The impact of economic reform policies on women’s human rights

Published
18 July 2018
Author
Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights
Presented
To the General Assembly at its 73rd session
Link
A/73/179
The user-friendly version of the report:
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Background

Human Rights Council resolution 34/3 (2017) requested the Independent Expert to develop guiding principles for human rights impact assessments for economic reform policies, in consultation with States, international financial institutions and other relevant stakeholders.

In the course of his research, and in the context of the expert consultations, the Independent Expert has decided to deepen his research by analysing the particular ways in which austerity measures, structural adjustment, fiscal consolidation and in general economic reform programmes have had a disproportionate impact on the life of women of all ages and what to do to address the negative impacts.

Considered a building block in the process towards the development of guiding principles, this report aimed at identifying gender and human rights arguments that may be crucial to the development of the guiding principles.

The Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, prepared a thematic report to the 73rd session of the General Assembly on the impact of economic reforms and austerity measures on women’s human rights.

Summary

In this report, the Independent Expert discusses the impact of economic reforms, in particular austerity and fiscal consolidation measures, on women’s human rights. He argues that the prevailing current economic system is based on various forms of gender discrimination. The value of unpaid work and its contribution to the economy is, for the most part, not taken into account by mainstream economic thinking.

Highlighting some economic models, the report looks into unpaid care work, which is done mostly by women, and how it underpins economic growth, unjustly absorbs economic shocks and compensates for austerity measures.

The Independent Expert offers insight into the particular channels through which economic reform policies affect women’s human rights and suggests what can and should be done to prevent and address negative impacts. He argues that a human rights perspective, combined with a feminist economics analysis, can help to expose such policy biases, for which a gender-sensitive human rights impact assessment of economic reform policies is essential. Furthermore, that combination of perspective and analysis can guide policymakers in devising alternative solutions that are inclusive and advance gender equality and human rights.

A human rights approach to economic and regulatory issues should aim at addressing asymmetric power relations between men and women that are at the core of gender inequality. In that context, the report briefly discusses some elements of economic reform policies that affect the right to work, social security, housing, food, water and health. In addition, it addresses the role of the international financial institutions that, through their lending programmes, surveillance and technical assistance, prescribe macroeconomic policies that have implications for gender equality.

In addition, a user-friendly version of the report was produced by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, and made possible with generous funding from the Open Society Foundations. It summarizes the Independent Expert thematic report on the links and the impact of economic reforms and austerity measures on women’s human rights.

The user-friendly version of the report:
PDF: English | Français | Español

Inputs received

This report was informed by a call for contributions, which was circulated at the beginning of 2018. The Independent Expert would like to thank all stakeholders for the submissions received.

Questionnaire
WORD: English | Français | Español

Submissions received in response to the call for contributions are available below.

States

International Organizations

National Human Rights Institutions

Civil society organisations

Individuals