Human Rights and Human Rights Budgeting Policy

a project within both the poverty and climate change workstreams of the Human Rights for Future Generations Programme

Traditionally human rights have had a marginal role in state budgeting. We consider this to be an important deficiency that needs urgent addressing. As budgets have a central role in states’ policy-making, the development and the application of this analytical framework can be considered to be of fundamental importance. The implementation of policies generally requires resources, and states need to decide how to raise revenue and how to allocate its scarce resources between competing policy proposals. Budgeting is not, however, value-free, as it involves decisions on what proposals ought to be given resources, and how much resources ought to be given to each policy proposal that is considered worth pursuing. In every budgeting process a set of standards is applied, and these standards are based on underlying value judgments.

In other words, budgets should be subjected to close justificatory scrutiny, and they should not be considered as part of state management in which only technocrats and economists should participate. Human rights impose moral and legal obligations on states, and these obligations extend also to budgeting. They offer guiding principles for budgeting, both with regard to the process as well as the final budgets. The effort to develop and apply a rights-based budgeting analysis framework is part of a broader aim by human rights advocates and academic to couple macro-level quantitative analysis with micro-level qualitative analysis that focuses on the circumstances of particular right-bearers. Establishing systematically whether states are complying with their human rights obligations is a complex effort.

The causes of deprivations can be the result of several causes, and sometimes it can be burdensome to determine whether specific cases of deprivations can be linked to inadequate policy-measures taken by the state. Rights-based budgeting analysis aims to clarify the link between human rights and states’ failure to comply with their human rights obligations.