The Cost Of Living Crisis and Human Rights

by | Nov 9, 2022

author profile picture

Interviewer: Oxford Human Rights Hub

The Oxford Human Rights Hub (OxHRH) aims to bring together academics, practitioners, and policy-makers from across the globe to advance the understanding and protection of human rights and equality. Through the vigorous exchange of ideas and resources, we strive to facilitate a better understanding of human rights principles, to develop new approaches to policy, and to influence the development of human rights law and practice.

Share this:

In this episode Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali talks to Maria Emilia Mamberti and Allison Corkey from the Centre for Social and Economic Rights on human rights and fiscal policy.

TRANSCRIPT: The Cost of Living Crisis — Allison Corkery and María Emilia Mamberti (Centre for Economic and Social Rights) 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (0:02) Welcome to the RightsUp podcast, brought to you by the Oxford Human Rights Hub at the University of Oxford. My name is Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali, and I’m a podcast research assistant at the Hub. Today, we’ll be joined by Allison Corkery and María Emilia Mamberti at the Centre for Economic and Social Rights.1 Today, we’ll be talking about human rights and fiscal policy, focusing in on what human rights bring to the current cost of living crisis.  


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (0:30) Thank you so much for joining me today, Allison and María Emilia. Would you mind giving the listeners a brief description of what do you do at the Centre, Allison? 


Allison Corkery (0:38) So, I’m the Director of Strategy and Learning at the Centre for Economic and Social Rights. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (0:43) And María Emilia? 


María Emilia Mamberti (0:45) So, I am a Programme Officer of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, where I coordinate the work on fiscal justice in Latin America.  


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (0:53) Thank you. So, the first question that I have for you is: Prices are skyrocketing for basic human goods — food, housing, fuel — and causing human suffering. What do human rights bring to this economic crisis? 


Allison Corkery (1:09) So, yeah, so the— I think the, kind of, first key message is that this is very much a human rights crisis. And then the second is to— the second message I think that’s important to state is that, you know, what are human rights, and what do human rights bring to this crisis, because obviously, they’re not going to be the panacea or the silver bullet that is going to solve everything. 


(1:34) And in our work, what we really try and stress is that human rights are multi-dimensional concepts, they’re moral claims, they’re political demands, and then they’re legal obligations, which is a lot of the way that we think about them in our work. And in this way they are tools — so, they’re a tool that can help us challenge the powers that are denying people the conditions they need to live a life of dignity.  


(1:59) And in our work, we leverage this tool, in particular, the tool of rights, in two key ways. One is as a tool for analysis, and the second is as a tool for action. 


(2:10) So, as a tool for analysis, I’d say what rights brings to our understanding of the economic crisis is that, first and foremost, it focuses us on people. It takes us away from some of these abstract numbers, like inflation rates, like productivity levels, like currency fluctuations, or economic contractions, and it really focuses on the everyday impacts that this is having on lives and livelihoods.  


(2:35) Importantly, it also reveals that not everyone is being impacted or affected equally, and we’re really seeing how social inequities and economic inequities are intersecting in the way that these— that the crisis is playing out. So that’s the first — it looks at the impacts, and then helps us analyse the impacts. 


(2:52) But it also helps us analyse the causes of the crisis. You know, the rights framework emphasises the duties that flow from rights, and those are duties to respect, protect, and fulfil people’s rights. And we can see the degree to which those duties aren’t being upheld —whether it’s the conduct of states who are dragging their feet in terms of taking swift action to protect households from rising living costs, we can see that in the conduct of corporations, in the context of, kind of, weak regulations are creating the opportunities for financial speculation that’s driving up prices, and we can see that at the international level too, and looking at the conduct of international institutions, where there’s a lot of stagnation and deadlock around the action, like debt relief and climate financing, that’s needed to get through— through this crisis. 


(3:46) So, the bottom line, I think, is that, you know, analytically, rights help us see that the free market is not the effective distributor of essential goods and services and resources within and across countries.  


(3:58) Secondly, as a tool for action. That’s the second way we use rights in our work, and it’s the emphasis that it places on our equal worth and common humanity that can show the connection between the various manifestations of this crisis that like— that are very context specific, but share this common root cause. And in the shorter term that can help us in, you know, assessing the fairness of choices that are being made to provide immediate relief, but also in the longer term — this— it’s a political tool that can unite demands for bigger, broader calls for transforming the economy. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (4:34) Thank you so much. So, traditionally, fiscal policy has been seen as a matter of politics, whereas human rights have been considered a matter of law. So, why is this separation potentially problematic? 


Allison Corkery (4:48) Sure. I’m gonna start on this answer and then hand over to María Emilia to say a bit more specifically on fiscal policy, but I think it’s important to— just to frame that question slightly— slightly differently. So, not so much— you know, we don’t see so much in our work that— you know, a clear separation in that sense. But there certainly is— has been a bit more of an agnosticism about the economics of human rights from the human rights community in the past. So, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, for example, issued a General Comment in the early ’90s, saying that the Covenant is neutral as to the economic model that a state adopts, and it cannot be seen as supporting either a socialist or a capitalist system, or a mixed or centrally planned or laissez-faire economy.2 


(5:39) And even though this is a statement that’s made in a very particular political context of the end of the Cold War, and the, kind of, rise of neoliberalism at the time, and an attempt to appeal to a diverse set of member states, the legacy of this position, you know, we still feel, and often what that looks like is a sense that states preserve a much wider or broader margin of discretion when it comes to economic policymaking, as compared to other areas of a, kind of, social policy or justice— justice policy or other interventions that the state’s making. 


(6:16) But I think, you know, what— one key thing that we’ve really focused in on in our work is the message that, you know, there’s no doubt that the— that there’s a connection between economic policy and human rights, and that includes the fiscal policy choices that governments are making, and the protections and entitlements that are enshrined in international human rights law can shape what is fair and equitable in terms of the economic policy decisions that governments are making. 


María Emilia Mamberti (6:43) As you mentioned, like, traditionally, there’s been this, like, vague separation of reading fiscal policy as the— like, fully political issue, in the sense that it’s, like, fully discretionary for states— like states can do whatever they want when they conduct their fiscal affairs, and human rights would not have the same, in this regard. And as Allison mentioned, this has been, like, challenged and proven wrong, but it is very problematic because it centrally misses the point that writing paper would not translate into materials effects, per se. 


(7:20) And the first, most obvious reason is that rights need resources to be implemented. We need to finance rights — not only social and economic rights, but all human rights. And different United Nations mechanism have been [promoting] this. 


(7:37) But it’s not only this very obvious relationship between rights needing money to be implemented that is in place with fiscal policy, but also, like, there are other points of connections between these two traditionally separated words. Fiscal policy can, for instance, incentivise or disincentivise behaviour that can lead to either, like, rights fulfilment or unfulfillment. There are many examples of this. Like, the most obvious have to do with like green taxes, or taxes that can promote the right to health [such] as sugary drink taxes, and the list can go on and on. 


(8:16) Fiscal policy is also a tool to promote equality, and non-discrimination and equality are at the heart of the human rights framework and project. And fiscal policy plays a fundamental role in this regard. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (8:29) Perfect. Both of your answers were actually really incredibly enlightening, and I just want to use them as a jumping-off point into my next question, which is — in May 2021, a group of organisations and experts produced the Principles for Human Rights and Fiscal Policy,3 which was a game-changing tool that distils the fundamental human rights concepts into specific guidelines for fiscal policy creation, implementation, and assessment. Can either of you just tell me just a little bit more about that? 


María Emilia Mamberti (8:59) I can—I can do that. I am happy to talk about the Principles for Human Rights and Fiscal Policy. And I love how you describe them as a “game changing” tool because we really feel like that about them. So, the principles were really the result of many years of collaboration among different civil society organisations throughout the region. When we realised through these years of, like, asking for thematic hearings before the Inter-American Commission and doing, like, reports on fiscal justice and human rights, was that, actually, there was, like— there were more standards that could, like, help guide fiscal policy in a human rights-aligned way than we imagined. So, there have been, like, substantive progress and— but it was not, like, systematised in a way that could, like, really help governments guide their policymaking and organisations, like, streamline their claims around fiscal justice. 


(10:04) So, what we decided to do is to come up with a document that gathers those standards and presented them in a systematic and practical way to really show the efforts, the results that have been made throughout the years. And what we thought was that, like, a collective approach to this process was the way to go around it. So, initially, seven organisations gathered — two organisations from Argentina (ACIJ and CELS), a Brazilian organisation (INESC), an organisation from Colombia (Dejusticia), another one from Mexico (Fundar), we at CSR, and the original Network for Fiscal Justice in Latin America. We joined to do this work and then included in the project a group of experts from different, like, backgrounds and disciplines and countries across the region to come up with this document. 


(11:01) And the process ended up being longer than expected, of course, and included, like, a three— three intense years of, like, dialogues, and research to finally launch, as you said, on May 2021, the principles which ended up being a very detailed document with the 15 core principles that try to systematise and replicate what human rights, at the global and regional level, had been saying lately about how to align fiscal policy with rights demands. And these principles, which are— which tend to be normative, or reflect existing law, are paired with guidelines, which are more, like, policy-oriented, or action-oriented, and build on a wider set of sources that are not necessarily normative, but in general, like, good practices, or innovative research, and other sources. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (12:04) Thank you. It’s really incredible seeing something like this coming to fruition, and I’m just wondering what systems would be in place that hold governments accountable for upholding these principles? If there’s any such system in place? 


María Emilia Mamberti (12:17) There are, like, really many at the local, regional, and international level, and the opportunities that open up when, like, being aware of these standards are really infinite. Many of these approaches or systems in place are more legalistic — let’s say, like, litigation, and they could be based on the more normative content of the principles, as I’ve mentioned. And many others are, like, not as equally skilled, and can build on the guidelines. For instance, our partners, Adecco and Fundar, use the principles to base a campaign that includes, like, artistic presentations and general, like, awareness-raising actions to remove VAT from menstrual hygiene products in Mexico, building on how equality arguments are presented in the principles. 


(13:16) There’s also, like, regional work that we are engaging with, for instance, with the Inter-American Commission and especially with the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, who is very active in issuing, like, reports and statements and recommendations to government. 


(13:33) We— we’ve been using the principles as a source to be sent to new governments in Latin America, who seem to be open to the general, like, framework and ideas, and are working on tax reforms. We believe, for instance, that the principles can be, like, a roadmap in approaching tax and fiscal reforms in these countries in a way that promotes accountability from governments for their human rights obligations. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (14:06) So, the fourth principle states that fiscal policy should be environmentally sustainable, and we have seen the energy crisis prompting renewed call— calls for coal and for fracking and for countries whose GDP is dependent on environmentally harmful policies, such as the extraction and trade of crude oil. How can this principle be met, particularly during a global cost of living crisis? 


Allison Corkery (14:31) That’s a really great question, and I think the example that you give of the current crisis really highlights one of the key principles of human rights, which is of invisibility and interdependence. And because of that, there’s a need to assess policy interventions holistically. So, interventions that can look like they’re protecting rights in the short term actually are just, kind of, quick-fix Band Aid solutions that would undermine rights in the long term, in particular, the right to a healthy environment. 


(15:06) And so, you know, we know that to guarantee that right, to guarantee the right to a healthy environment, countries need to significantly accelerate their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And the question in the context of the topic we’re talking about today is, okay, what does that mean for fiscal policy? What role does fiscal policy play in decarbonisation, and in transitioning to— to cleaner energy. And a framework that comes from the Tax Justice Movement that we’ve incorporated into our work and given a, you know, a human rights lens is this idea that fiscal policy has four purposes, and they all start with “R”, so it’s called “the four R’s”. María Emilia already has touched on them a little bit. Those are: resources; redistribution; repricing; and representation.  


(15:55) So, resourcing is the most direct and obvious way that fiscal policy plays a role in the context— in the environmental context. It can increase or decrease revenue that impacts on what’s available, to whom and where, and so it can direct— fiscal policy can direct resources towards mitigation and adaptation efforts. And that’s the, kind of, the first and most direct role that fiscal policy can play. 


(16:21) The second is— is redistribution, which means, you know, curbing inequalities by tackling the concentration of resources at the top and spreading benefits across society. And again, in the environmental context, there’s a lot of discussion around policy proposals that are focused on capturing the profits from natural resource extraction, and eliminating or reducing, at least, fossil fuel subsidies, so that— so that profits in destructive industries are not maintained.  


(16:51) Repricing, María Emilia already mentioned — so, that’s about, kind of, incentivising or disincentivising different behaviours and in the environmental context, that’s a fiscal policy tool that governments can use to stimulate investment in renewable energies and in green industrialisation. 


(17:09) And the fourth is— is representation, based on the idea that as taxpayers we have a vested interest in holding governments accountable for how they’re raising and spending money, and that translates very clearly into the context of debates around responses to climate change, and in particular, the need for policymaking to be more transparent, more participatory, and less captured by corporate interests. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (17:36) And just jumping off of this previous question. So, when states don’t have the economic resources to implement these policies, what can they do? What is in— within their power to do? 


María Emilia Mamberti (17:49) That’s a great question, and I think it should be first addressed with another question. That is, that what do we really mean when we say that states don’t have the resources for X rights-aligned policy, because this is a claim that is often repeated, but not so often met with sufficient scrutiny as to its truth, or to its, like, full meaning.  


(18:12) So, human rights are, like, really very valuable in incentivising policymakers to really scrutinise what they mean, or to what extent states don’t have resources for X or Y policies. 


(18:28) So, using, for instance, principles— or human rights and fiscal policy. A first thing that states should do is to really assess, in an informed and participatory manner, the resources that are needed for rights fulfilment. And this is not always done, and I guess, it’s not really easy when you are, like, the head of a state. But a first step is that — to really understand what you need to fulfil the rights, instead of thinking about it the other way, to fulfil your rights only to the extent that the resources you have at hand. 


(19:01) Here, a standard that the UN Economic and Social Rights Committee has repeated frequently in the last decade is that the maximum available resources that states should use as per the Covenant are not existing resources, all right? So, states have the capacity— the capacity to reasonably expand their fiscal space, and they should do that in order to meet their human rights obligations. And there are many ways to expand a fiscal space that are aligned with human rights obligations, and the principles and guidelines mention many of those measures, which would include increasing tax collection through progressive taxes, combating tax evasion and avoidance, relocating spending from not— non-rights related spending to human rights related spending, using international cooperation to fulfil rights and other, like, sources that are, of course, like, context-specific. Some countries could issue money and that could be aligned with human rights in some contexts — among some others, it would do not. But the bottom line is that we should first assess the resources that are needed and then, if existing resources are not enough, you should expand those resources available by relying on these rights-aligned measures. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (20:36) So, I just want to just shift the conversation to the UK. With the rising energy bills and the multi-sector industrial action, what would be an ideal example of a rights-based fiscal policy that can be implemented to benefit civilians, workers, and the state? 


Allison Corkery (20:52) Yeah, so it’s a hard question to answer, and there’s a few reasons for that, you know? One— one is obviously that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all, kind of, prescription that you can take from human rights law and, you know, transplant into different country contexts. You know, policy needs to be designed through an inclusive, participatory democratic process. And, thinking about, you know, a response to something like the cost of living crisis, as I said earlier, you know, we need to think holistically. One policy intervention is going to trigger a lot of other questions, you know, around it, and there’s a, kind of, a bigger redistributive goal that I think an ideal response should be looking at. 


(21:37) So, with those, kind of, caveats and disclaimers, it’s cheating a little bit, but I think, coming back to this “Four R” framework, that’s the— a kind of useful way to give, at least, some of the characteristics of what an ideal, kind of, policy response would look like. And I’d say the ideal first and foremost needs to boost revenue in order to be protecting households through a comprehensive programme of a mix of income support, or subsidised goods, or expanded public services. 


(22:07) That— there needs to also be redistribution, quite clearly. In the UK, the example of the windfall tax— there is a 25% windfall tax that’s been introduced on the profits of UK energy firms that will last, for now, until May next year. That’s an important starting point, but it’s a starting point — it’s a step in the right direction, and there’s certainly a lot more scope for redistribution to ensure that the wealthy, whether it’s corporations or individuals, are being taxed and are paying their fair share. 


(22:41) And then the third, around repricing, I think there’s scope, in particular, for ideal policy interventions to be thinking about not just the immediate response to the crisis, but what kind of broader, longer term systemic change should it be encouraging. So, for example, if governments are issuing loans or grants or bailouts to the private sector in response to the cost of living crisis, that can come with strings attached — there can be conditions that demand that the private sector is reinvesting any profits that it’s making through those programmes that can support a green energy transition.  


(23:22) So, that’s what an ideal policy response might look like in the UK context, but I think the other point to remember is that this is a global crisis and requires a global response. So, it’s also important to think about what global policies the UK could be championing that can expand the fiscal space of other countries, in particular, countries in the Global South, so that they’re able to invest in the measures that are necessary to respond to the cost of living crisis, and that includes things like widespread debt relief, and also reforms to global tax law. 


(23:57) So, on the point about thinking globally, María Emilia did already touch on this, but just to emphasise it, again, states’ human rights obligations don’t stop at their borders — they do have extraterritorial obligations, and when their actions are going to impact on people in other countries, the duties around respecting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights also are at play there. So the— so the decisions that are being taken at the global level also need to be interrogated through a human rights lens too. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (24:27) Thank you so much. And just on that note of thinking globally, because the principles mainly focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, what can be learned from these states that will be eliminated for other contexts? 


María Emilia Mamberti (24:42) Thank you for that question. I think there’s, like, different levels of learning that can help in the movements and actions in other regions. And one has to do with, like, the power of collective mobilisation and cooperation at the civil society level. So, the initiative that hosts the principles, I think it’s a very successful example of how organisations with different, like, realities and agendas can cooperate with a common goal and can do, like, regional work in a way that is both, like, respectful of their, like, local realities and agenda, but also helpful in building, like, collective knowledge and power that is really needed to challenge policies that have been there for decades, if not centuries, and have, like, very deep roots, that require a lot of, like, corporate— co-operation to be challenged. 


(25:42) Then, I think that Latin America is a good example of appropriation by, like, local activists of the rights approach and the rights of discourse in a way that is, like, very vernacularised. And it has helped, for instance, promote very successful litigation in the field of fiscal transparency, that other frame— frameworks that are not, like, so normative as the rights framework (which is, of course, like one aspect of the rights framework, but it is there), would not have been, like, so helpful to support these claims that often have been successful, like, in courts. And Latin America is a good example of, like, courts cooperating with movements and activists to promote this goal.  


(26:30) I think that Latin America can also be a nice example of some successful measures in the context of, like, fiscal policy being taken in a landscape of diminished state capacity. And the response to COVID has been very, like, illustrative of that. We can delve later into some examples of the COVID responses, but in general there are, like, many promising examples of measures that can be taken even by states that are you in a context of, like, crisis, or diminished capacity, as I said. 


(27:10) And then I think that this initiative, and in general, the work that we’re coordinating— work at the regional level is helpful in showing how, while it’s very important to tailor physical responses to the context specific needs of each, like, country and area of each country, then human rights are still powerful in providing, like, the general, like, guidelines or an analytical framework to find the best, like, policy responses to each context. So, Latin American countries have different, like, fiscal issues, in terms of, like, the things they need to address more permanently, but still, they can all benefit from the framework that the human rights provided when thinking in how to reform or address the different challenges they have. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (28:02) Thank you so much. There’s definitely lots to learn from the Latin American context. And I just was— want to, kind of, press a little bit more about the role of civil society and civilians at large. So, is there anything that can be done on the civilian level that can help us realise this goal of moving towards a rights-based economy? 


Allison Corkery (28:24) Yes, absolutely, is the short answer to that question. Just to say a word or two about what we mean when we’re talking about a “rights-based economy”. This is a concept that we’re focusing on in our work and it’s really the centrepiece of the current strategy of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, which is to envisage a rights-based economy and catalyse action towards it. And the reason we felt that was really important to do is that us in the human rights movement tend to be a lot better at calling out what we don’t want, rather than spelling out what we do —we’re good critics, but we’re less visionary, often. And so we thought it— to, kind of, counter that tendency, it was really important that we work collaboratively with our partners and allies to paint a much clearer and more tangible picture of what the world would look like and what it would feel like and what it would be like if human rights really were grounding economic policy choices that governments are making at the national, regional, and international level. 


(29:30) So, that’s what we mean when we talk about a rights-based economy. And you can see it really as the idea of systems change, of really quite a radical transformation to the way things are done. And in the systems change approach, you’re trying to intervene in the current system at multiple levels. So, you’re trying to shift, kind of, deep held narratives around the way things should work, you’re trying to reform, like, specific policies that can create pathways towards transformation, and you’re trying to make the case for change by gathering evidence and leveraging it through different accountability channels and through, kind of, broader mobilisation and organising. And we see, kind of, the building of broad popular support for those interventions across those levels as really, really critical. You know, this isn’t the, kind of, change that one organisation or a handful of organisations can make on their own. It does really need to mass, broad collective power-building.  


(30:36) And so for us, what that looks like in our work is really trying to build connections beyond the human rights movement, and look for opportunities to engage with and learn from other social justice work that’s happening in different spaces and at different levels. And— and that— in order to be able to do that, in order to be able to build some of those connections, and forge those relationships, some of the ingredients we’ve found that really— have been really important is around deepening economic literacy amongst the human rights community, and I imagine a lot of, kind of, listeners of this podcast, kind of, self-identify as being part of the human rights community. So really thinking about, engaging with, and understanding the economy and economic policymaking as a key battleground for human rights activism, I’d say, is one way of engaging with different groups and individuals and communities to advance a rights-based economy. 


Allison Corkery (31:36) And the other which is, you know, a big part of the principles and guidelines, and María Emilia already spoke about a bit, is making rights meaningful to actors outside the human rights community. So, moving away from the more, kind of, traditional legalistic normative work to that translation into the specific policy demands, or the, kind of, broader public campaigns that can shift thinking around who the economy’s for, and what it— how it’s supposed to work and how it can be redesigned to benefit the many. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (32:06) Perfect. And just some final thoughts. We just want to learn a little bit more about what lessons can be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic with regards to how fiscal policy has impacted human rights in various states. 


María Emilia Mamberti (32:20) So, as far as, like, learning, it’s a refresher of how important extraterritorial obligations are in this field. As Alison mentioned, like, states, under international law, don’t only have obligations before the people who live within their borders, but also for people living outside them. And COVID has, like, really shown in a very pointed way, the impact that the decisions that they make, often without consideration of what will happen in another place of the world, can have. 


(32:54) With that, like, general refresher, said, we did a look into countries’ fiscal measures taken as a response to COVID in a report we did of the initiative in Latin America, and there’re, like, different learnings — some really interesting, some not so promising. But overall, we think that COVID has helped combat or dismantle some dogmas that had to do with fiscal policy in some very orthodox, like, spaces in which, like, having expansive fiscal policies as a response to a crisis wouldn’t have been imaginable in other contexts. And I think, like, the pandemic has been helpful in showing that there are other ways forward and the world will not end because of having expansive fiscal policies in place.  


(33:50) And it, like, also showed, like, the feasibility of putting in place some rights-aligned fiscal measures that often are met with scepticism at the national level, such as, like, well, taxes, which in cases such in— such as Argentina have proven to have very good effects, both in terms of revenue that has been gathered and the impacts on equality that those taxes have had. However, what we found is that many of those rights-aligned measures were only temporary in nature, and the opportunity to really make structural reforms that tackle, like, long-standing and historical problems in fiscal policy in the region has in it.  


(34:38) Other problems that we identify and learn from this COVID response have to do with more, like, structural issues such as, like, of coordination among state agencies. It seems to be the case that, regardless of the advances we’ve made in linking fiscal policy and human rights, fiscal decisions are still, like, largely made by Ministers of Finance, or Economy, and there’s, like, little consultation or coordination with rights-related areas of government. That is something, like, to be improved in the future to, like, really land what connecting fiscal policy and rights is in government policy-making.  


(35:17) And then a final learning from this report that I mentioned before has to do with some gains that have been made in the field of gender equality and taxation. So, many of the fiscal measures taken by governments do incorporate a gender perspective. However, this perspective is absent when you look at other groups, like migrants — many of the measures taken as a response to COVID have been, like, openly discriminatory towards migrants. So, there’s some—there are some advances in some fields, but still a huge road ahead to improve. 


Allison Corkery (35:54) Yeah, I would say the key takeaways for me are perhaps even less optimistic than María Emilia’s examples just now. I think it’s very true that it did challenge conventional thinking around fiscal policy and opened up the space for reforms that wouldn’t have been feasible pre-pandemic. But for me, the big takeaway is that the scale of intervention is still so far from what it is that we need — the measures that have been taken still are, kind of, tinkering around the edges, so to speak. And the— some of the data or the estimates that Oxfam has shared really, I think, make that point so, so vividly. You know, by their estimates, during the pandemic, every 30 hours a new billionaire was created,4 while the estimates are currently that every 33 hours a billion (sic) people are being pushed into poverty. So, the very gross concentration of resources just got increasingly amplified over the course of the pandemic, and the action that’s necessary to reverse that trend needs to be very broad and very transformative, and very high on the human rights agenda. 


Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali (37:07) Thank you so so much, Allison and María Emilia. We often think of fiscal policy and human rights as mutually exclusive realms in the state, and you have provided us with a different perspective on how we view the economy and human rights. Thank you for making the time to catch up with me today and sharing your expertise with all of us here at the Oxford Human Rights Hub and with our listeners. 


(37:30) RightsUp! is brought to you by the Oxford Human Rights Hub. The executive producer is Meghan Campbell. This episode was produced by Sophie Smith and hosted by Ilham Abdalla Tagelsir Ali. Music for the series is by Rosemary Allmann. Show Notes for this episode have been written by Sarah Dobbie. Subscribe to the podcast wherever you like to listen to your favourite podcast. 


Share this:


Submit a Comment

Related Content