no-one behind’ has seemed to be yet another top-down initiative and there has been very little recognition of the role the people in question might have to play.

Here, the human rights-based approach to participation can help to ensure that the most disadvantaged people are given a voice and meaningful influence.28 Over the years, human rights monitoring bodies as well as several judgments of national and regional tribunals have further developed the content of the right to participation.29 Moreover, human rights actors have a wealth of experience assessing and implementing participatory processes, for example, in budget formulation or service monitoring. These experiences could help to make participation in public policies operational and effective,30 and might help to avoid the capture of governments by technocrats and to ensure poverty reduction policies reach the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.31

3. Addressing the complexities in conceptualizing and measuring poverty and inequality

In the effort to leave no-one behind, it will also be necessary to identify more accurately the most disadvantaged and excluded. To this end, careful efforts must (p.275) be made to collect better disaggregated data and capture their experiences.32 The prohibited grounds of discrimination enshrined in international human rights law should help to guide identification of those groups which are most at risk of being left behind.

Furthermore, subjecting the measurements of poverty that have been used to critical examination can call into question the progress made in poverty reduction globally. The international poverty line included in the MDGs and SDG Target 1.1 (which defines the type of ‘extreme’ poverty to be eliminated) is a monetary measurement.33 It does not consider the multiple dimensions of poverty that people experience (eg lack of access to good quality education and health services, clean water and sanitation facilities, or electricity).

In contrast, multidimensional approaches such as the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)34 and the Human Development Index (HDI)35 take into account a number of different poverty dimensions and their links with social exclusion. As such, although they were not developed specifically as human rights monitoring tools, they are more in line with the normative framework of international human rights law, where basic needs such as access to food, shelter, drinking water and sanitation, education, and health are in fact legally binding human rights.36

Non-monetary measures of poverty are also more in line with the principle of equality and non-discrimination. By concentrating only on income and/or assets at the household level, monetary measures ignore intra-household power dynamics, including the distribution of resources within household. If complex intra-household dynamics are not taken into account, the specific needs and vulnerabilities experienced by some household members, such as children, women, older persons, and family members with disabilities are ignored and, as a result, public policies and interventions might not reach them.

Committing to implement the SDGs from a human rights perspective should be understood as a political commitment to reach consensus on a definition and a multidimensional measurement of poverty. However, despite the important inclusion of Target 1.2 in the SDGs which aims at reducing poverty ‘in all its dimensions’, (p.276) the agreed global indicator for that target is ‘[p]roportion of population living below the national poverty line, by sex and age’. In most cases, national poverty lines are also purely monetary measurements; a multidimensional measure of poverty is not included among the agreed indicators. This is a major gap. A World Bank study has acknowledged that the MPI ‘is one possible implementation’ of Target 1.2 and that ‘demand for harmonized multidimensional poverty assessment at the country and global levels is likely to rise’.37 Of course, adoption of this indicator would be likely to make the poverty figures higher, but this would allow us to analyse and conceptualize the true scale and demographics of poverty far more accurately.

In line with the human rights obligations of equality and non-discrimination and progressive realization, the SDG indicators and their monitoring and review framework should also commit to monitoring the reduction of inequalities between social and economic groups regularly over time to ensure the gap is closing between the most disadvantaged groups and the rest of the population.38

C. Tackling Inequalities

Rising inequality is now widely accepted (including by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF)) as one of the defining challenges of our time.39 Even as extreme poverty was being reduced in the MDG era, inequalities were persistent and even escalating; this has been one of the major critiques of the MDG project. For example, most countries which saw a decrease in under-five mortality (a target under MDG4) witnessed an increase in disparities in mortality rates between the richest and poorest.40 Meanwhile, in advanced economies, the gap between the rich and the poor is at its highest level in decades.41

One of the major steps forward in the SDGs from a human rights perspective is the agenda’s focus on inequalities, both through a cross-cutting commitment to prioritize equitable progress across the goals (‘leave no-one behind’, addressed earlier), and through a stand-alone goal (SDG10) on reducing inequalities within (p.277) and between countries. There is also a separate goal (SDG5) on gender equality. Both goals have content which is closely related to human rights standards and priorities around equality and non-discrimination. The SDGs are intended to be an integrated agenda, and certainly both Goals 5 and 10 will be hugely important in maximizing progress under SDG1, as well as being inherently valuable goals in themselves.

1. Substantive gender equality

The 2030 Agenda is a significant improvement from the MDGs on issues of gender equality as it covers a more comprehensive set of issues. Moreover, ‘gender equality and women’s empowerment’ is recognized as a ‘crucial contribution to progress across all the goals and targets’ (2030 Agenda, para 20) and is included as a cross-cutting theme and a stand-alone goal (SDG5). Meanwhile, the principle of ‘leave no-one behind’ has the potential to put the spotlight on women who experience multiple forms of discrimination and have been historically excluded.42

SDG5 builds on the gender goal in the MDGs but—thanks to the efforts of women’s rights advocates—it is far more expansive and sensitive to women’s rights and the major obstacles they face to equality and empowerment, including issues such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, unpaid care work, violence, and early marriage. Gender specific targets are also included in SDG11 and other goals. However, there are also several shortcomings in the 2030 Agenda’s approach to gender equality. For example, several of the targets under Goal 5 (sexual and reproductive health and rights; unpaid care work, assets, and economic resources) are subject to qualifiers, in the form of references to national contexts and alignment with international policy outcomes.43 In the negotiation process the efforts to introduce stronger language on the realization of women’s and girl’s rights in the title and content of the goal were resisted in favour of the more ambiguous concept of women’s empowerment.

To ensure that the SDGs will be a vehicle for women’s equal rights enjoyment, their implementation must be guided by the principle of substantive gender equality, drawn from human rights standards and in particular, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (see Chapter 10, this book, for more on substantive equality). Women cannot lift themselves out of poverty if they are still subject to intense gender-related discrimination and lack of opportunities. Meanwhile, it is now widely accepted that gender inequality and discrimination are a significant drag on economic growth and (p.278) poverty reduction more broadly,44 and therefore SDG1 and other SDGs will be out of reach without substantial progress on gender equality. The concept of substantive equality will be also an important lens to analyse whether efforts towards Goal 5 are sufficient and in line with women’s human rights.

2. Reducing other forms of inequality

Goal 10 includes commitments to tackling various types of inequality, including targets on income inequality and social and political empowerment. It also explicitly acknowledges the need to tackle inequalities both of opportunity and outcome (much more in line with substantive equality), and to eliminate discriminatory laws, policies, and practices (Target 10.3). The inclusion of this stand-alone inequality goal in the SDGs is a major paradigm shift and unprecedented in previous global development agreements/frameworks.

Extreme income inequality slows poverty reduction,45 and thus eradicating extreme poverty will be impossible without tackling economic inequality.46 Indeed, if economic growth over the last thirty years had been more equally distributed, the world would already be on track to eliminate extreme poverty completely by 2030.47

An important part of SDG10 is tackling economic (income and wealth) inequality, which reinforces and overlaps with many other different types of inequality and produces many detrimental human rights effects.48 Inequality is harmful to economic growth49 and, moreover, high levels of inequality make it difficult to reduce poverty even when economies are growing.50 To make progress on a human rights approach to poverty reduction under the rubric of the SDGs will (p.279) require Goals 1 and 10 to be implemented in tandem, with a view to the synergies and interlinkages between them. As recent research has shown,51 achieving SDG1 will simply not be possible without also determinedly tackling inequality, including economic inequality, and addressing the discrimination that people living in poverty face. Furthermore, if efforts under SDG10 focus only on boosting the incomes of the poorest rather than closing the gap between the rich and the poor through progressive measures, they will most likely fail. Ignoring the concentration of wealth at the top of the spectrum is short-sighted, not least because more progressive fiscal policies will be needed which collect more money from those who can most afford it in order to fund the policies and services that really work in addressing poverty and exclusion (see more detail in section on fiscal policies below).

Again, the human rights framework can help in providing a more holistic and far-reaching framework for identifying and tackling inequalities. As Fukuda Parr notes, ‘[h]uman rights norms and principles can help fill [the] ethical void in economics’, providing ‘an alternative framework for analysis of inequality, one that is based on the intrinsic value of equality as a social norm, and one that explores unjust institutions as the source of inequality’.52 Drawing from human rights principles and practice should also help to improve the ways in which we measure poverty, inequality, and discrimination,53 important given that many of the indicators currently proposed to underpin the SDG targets on inequality distort or depoliticize the policies and efforts necessary.54

D. Implementing Universal Social Protection Systems

Increasingly, there seems to be a clear understanding that to meet the SDGs, in particular ‘ending poverty in all its forms everywhere’ (SDG1), states must adopt social protection systems55. While the MDGs were silent about social protection, (p.280) the 2030 Agenda gives it unique prominence by including it in several targets (eg Targets 1.3, 3.8, 5.4, and 10.4).

Particularly relevant is Target 1.3, which requires states to achieve ‘substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable’ by social protection systems. This requires the implementation of social assistance measures, yet despite remarkable progress in the coverage of social assistance programs—now reaching more than 1.9 billion people56—many poor and vulnerable groups, which often include children, women, ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities, remain uncovered, especially in lower-income countries.57 The coverage gap is particularly acute in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where most of the global poor live. In these regions, only one-tenth and one-fifth of the poorest 20 per cent have access to social safety nets, respectively.58

This means that the ways in which these programs have been implemented so far are actually excluding the majority of the poorest and most vulnerable. Reaching the poorest (as requested by the SDGs)59 through social assistance programs requires new approaches or at least a considerable improvement in the way these programmes have been implemented.

A better understanding of the implications of human rights obligations for social protection60 should assist in reaching the most excluded. A rights-based approach might assist not only in identifying the obstacles that prevent the most disadvantaged from accessing programs on an equal basis with the rest of the population, but also provide guidance on how to improve the design of the programs.61

From a human rights perspective, one particularly contentious policy measure is the Conditional Cash Transfers Program (CCT), and the excessive reliance on (p.281) it as a social protection ‘silver bullet’.62 There are several aspects of the design and implementation of the CCTs which are in tension with a human rights approach, such as the imposition of conditionalities (also called co-responsibilities), the use of targeting methods, and the gender impacts.

For some authors, co-responsibilities in themselves infringe the principles of equality and non-discrimination as they entail behavioural control over the poorest segments of the population that is not imposed on other social and economic sectors that also benefit from public policies, such as high-income earners who enjoy tax credits.63 In many countries, middle-class and high-income families are eligible for tax exemptions just because they have children. This tax credit which is, strictly speaking, a kind of transfer, comes with no conditions at all. In contrast, CCTs which are targeted at poor families with children, impose conditions and in some cases create stigma.64

Moreover, sometimes non-compliance with co-responsibilities can result in punitive sanctions (from suspension of benefits to exclusion from programs and services). Without appropriate mechanisms in place (eg the support of social workers) such punitive exclusion from the program might be discriminatory. For the most vulnerable families it is often more difficult to comply with conditionalities.65

The imposition of conditionalities often increases both community power imbalances and the opportunity for abuse of power by those involved in the monitoring of compliance with them (such as teachers, healthcare personnel, and program administrators). For example, requiring children to attend school and demanding minimum attendance or certain grades, gives teachers additional means to exert authority over students and parents, creating opportunities for abuse (eg if a teacher requests money or sexual favours in exchange for a certain grade or an (p.282) attendance certificate). Such situations can result in arbitrary exclusions of entire families from the program.

Despite the fact that many CCTs aim at enhancing the economic inclusion of women, when it comes to gender equality these programs have been strongly criticized on several grounds. First, due to their ‘maternalistic’ stance; it is considered that the focus on women is not based on recognition of their rights but rather as an instrument for benefiting their children.66 Second, increasing unpaid care work: for example, a study shows that in Ecuador, poor women who were recipients of CCTs engaged in thirty-seven hours of unpaid care work per week, compared to thirty hours for women living in poverty who are not recipients of the program.67 The additional demands on women’s time created by these requirements has a discriminatory impact on women and on their enjoyment of several rights on an equal basis as men (eg right to education and health) and further deprives them of scarce leisure time.68 Third, reaffirming socio-cultural norms that consider family caregiving to be women’s sole or primary role, effectively relieving men of any responsibility for these tasks.69 In this regard, CCTs are considered to do little to transform patriarchal power relations, attitudes, and stereotypes that cast the man as the family breadwinner, while the woman is left with responsibility for children’s well-being and domestic chores.70 Fourth, linked to the previous criticism, it is also considered that the conditionalities of CCTs hinder women’s access to paid employment on an equal footing with men71 and that they do nothing to reorganize gender roles in ways that would reduce or avoid tensions between paid and unpaid work, and in some cases they increase tensions in terms of equality of time use.72

Finally, another critical aspect of these programs is the use of targeting methods (mainly means tests and proxy means test mechanisms) as a way to reach specific income groups. While targeting mechanisms might be considered a way to give priority to the poorest, the problem is that there are few data on targeting outcomes and the existing evidence shows that many CCTs are not inclusive of the poorest sectors of society.73

(p.283) From a rights perspective, universal programs—those which provide benefits to all residents without conditions—are the best way to ensure that states meet their obligation to ensure that there is no discrimination in the selection of the beneficiaries.74 These are the programs which truly ‘leave no-one behind’ and equalize upwards.75

When compared to targeted schemes, universal non-contributory programs have higher quality implementation, with fewer people living in poverty being excluded and with much more effective impacts on poverty and inequality reduction.76 Universal programs also help avoid stigmatization and engender better social solidarity.77

In sum, a human rights approach to social protection which prioritizes universal, gender sensitive, and non-conditional social assistance measures is much more likely to ensure that all, in particular the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, are able to benefit. This is in fact, the objective behind the Social Protection Floors Initiative. Social Protection Floors (SPF) would play a major role in progress towards many of the SDGs, including the goals on poverty, gender equality, and reducing inequalities.

One critical problem here is that despite the formal appearance of collaboration between various players in the promotion of social protection, there are problems of coordination and significantly divergent agendas. Formally, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank have declared that they ‘share a vision of a world where anyone who needs social protection can access it at any time’ and have jointly launched the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection.78 However, in practice, the social protection interventions of the World Bank continue to focus mainly on targeted CCTs, which are just one (limited) component of social protection systems,79 often implemented without due consideration of (p.284) the human rights framework leading to the problems described earlier. This is in contrast with the work of the ILO, which promotes universal access to social protection systems through a rights-based approach.80 If the prevailing lack of coordination continues and major development partners do not fully embrace universal social protection, it is unlikely that the pledge to eliminate extreme poverty and leave no-one behind will be fulfilled.

E. Ensuring Fair and Progressive Domestic Resource Mobilization

In a major departure from the MDGs which focused on aid as the main source of financing for development, the SDGs—in particular SDG17 (‘means of implementation’) and the Addis Ababa Action on Financing for Development, also agreed in 2015—have put national fiscal policies (‘domestic resource mobilization’) at the centre of the development agenda.

Strengthening the revenue-raising capacity of governments is essential to ensure sustainability of poverty reduction measures. While international aid will continue to be critical for many countries and even essential for least developed countries, today domestic tax collection outweighs international aid including in low income countries.81

Human rights norms and standards can guide the adoption of more progressive and fair fiscal policies to ensure sufficient, equitable, and accountable financing for development. The adoption of these measures will also be critical to address inequality82 in compliance with Target 10.4 which mentions the role of fiscal policies.83 Particularly relevant is the principle of equality and non-discrimination, which may help to guide fiscal policies.84 Respecting this principle in revenue collection requires setting up a progressive tax system with real redistributive capacity that preserves and progressively increases the income of poorer households. It also (p.285) implies that affirmative action measures85 should be adopted to assist the most disadvantaged individuals and groups that have suffered from historical or persistent discrimination. This would require, for example, the elimination of fuel subsidies which are proven largely to benefit richer groups in society86 and the design of tax exemptions for the poorest. Increasing the tax base through progressive tax systems would enable states to invest in public goods such as education, legal aid, and health services that are critical for the enjoyment of human rights.

Unfortunately, there is a huge gap between these legal and political commitments and the fiscal policies currently implemented in most countries. In many countries, governments are imposing regressive tax policies, such as increasing value-added tax (VAT) and cutting corporate tax rates, with low revenue potential.87 Moreover, there is widespread tax avoidance, both by wealthy individuals and by multinational companies. In addition, tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions —often presided over or facilitated by richer countries—continuously drain on national capital and government revenues. Thus, existing fiscal policies deprive developed and developing countries of critical resources to fight poverty, inequality, and ensure realization of human rights. Among the practices that deprives governments of much needed resources is the outdated and unfair international corporate tax system—which enables multinational companies to shift profits away from where they are generated to another country with lower or zero tax rates.88 Some of these practices are also facilitating money laundering by criminal organizations.

The current international tax framework is certainly not fit for the development agenda of the twenty-first century. Among the central issues to change is to establish an appropriate institutional framework to bring more inclusive participation in global economic governance. While there has been some progress under the G20/OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative, the process is not inclusive enough. Discussion related to international corporate tax reforms should move beyond a select number of countries to ensure global participation where developing countries can put forward their priorities with equal voting rights. A proposal has been made, for example, to upgrade the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters to an intergovernmental Commission where all countries would have equal vote.89 Such a measure would be more in line (p.286) with the fundamental human rights principle of participation90 as well as with the commitments made in SDG16.8 (‘broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institution of global governance’).

While in recent years we have witnessed increased attention to fiscal policies from a human rights perspective, the engagement of human rights advocates on issues of taxation and economic activity is still limited, apart from some notable exceptions.91 Applying human rights norms and standards to taxation policies requires an interdisciplinary approach. Human rights organizations and organizations that specialize in economic and fiscal policies such as tax justice organizations and trade unions, should strengthen their collaboration.

F. Protecting the Democratic Space

Under SDG16, states have committed to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’. This goal is valuable in itself, but also essential to achieve other goals, including Goal 1 of ending poverty in all its forms. Goal 16 also represents a huge leap forward from the MDGs, which were silent on issues of governance or civil and political rights. The relevance of democratic freedoms and civil and political rights to development have long been documented,92 and an approach which recognizes this is much more in line with the human rights framework which holds all rights to be interrelated and indivisible.93

While it does not use language that explicitly echoes civil and political rights standards, Goal 16 includes targets on effective, accountable, and transparent institutions (16.6), participatory decision-making (16.7), and promises to ‘ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms’ (16.10). Yet, in spite of these persuasive commitments, today, in many countries the democratic space is shrinking94 as a result of restrictions on freedom of expression (eg loose defamation laws, Internet censorship, impunity for killing of journalists); freedom of assembly (eg crackdown on activism and protests); restrictive controls over civil society organizations (eg making overseas funding illegal, excessive surveillance of their activities, and complex non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (p.287) registration procedures).95 This reality poses a major challenge to the achievement of the SDGs. It is not possible to fight poverty and promote a progressive agenda comprehensively without a democratic civic space.96

If properly implemented, human rights norms and standards provide for freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, the right to seek, receive, and impart information, and the right to form and join trade unions and the right to strike, inter alia.97

At the individual level, these rights can empower people. At the collective level, these rights are critical preconditions for addressing the structural and institutional causes of poverty. For example, the protection of these rights would enable employers and workers’ organizations to express their views and negotiate on more equal terms to achieve decent work conditions and minimum (or living) wage levels.

Overcoming poverty requires progressive measures such as minimum wages, increasing investment in public services, implementing progressive fiscal policies, and establishing or expanding social protection systems. Considering that those living in poverty —who stand to benefit most from such policies—are often not represented in political decision-making bodies, and governments may lack political will to enforce these measures, the support of middle classes is often essential. To ensure such support, the work of ‘drivers of progressive change’, such as women’s organizations, representative and democratic trade unions, social movements, and independent media, are essential. Yet, the mere existence of these organizations depends on the respect of the rights and freedoms mentioned above. Thus, a critical challenge for reducing poverty in the twenty-first century is for human rights organizations and progressive organizations to act in solidarity to protect civic and democratic space worldwide.

G. Ensuring Better Monitoring and Accountability

The MDGs were chronically undermined by weak and asymmetrical accountability: a lack of clarity on who was responsible for what, a failure to create conditions in which ‘beneficiaries’ could meaningfully engage in shaping or challenging decisions, and inadequate, opaque systems to monitor and report on progress.98 (p.288) Even the UN Secretary-General acknowledged that lack of accountability was one of the primary reasons for the MDGs’ shortfalls.99

As a result, civil society and many other actors involved in the process to define the new agenda made it a priority to push for robust accountability for the SDGs100. However, in the final 2030 Agenda the content on monitoring and accountability is very weak, with only vague and voluntary commitments. This was a result of political resistance to accountability throughout the negotiations, with initial strong proposals being successively watered down in the face of resistance from many states.101 Ultimately, the words ‘monitoring’ and ‘accountability’ were resisted in favour of the more anodyne phrase ‘follow-up and review’. The final 2030 Agenda encourages Member States to ‘conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven’ (2030 Agenda, para 79), and proposes a number of principles for ‘follow-up and review’ processes, including that they will be ‘people-centred, gender-sensitive, respect human rights’ (para 74). However, the voluntary nature of reviews is stressed repeatedly, and only very tentative suggestions for review structures and processes at national, regional, and international levels are included. Among other weaknesses, the lack of recognition of the need for independent civil society monitoring, data collection, and reporting is striking, raising the risk of review mechanisms based entirely on government’s official reports without any space for alternative views.102

At the international level, the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) was designated as the central platform for the follow-up and review of the SDGs.103 The power of the HLPF to review and hold states accountable is weak and limited, especially given its reliance on voluntary self-reporting by states, and a meeting time of only eight days per year. At the 2016 HLPF (the first since the adoption of the SDGs), only a day-and-a-half was allocated to the national reviews, and the presentations by the twenty-two volunteer states seemed at times more focused on giving the most positive gloss than on really sharing implementation challenges and strategies104—not markedly different from the voluntary ‘Annual Ministerial Reviews’ of the MDG era.

(p.289) Without greater accountability for how poverty eradication/reduction policies are designed and implemented, and especially for their gaps and failures, poverty cannot be holistically tackled and measures are likely to be inappropriate or unsustainable. The lack of accountability for the SDGs at this stage may be the main factor that undermines their claim to be rights based, or their usefulness for human rights advocates.

However, as SDG implementation and monitoring evolves there will be opportunities to innovate new strategies for holding states and other actors accountable to their promises, building on existing human rights and social accountability tactics. The human rights normative framework—which has accountability as its cornerstone—may assist in providing new avenues for accountability of the SDGs, both in pursuing redress and corrective action in case of violations, but also in determining which aspects of implementation are working and what needed to be adjusted. Tactics and strategies used in the human rights field—such as the ‘shadow reporting’ to the UN treaty bodies—may also be usefully brought in to civil society monitoring of the SDGs.

The role of the existing human rights accountability system may also prove to be significant. Existing human rights mechanisms such as UN treaty bodies, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and Special procedures and, increasingly, regional bodies such as the European Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Committee for Social Rights are already monitoring compliance with obligations regarding economic, social, and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights. In many cases, the human rights cases that they examine and the recommendations they make have a large degree of overlap with the SDG commitments. Human rights mechanisms therefore have great potential for rigorously monitoring SDG progress—including on poverty and related human rights deprivations—through the lens of human rights obligations.

Engaging with human rights mechanisms could provide an alternative space for questioning some of the SDG data, methods, assumptions, and narratives, focusing on individuals and communities and drawing on civil society perspectives and expertise rather than relying solely on official statistics or ‘big data’. Moreover, human rights standards can provide alternative (and in many cases more rigorous) benchmarks against which to judge progress.105 This alternative space could prove particularly important for the inequality and ‘leave no one behind’ agendas. However, we can expect there will be political resistance to human rights mechanisms taking up this role.

Domestic human rights actors such as national human rights institutions may also be able to play a useful role in monitoring SDG progress through the lens of (p.290) human rights obligations, although many face constraints on their capacity, independence, and mandate.106 Meanwhile, although the SDGs themselves are not legally binding, there are certainly legal avenues which could be brought to bear where their implementation (or lack thereof) creates or overlaps with a human rights violation.107

Given that the SDGs include a goal (16) on peace and governance, with targets on access to justice (16.3) and effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels (16.6), it is somewhat of a contradiction that the SDGs themselves have little if any real accountability attached to them. However, at the domestic level advocates may be able to make use of Goal 16 to push for greater access to justice for people affected by development-related injustices, and to make the institutions responsible for implementing and monitoring the SDGs (from Ministries of Finance to National Statistical Offices) more transparent and accountable.

IV. Concluding Observations

There is no doubt that the ambitious and self-proclaimed transformative potential of the SDGs can be viewed with considerable scepticism. Similarly, the grand claims by international organizations,108 financial institutions,109 and philanthropic foundations110 that (extreme) poverty can be eliminated by 2030 can be questioned. Such optimism seems not to match the entrenched challenges that the world faces today, such as unprecedented forced displacement and the increasing poverty in places affected by conflict and fragility,111 climate change, and historically high levels of income and wealth inequality, among others.

(p.291) Moreover, as the result of a lengthy intergovernmental political process, the new development framework certainly includes worrying contradictions, compromises, and tensions. For example, despite its claim to be ‘transformative’ and inclusion of several goals and targets which would require major upheavals to the current economic model (eg a drastic shift to ‘sustainable consumption and production’), SDG8 still expresses a vision of development dependent on economic growth.112 In addition, it is yet not clear how implementation will unfold at the domestic level.113

Despite all these shortcomings, the adoption of the SDGs implied a significant departure from the MDGs. Not only was there an attempt to undertake a more participatory process in designing the goals and targets, including broad consultations,114 but also there was a real effort to give attention to a broad range of urgent social, environmental, and economic challenges. The agenda has incorporated several elements, discussed in this chapter, that have the potential to change the course of development. Now, facing the challenge of meeting potentially transformative commitments such as the SDGs forces us to critically review all perspectives and approaches.

This chapter has examined how looking at some of the goals and targets from a human rights approach might assist in fulfilling their more ground-breaking aspects. Certainly, a rights approach does not provide answers to all the challenges the world confronts to overcoming poverty, but it does provide us with an opportunity to rethink some of the policy responses implemented so far.

The achievement of the SDGs will require unprecedented coordination among all different actors and stakeholders. Currently, the various players involved in the implementation of the SDGs seem to have divergent interests and agendas—as described earlier in the case of social protection. If this continues, the limited funds for implementation will be diffused and interventions fragmented. Human rights have the potential to provide a common language and framework for action.

While today most countries have ratified a range of relevant human rights treaties and many have formally adopted a rights-based approach to development, challenges remain in the application and enforcement of human rights norms and standards in development policies. Although some major actors have already expressed commitments to mainstreaming human rights in their work such as all UN agencies, funds, and programmes,115 others—in particular international (p.292) financial institutions (IFIs)—have been actively reluctant to embrace human rights.116 Undoubtedly, there are major gaps between the legal recognition of rights by governments and their compliance. The causes for this are broad and varied, ranging from limited policy space for national governments (eg due to constraints imposed by IFIs, trade deals, and the international tax system) to active resistance to a rights approach.

For us, the latter seems particularly relevant for the present analysis. Certainly, there are daunting political obstacles to the more widespread adoption of a rights approach in development. While many of those responsible for the design and implementation of the new agenda—from UN agencies to IFIs to national governments—pay rhetorical lip service to human rights, few if any seem actively poised to undertake the far-reaching rethinking of policies and economic models necessary. One manifestation of this tendency to fall back on the status quo is the considerable enthusiasm and attention given to partnerships with the private sector (in particular transnational corporations) for the implementation of the agenda117—far more than to partnerships with civil society. This poses several problems in terms of accountability and transparency, as well as giving huge power to actors who have an interest in maintaining the economic status quo rather than embracing ‘transformation’.

Disciplinary dependency also seems to be a significant source of resistance to a human rights approach to development. Fully embracing a rights-based approach to poverty reduction requires policy-makers and researchers to overcome silos and embrace interdisciplinarity. There is a need to deepen the analysis of poverty and its causes, and to forge better collaboration between those working on human rights, social development, political science, and macro-economics.

As has been noted, compliance with the SDGs requires a ‘change of mindset and some humility’.118 Achieving the full realization of the SDGs does not only require major national and international efforts but also better collaboration among various disciplines. New policy interventions for poverty reduction require incorporating the work of a variety of specialists such as development practitioners, economists, (p.293) human rights lawyers, tax specialists, political scientists, journalists, and sociologists. It is through a collaborative interdisciplinary approach that the complexities and scale of the challenges can be effectively addressed.

This interdisciplinary approach—expressly including human rights advocates—should be incorporated by all the actors that have a stake in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Thus, governments, UN system, international financial institutions, private sector and civil society organizations, should all be broadening their perspectives. Moreover, there is a need to break down intra-institutional silos and more rapidly incorporate the findings of emerging research into praxis and policy. For example, while the IMF’s research branch is now steadily questioning the neo-liberal model119 (including trickle-down economics and austerity in response to financial crises), this has not translated into the IMF more broadly, critically reflecting on the conditions it imposes and the policies it demands when extending loans to countries.

Yet, as stressed in this chapter, overcoming this reluctance to meaningfully engage with the international human rights framework and its implications for development might be the key to unfolding the transformative potential of the SDGs. Certainly, we must be ready to admit that the dominant approaches to tackling poverty over the last several decades have had only limited success and in many cases have not been sustainable or comprehensive. Moreover, the manifestations of poverty continue to change and evolve, and due to environmental concerns and other considerations we can no longer rely on pure economic growth to lift people out of poverty. In order to meet the challenge of SDG1 and fully eradicate extreme poverty while also robustly tackling multidimensional poverty, we cannot expect the old models and policies to yield the results promised. (p.294)


(*) This chapter was originally submitted in February 2017. Only select references have been updated since then.f

(1) United Nations, The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 (New York, 2015) (hereafter UN, MDG Report 2015).

(2) Oxfam, An Economy for the 1% (Oxfam 2017).

(3) World Bank, ‘Middle Income Countries Overview’ <http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/mic/overview> accessed 13 August 2019. The argument here is not to say that these people have moved from income poverty to secure lives. Most of them have joined what Guy Standing calls the ‘Precariat’ (Guy Standing, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (Bloomsbury Academic 2011)). The point we want to stress is about the change in the demographic of poverty. See Andy Sumner, ‘The World’s Two New Middles. Growth, Precarity, Structural Change, and the Limitations of the Special Case’ (2016) WIDER Working Paper 2016/34 9 <https://www.wider.unu.edu/publication/world’s-two-new-middles> accessed 13 August 2019.

(4) Chris Hoy and Andy Sumner (2016) ‘Gasoline, Guns, and Giveaways: Is There New Capacity for Redistribution to End Three Quarters of Global Poverty?’ Working Paper 433 Center for Global Development <https://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/gasoline-guns-and-giveaways-end-three-quarters-global-poverty-0.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(5) Isabel Ortiz, Mathew Cummins, Jeronim Capaldo, and Kalaivani Karunanethy (2015) ‘The Decade of Adjustment: A Review of Austerity Trends 2010–2020 in 187 Countries’ 53 ESS Working Paper 35 (hereafter Oritz et al, ‘The Decade of Adjustment’) <http://www.socialprotection.org/gimi/gess/RessourcePDF.action?ressource.ressourceId=53192> accessed 13 August 2019; and Isabel Ortiz and Mathew Cummins (2019) ‘Austerity: The New Normal. A Renewed Washington Consensus 2010-24’ Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Working Paper <http://policydialogue.org/files/publications/papers/Austerity-the-New-Normal-Ortiz-Cummins-6-Oct-2019.pdf> accessed 15 October 2019. See also UNICEF Office of Research, Children of the Recession: The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Child Well-Being in Rich Countries (Innocenti Report Card 12, UNICEF Office of Research 2014).

(6) UNGA ‘Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ (21 October 2015) UN Doc A/RES/70/1 (hereafter UNGA, ‘Transforming our World’).

(7) Johan Rockstrom, Jeffrey D Sachs, Marcus Ohman, and Guido Schmidt-Traub (2013) ‘Sustainable Development and Planetary Boundaries’ Background Research Paper for the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda’.

(8) For example, in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993); the Millennium Declaration (2000); ‘The Human Rights Based Approach to Development Cooperation, Towards a Common Understanding Among UN Agencies’ (2003) and ‘In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for all’ (2005).

(9) See eg Republic of Ecuador, Plan Nacional de Desarrollo 2017-2021. Toda una Vida (SENPLADES 2017); Government of Namibia, Vision 2030 (National Planning Commission 2004); Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Human Rights Based Approach in Finland’s Development Cooperation: Guidance Note 2015 (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2015); and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Opportunities for All: Human Rights in Norway’s Foreign Policy and Development Cooperation—Meld. St. 10 (2014–2015) (Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2014).

(10) UN, MDG Report 2015 (n 1).

(11) International Labour Organization, World Employment and Social Outlook 2016: Transforming Jobs to End Poverty (ILO 2016) 10–11.

(12) UNICEF and the World Bank Group (2016) ‘Ending Extreme Poverty: A Focus on Children’ (UNICEF and the World Bank Group).

(13) Oritz et al, ‘The Decade of Adjustment’ (n 5).

(14) Oritz et al, ‘The Decade of Adjustment’ (n 5) 35.

(15) For example, SDG targets 1.a, 4.c, 6.a, 7.a, 17.2.

(16) See eg United Nations, The State of the Global Partnership for Development (MDG Gap Task Force Report 2014).

(17) See ETO Consortium (2013) ‘Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (FIAN International) principle 21.

(18) UNHRC ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona’ (22 May 2014) UN Doc A/HRC/26/28. See also, CESCR, ‘General Comment No. 24: on state obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the context of business activities’ (2017) UN Doc E/C.12/GC/23, and Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Concluding Observations on the Combined Fourth and Fifth Periodic Reports of Switzerland, UN Doc CEDAW/C/CHE/CO/4-5 (18 November 2016).

(19) Aldo Caliari, ‘Investing in the SDGs: Whose Business?’ <https://business-humanrights.org/en/investing-in-the-sdgs-whose-business> accessed 13 August 2019.

(20) ‘As we embark on this great collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. Recognizing that the dignity of the human person is fundamental, we wish to see the Goals and targets met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society. And we will endeavor to reach the furthest behind first.’ UNGA, ‘Transforming our World’ (n 6).

(21) For strong rights-based critiques of the MDGs, see Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Alicia Yamin, The MDGs, Capabilities and Human Rights: The Power of Numbers to Shape Agendas (Routledge 2015). For a critique from a gender perspective, see Caroline Sweetman (ed), Gender and the Millennium Development Goals (Oxfam 2005).

(22) See UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination, ‘Equality and Non-Discrimination at the Heart of Sustainable Development: A Shared United Nations Framework for Action’ (United Nations 2016) for a detailed explanation of how ‘Leave No One Behind’ could be operationalized through the lens of human rights standards.

(23) See eg Marckx v Belgium, App no 6833/74, 13 June 1979; Proposed Amendments to the Naturalization Provisions of the Constitution of Costa Rica, Advisory Opinion OC-4/84, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (19 January 1984) para 57; Government of the Republic of South Africa v Grootboom 2001 (1) SA 46 (CC).

(24) See eg CESCR, ‘General Comment No 16: The Equal Right of Men and Women to the Enjoyment of all Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art 3 of the ICESCR)’ (2005) UN Doc E/C.12/2005/4) (hereafter CESCR, ‘General Comment No 16’); UN Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women ‘General Comment No 25, on Article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, on Temporary Special Measures’ (2004). See also Chapter 10 by Sandra Feldman, this book.

(25) As implicitly recognized in SDG target 10.3 which pledges to ‘Ensure Equal Opportunity and Reduce Inequalities of Outcome’.

(26) CESCR, ‘General Comment No 16’ (n 24).

(27) See eg UNCHR ‘The Limburg Principles on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (1987) UN Doc E/CN.4/1987/17 para 37 and ‘Maastricht Guidelines on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ (1997) para 14 (b).

(28) The right to participation is enshrined in several human rights instruments, see eg the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (arts 21 and 27), the ICCPR (art 25), the ICESCR (arts 13.1 and 15.1), CEDAW (arts 7, 8, 13(c), and 14.2), CRC (arts 12 and 31), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (hereafter CRPD) (arts 3(c), 4.3, 9, 29, and 30).

(29) See eg UNHRC, ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona’ (2013) UN Doc A/HRC/23/36; UNHRC, ‘Final Report of the Study on Indigenous Peoples and the Rights to Participate in Decision-Making: Report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ (2011); and UNHRC, ‘CCPR General Comment 25: Article 25 (Participation in Public Affairs and the Right to Vote’ (1996) UN Doc CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.7 para 5. Judicial cases have focused particularly on participation regarding indigenous peoples. See eg ILO (2009) Application of Convention No 169 by Domestic and International Courts in Latin America—a Casebook (ILO).

(30) See eg ActionAid, ‘People’s Action in Practice: ActionAid’s Human Rights Based Approach 2.0’ (ActionAid 2012) and Lisa Veneklasen, Valerie Miller, Cindy Clarke, and Molly Reilly (2004) ‘Rights-based Approaches and Beyond: Challenges of Linking Rights and Participation’ IDS Working Paper No 235 5 <https://www.ids.ac.uk/files/Wp235.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(31) For an SDG-specific initiative which sought to engage and seek the views of marginalized people, see the Participate 2015 initiative, in particular the ‘Ground Level Panels’ <http://participatesdgs.org/ground-level-panels/ > accessed 10 October 2019.

(32) UN Women, ‘Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ (UN Women 2018) <https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2018/sdg-report-gender-equality-in-the-2030-agenda-for-sustainable-development-2018-en.pdf?la=en&vs=4332> accessed 10 October 2019.

(33) The poverty line used by the World Bank was $1.25 purchasing power parity (PPP). Since October 2015, the updated international poverty line is $1.90 a day, using 2011 prices.

(34) Sabina Alkire and Maria Emma Santos (2010) ‘Acute Multidimensional Poverty: A New Index for Developing Countries’ OPHI Working Paper No 38 <https://www.ophi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/ophi-wp38.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(35) Sudhir Anand and Amartya Sen (1994) ‘Human Development Index: Methodology and Measurement’ Human Development Report Office Occasional Paper No 12 (UNDP).

(36) For example, the right to adequate housing is enshrined in UDHR art 25, ICESCR art 11, CEDAW art 14, CRC art 27, and CRPD art 28. The right to health is enshrined in UDHR art 25, ICESCR art 12, CRC art 24, CRPD art 25. The rights to water and sanitation are implicit components of the right to an adequate standard of living, ICESCR art 11.

(37) Marcio Cruz, James Foster, Bryce Quillin, and Philip Schellekens (2015) ‘Ending Extreme Poverty and Sharing Prosperity: Progress and Policies’ World Bank Group Policy Research Note (World Bank).

(38) See UNICEF-WHO Joint Monitoring Project on Equity and Non-Discrimination, ‘JMP Working Group on Equity and Non-Discrimination Final Report’ (UNICEF and WHO 2012) <http://www.wssinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/resources/JMP-END-WG-Final-Report-20120821.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(39) See Era Dabla-Norris, Kalpana Kochhar, Nujin Suphaphiphat, Frantisek Ricka, and Evridiki Tsounta (2015) ‘Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality: A Global Perspective’ IMF Staff Discussion Note (IMF) (hereafter Dabla-Norris et al, ‘Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality’); World Bank (2016) Taking on Inequality: Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016 (World Bank).

(40) UNICEF (2014) The State of the World’s Children 2015—Reimagining the Future: Innovation for Every Child (UNICEF).

(41) Dabla-Norris et al, (2016) ‘Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality’ (n 39).

(42) Elisabeth Stuart and Jessica Woodroffe (2016) ‘Leaving No-One Behind: Can the Sustainable Development Goals Succeed Where the Millennium Developed Goals Lacked?’ 24(1) Gender & Development Journal 69–81.

(43) Shahra Razavi (2016) ‘The 2030 Agenda: Challenges of Implementation to Attain Gender Equality and Women’s Rights’ 24(1) Gender & Development 25–41.

(44) Christian Gonzales, Sonali Jain-Chandra, Kalpana Kochhar, Monique Newiak, and Tlek Zeinullayev (2015) ‘Catalyst for Change: Empowering Women and Tackling Income Inequality’ IMF Staff Discussion Note (IMF).

(45) Martin Ravallion (1997) ‘Can High-Inequality Developing Countries Escape Absolute Poverty?’ 56(1) Economics Letters 51–7.

(46) See Christoph Lakner, Mario Negre, and Espen Beer Prydz (2014) ‘Twinning the Goals: How Can Promoting Shared Prosperity Help to Reduce Global Poverty’ World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 7106 <http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/2014/11/20377179/twinning-goals-can-promoting-shared-prosperity-help-reduce-global-poverty> accessed 13 August 2019. See also Peter Edward and Andy Sumner (2015) ‘Philanthropy, Welfare Capitalism, or Radically Different Global Economic Model: What Would it Take to End Global Poverty within a Generation Based on Historical Growth Patterns?’ Center for Global Development Working Paper 413 <http://www.cgdev.org/sites/default/files/Edward_Sumner_End_Global_Poverty_wp413.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(47) Chris Hoy and Emma Samman (2015) ‘What if Growth Had Been as Good for the Poor as Everyone Else?’ (Overseas Development Institute) <http://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/odi-assets/publications-opinion-files/9655.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(48) See eg United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (2010) Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural Change, Social Policy and Politics (UNRISD) (hereafter UNRISD, Combating Poverty); UNHRC (2015) ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston’ UN Doc A/HRC/29/31 paras 11–13.

(49) Branko Milanovic (2011) ‘More or Less’ (Finance and Development) 48:3 <http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2011/09/Milanovic.htm> accessed 13 August 2019; IMF, Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality (2014).

(50) UNRISD, Combating Poverty (n 48).

(51) World Bank (2016) Taking on Inequality: Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016 (World Bank).

(52) Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, ‘It’s About Values: Human Rights Norms and Tolerance for Inequality’ (OpenDemocracy, 22 December 2015) <https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/sakiko-fukuda-parr/it-s-about-values-human-rights-norms-and-tolerance-for-inequalit> accessed 13 August 2019.

(53) CESR ‘The Measure of Progress: How Human Rights Should Inform the Sustainable Development Goals Indicators’ (Human Rights Policy Brief, October 2015) <http://www.cesr.org/measure-of-progress> accessed 13 August 2019.

(54) Kate Donald, ‘SDG Targets Risk Missing the Mark on Inequality’ (Center for Economic and Social Rights, 9 March 2016) <http://www.cesr.org/sdg-targets-risk-missing-mark-inequality> accessed 13 August 2019.

(55) ILO (2017), ‘World Social Protection Report 2017–19. Universal social protection to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’ (ILO, 2017). (hereafter ILO, ‘World Social Protection Report) <https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_604882.pdf> accessed 10 October 2019.

(56) World Bank (2015) The State of Social Safety Nets 2015 (World Bank Group) (hereafter World Bank, Social Safety Nets) <http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/415491467994645020/pdf/97882-PUB-REVISED-Box393232B-PUBLIC-DOCDATE-6-29-2015-DOI-10-1596978-1-4648-0543-1-EPI-1464805431.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(57) World Bank (2012) ‘Resilience, Equity and Opportunity: Social Protection and Labor Strategy 2012–2022’ (World Bank) 32 <http://siteresources.worldbank.org/SOCIALPROTECTION/Resources/280558-1274453001167/7089867-1279223745454/7253917-1291314603217/SPL_Strategy_2012-22_FINAL.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(58) World Bank, Social Safety Nets (n 56).

(59) See in particular Goal 1.3 and Indicator 1.3.1.

(60) The right to social security (social protection) is articulated in the UDHR arts 22 and 25; the ICESCR art 9; CERD art 11; CRC art 26; and the Convention for the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families (CMW) art 27. It also appears in regional human rights instruments (eg Protocol of San Salvador, art 9; European Social Charter, art 12), and in several Conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in particular Convention No 102 on Minimum Standards of Social Security. The CRPD art 28, explicitly refers to the right to social protection. For a human rights analysis of social protection, see CESCR ‘General Comment No 19: The Right to Social Security’ (2009) UN Doc E/C.12.GC/19 (hereafter CESCR ‘General Comment No 19’); Magdalena Sepúlveda and Carly Nyst (2012) The Human Rights Approach to Social Protection (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland) (hereafter Sepúlveda and Nyst, Human Rights Approach to Social Protection).

(61) Magdalena Sepúlveda, ‘Ensuring inclusion and combatting discrimination in social protection programmes: The role of human rights standards’ 70(4) International Social Security Review.

(62) The World Bank, for example, is a fervent promoter of CCTs as a major policy measure. See eg World Bank (2016) ‘Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality’ (World Bank Group) 140–45 (hereafter World Bank, ‘Taking on Inequality’) <https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/25078/9781464809583.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019 This contrasts with the ILO, which systematically promotes universal social protection systems.

(63) Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) (2012) Gender Equality Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean: Annual Report 2012 (ECLAC) 59 (hereafter ECLAC, Gender Equality Observatory 2012).

(64) Simone Cecchini, Fernando Filgueira, Rodrigo Martinez, and Cecilia Rossel (eds) (2015) Towards Universal Social Protection. Latin American Pathways and Policy Tools (ECLAC) 101. It is worth noting that according to some researchers, there is no robust evidence about the value of conditions when compared with unconditional programs. See eg Stephen Kidd (2016) ‘To Condition or Not to Condition: What is the Evidence?’ Pathways’ Perspectives on Social Policy in International Development Issue No 20 (Development Pathways) <https://www.developmentpathways.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/CCT-Evidence-PP20-1.pdf > accessed 10 October 2019.

(65) Stephen Kidd and Rebecca Calder (2011) ‘Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes: Their Relevance for Nepal’ (DFID) 12. <http://www.developmentpathways.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/CCT-Nepal-2011-Final.pdf> accessed 10 October 2019. See also Stephen Kidd (2014) ‘Social Exclusion and Access to Social Protection Schemes’ (Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) 24–25. <https://www.developmentpathways.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/DFAT-Social-exclusion-and-access-to-social-protection-schemes-3.pdf> accessed 10 October 2019.

(66) ECLAC, Gender Equality Observatory 2012 (n 63) 70–71.

(67) Ibid, 62.

(68) UNHRC ‘Report of the Independent Expert on the Question of Human Rights and Extreme Poverty, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona’ (2009) UN Doc A/HRC/11/9.

(69) Simone Cecchini and Aldo Madariaga (2011) ‘Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes: The Recent Experience in Latin America and the Caribbean’ Cuadernos de la CEPAL No 95 (ECLAC).

(70) ECLAC, Gender Equality Observatory 2012 (n 63) 70–71.

(71) Juliana Martínez Franzoni and Koen Voreend, ‘Blacks, Whites or Greys? Conditional Transfers and Gender Equality in Latin America (2009)’ Paper submitted for the RC19 Conference (Montreal, August 2009).

(72) UN Women (2014) Progress of the World’s Women 2015–2016: Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights (UN Women) 140–41.

(73) See Stephen Kidd, Bjorn Gelders, and Diloá Bailey-Athias (2017), ‘Exclusion by design: An assessment of the effectiveness of the proxy means test poverty targeting mechanism’ ESS Working Paper No. 56 <https://www.social-protection.org/gimi/gess/RessourcePDF.action?ressource.ressourceId=54248> accessed 10 October 2019; and Stephen Kidd and Diloá Athias (2019), ‘Hit and Miss. Church of Sweden and Development Pathways working paper’ (hereafter Kidd and Athias, ‘Hit and Miss’) <https://www.developmentpathways.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Hit-and-Miss-March13-1.pdf> accessed 10 October 2019.

(74) CESCR, ‘General Comment No 19’ (n 60) para 4.

(75) Sepúlveda and Nyst, Human Rights Approach to Social Protection (n 60).

(76) Kidd and Athias, ‘Hit and Miss’ (n 73).

(77) See eg UNICEF (2012) ‘Integrated Social Protection Systems: Enhancing Equity for Children’ (UNICEF), and Stephen Kidd and Emily Wylde (2011) ‘Targeting the Poorest: An Assessment of the Proxy Means Test Methodology’ (Australian Government, AusAid).

(78) Under this initiative, launched in September 2016, the World Bank and the ILO have formally committed to ‘use their individual and collective resources and influence to support countries in their move towards providing universal coverage [of social protection]’ in the next one to fifteen years.

(79) Universal social protection encompasses much more than social safety nets or cash transfers. It encompasses “a set of policies and programmes designed to reduce and prevent poverty and vulnerability throughout the life cycle. Social protection includes benefits for children and families, maternity, unemployment, employment injury, sickness, old age, disability, survivors, as well as health protection. Social protection systems address all these policy areas by a mix of contributory schemes (social insurance) and non-contributory tax-financed benefits, including social assistance”. See ILO, ‘World Social Protection Report’ n 55 xxix and ILO and World Bank, ‘A Shared Mission for Universal Social Protection: Concept note’ (World Bank and ILO, n.d.) <http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/documents/genericdocument/wcms_378996.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(80) See eg ILO Recommendation R202: Recommendation Concerning National Floors of Social Protection (101st ILC session, 14 June 2012).

(81) Armando Barrientos (2015) ‘Forget the Aid Obsession: Development Needs Redistribution Through Fiscal Policy’ (Manchester Policy Blogs) <http://blog.policy.manchester.ac.uk/posts/2015/09/forget-the-aid-obsession-development-needs-redistribution-through-fiscal-policy/> accessed 13 August 2019.

(82) World Bank, ‘Taking on Inequality’ (n 62) 148–51.

(83) SDG10.4 calls to ‘adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality’.

(84) See eg UNHRC ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona’ (2014) UN Doc A/HRC/26/28; International Bar Association Human Rights Institute Task Force on Illicit Financial Flows, Poverty and Human Rights, Tax Abuses, Poverty and Human Rights (IBAHRI 2013); Thomas Pogge and Krishen Mehta (eds), Global Tax Fairness (OUP 2016); and UNHRC ‘Report of the Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Alfred-Maurice de Zayas’ (2016) UN Doc A/71/286 (hereafter UNHRC UN Doc A/71/286).

(85) For a detailed explanation on how this principle applies to revenue collection see UNHRC A/HRC/26/28’ (n 81) paras 12–17.

(86) Javier Arze del Granado, David Coady, and Robert Gillingham (2010) ‘The Unequal Benefits of Fuel Subsidies: A Review of Evidence for Developing Countries’ IMF Working Paper <https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2010/wp10202.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(87) Jose Antonio Alonso (2012) ‘From Aid to Global Development Policy’ DESA Working Paper No 121 <http://www.un.org/esa/desa/papers/2012/wp121_2012.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(88) See eg Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation ‘Declaration of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation’ (hereafter ICRICT, ‘Declaration’) <https://www.icrict.com/icrict-documentsthe-declaration> accessed 10 October 2019.

(89) See eg ICRICT, ‘Declaration’ (n 88); UNHRC UN Doc A/71/286 (n 84).

(90) See n 29.

(91) Worth stressing is the work of the CESR, which is leading the debate on fiscal policies and human rights. For example, together with other organizations, including the Tax Justice Network, submitted a report to CEDAW Committee that was considered during the review of Switzerland at its 65th session in November 2015.

(92) Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (OUP 1999).

(93) UNGA ‘Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action’ (12 July 1993) A/CONF.157/23.

(94) Civicus (2013) ‘Global Trends on Civil Society Restrictions. Mounting Restrictions on Civil Society: The Gap between Rhetoric and Reality’ (Civicus) <http://civicus.org/images/GlobalTrendsonCivilSocietyRestrictons2013.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(95) Civicus, ‘Civic Space Initiative’ <http://civicus.org/index.php/en/what-we-do-126/2014-04-25-03-26-23/cspi> accessed 13 August 2019.

(96) Andy Sumner (2011) ‘Poverty in Middle Income Countries’ Institute of Development Studies, The Resource Alliance and the Rockefeller Foundation <https://www.ids.ac.uk/files/dmfile/Bellagio_Sumner1.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(97) See eg ICCPR arts 19, 21, and 22; CEDAW art 7(c); CRC art 15 and ICESCR art 9.

(98) See Philip Alston (2005) Ships Passing in the Night: The Current State of the Human Rights and Development Debate Seen Through the Lens of the Millennium Development Goals’ 27(3) Human Rights Quarterly 755, 814–25; Kate Donald and Sally-Anne Way (2016) ‘Accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals: A Lost Opportunity?’ 30(2) Ethics and International Affairs 201 (hereafter Donald and Way, ‘Accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals’).

(99) UNGA (2010) ‘Keeping the Promise: A Forward-Looking Review to Promote an Agreed Action Agenda to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015’ UN Doc A/64/665 para 116.

(100) See CESR and UNOHCHR (2013) ‘Who Will be Accountable? Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda’ (United Nations) (hereafter CESR and UNOHCHR ‘Who Will be Accountable?’) <http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/WhoWillBeAccountable.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(101) See Donald and Way, ‘Accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals’ (n 98).

(102) Ibid.

(103) UNGA 67/290 (9 July 2013).

(104) CESR, ‘Accountability Left Behind in SDG Follow-up and Review’ <http://www.cesr.org/accountability-left-behind-sdg-follow-and-review> accessed 13 August 2019.

(105) CESR (2016) ‘From Disparity to Dignity: A Human Rights Agenda for Tackling Economic Inequality Through the Sustainable Development Goals’ (CESR) <http://www.cesr.org/disparity-dignity-inequality-and-sdgs> accessed 13 August 2019.

(106) CESR and Danish Institute for Human Rights (2015) ‘Realizing Rights Through the Sustainable Development Goals: The Role of National Human Rights Institutions’ (CESR and DIHR) <https://www.humanrights.dk/files/media/dokumenter/udgivelser/research/nhri_briefingpaper_may2015.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019

(107) See CESR and UNOHCHR ‘Who Will be Accountable?’ (n 100) 39.

(108) The Secretary General of the United Nations has stated ‘there is no question that we can deliver on our shared responsibility to put an end to poverty, leave no one behind and create a world of dignity for all’. UN, MDG Report 2015 (n 1) 3.

(109) In 2013, the World Bank Group announced the goal of eradication of extreme poverty. More precisely, the goal is to bring the number of extremely poor people, defined as those living on less than 1.25 PPP-adjusted dollars a day, to less than 3 per cent of the world population by 2030.

(110) For example, Melinda and Bill Gates writing on the SDGs have noted: ‘We are confident that [ending poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030] is not only possible, but that we will see major breakthroughs along the way, which will provide unprecedented opportunities to people in poor countries. Indeed, we think their lives will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history—and that their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.’ See Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, ‘Promises to Keep’ (Project Syndicate, 20 January 2016) <https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/gates-foundation-2016-priorities-by-bill-gates-and-melinda-gates-2016-01> accessed 13 August 2019.

(111) As recorded in 2012, 39.9 per cent of population in fragile and conflicted-affected situations live below the international poverty line: World Bank <http://data.worldbank.org/topic/poverty> accessed 13 August 2019.

(112) UNRISD (2016) Policy Innovations for Transformative Change: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UNRISD).

(113) Moreover, considering that it is a very broad agenda, there could be selectivity and fragmentation in the implementation efforts at the domestic level, where the most challenging targets could be neglected for political or financial reasons.

(114) There were broad consultations globally, regionally, and by countries, that claim to have involved more than 1 million people across all countries and from all backgrounds. See United Nations Development Group (2013) A Million Voices: The World We Want (United Nations).

(115) See eg United Nations Development Group (2003) ‘UN Statement of Common Understanding on Human Rights-Based Approaches to Development Cooperation and Programming’ and the 2013 ‘Rights Up Front’ initiative, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. An increasing number of UN agencies integrate human rights into their internal policies and actively advocate for human rights through their mandated work. For concrete examples on how this is done, see the UN Practitioners’ Portal on Human Rights Based Approaches to Programming <http://hrbaportal.org/mainstreaming-hrba> accessed 13 August 2019.

(116) See eg UNHRC (2015) ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston’ UN Doc. A/70/274. In this report, the current Special Rapporteur concludes that the approach taken by the World Bank to human rights is ‘incoherent, counterproductive and unsustainable’. He notes that ‘the World Bank is a human rights-free zone’.

(117) Global Policy Watch (2016) ‘United Nations and Business Community, Out-Sourcing or Crowding In?’ (Global Policy Forum) <https://www.globalpolicywatch.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/10/GPW13_2016_10_04.pdf> accessed 13 August 2019.

(118) Richard Jolly, ‘Breaking the Cycle of Poverty’ (UNA-UK, 1 March 2016) <https://www.sustainablegoals.org.uk/breaking-cycle-poverty/> accessed 10 October 2019.

(119) Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Davide Furceri (2016) ‘Neoliberalism: Oversold?’ (International Monetary Fund) <http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2016/06/ostry.htm> accessed 13 August 2019.