Human Rights and Public Finance

Aoife Nolan (Editor), Rory O'Connell (Editor), Colin Harvey (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportAnthologypeer-review


This book addresses one of the most important challenges in contemporary human rights law and practice: the linkage between public finance, particularly budget decisions, and the realisation (or not) of economic and social rights (ESR). While much academic work and debate on economic and social rights implementation has focussed on the role of the courts, this work places the spotlight squarely on those organs of government that have the primary responsibility, and the greatest capacity, for giving effect to such rights: namely, the elected branches of government and public administration. All human rights undoubtedly potentially have implications for budgetary allocations and public finance generally. However, this collection’s focus on economic and social rights is of particular significance given the strong linkage between the realisation of ESR and resource allocation, as well as the fact that the evaluation of budget allocations and the actual expenditure of allocated resources plays a key role in the assessment of states’ compliance with their obligations to progressively realise such rights to the maximum of their available resources. In considering how public finance decisions can – and should – affect the effective implementation of such rights, this book plays a key role in informing a wider academic and popular debate on budgets, economic policy and human rights.The contributions to this book are particularly timely given the impact of the 2007-2008 global financial and economic crises Post 2008, budget cutbacks and reallocations have resulted in the domestic realisation of ESR being slowed and, in some cases, reversed. Common adjustment policies that both developed and developing countries have adopted to achieve expenditure consolidation in the face of severely (and sometimes not-so-severely) constrained resources include cutting or capping the public sector wage bill, phasing out or removing subsidies on goods such as fuel and other basic goods and services, cuts to social protection programmes, the reform of old-age pensions and regressive taxation such as increased consumption taxes on basic goods. All of these measures are issues of public finance. All of them affect ESR enjoyment. A key concern of many of the chapters in this volume is thus how to ‘fight back’ when faced with public finance decisions that impact negatively and disproportionately on the ESR of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. The work is also part of a sustained scholarly trend of exploring how human rights, including economic and social rights, might be more effectively mainstreamed in law, policy, and practice. The major actors considered in this book are politicians, public servants and civil society, with their role in realising economic and social rights the work’s key focus. As such, the book seeks to assist in deepening knowledge on the part of both those who have responsibility for implementing economic and social rights obligations (state actors/public servants) and those that monitor such implementation (academics/activists).
Original languageEnglish
PublisherHart Publishing
Number of pages256
ISBN (Print)9781841130118
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 21 Oct 2013


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