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Save The Date! Join Us To Declare Our Human Rights – Thursday 6 December 2018

Thursday 6 December 2018 – 10.00am to 12.30pm

IHREC Auditorium – Dublin

Declaring Our Human Rights!

The ESC Rights Initiative marks the 70th anniversary
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The ESC Rights Initiative will host an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission offices on the week of International Human Rights Day December 10th 2018.

The purpose of the event is to illustrate the contribution of human rights principals, instruments and proclamations to the achievement of equality and social justice in Ireland. The event will highlight the resolution and accomplishments of groups and individuals in the continuing battle for human dignity and fundamental freedoms, with a special focus on the indivisibility of the all human rights and the need to strengthen the protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The event will consist of short inputs, stories, songs and poems by practitioners, artists, academics and victims of human rights violations. New publications will be presented including the 2018 European Anti Poverty Network on-line Handbook: “A Human Rights Approach to Poverty”.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as a moral beacon for a world emerging from the unconscionable horrors of war and social degradation visited on nations, communities and families across the world over the preceding decades. The concept of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first shaped within a specially convened Philosophers’ Committee that included leading thinkers, including Mahatma Ghandi and Aldous Huxley. Their work was then passed to the United Nations Human Rights Commission chaired by the redoubtable Eleanor Roosevelt where a human rights consensus was shaped by the 58 member states.

It is important to remember that the UN Human Rights Commission envisaged 3 parts to the human rights project: a general set of principles, the codification of these principles into law, and a practical means of application. Many countries, including Ireland, still struggle to implement the final part of this human rights paradigm and even the fundamental principles set out in the Universal Declaration are in danger of being set aside or discarded in these times of geopolitical turmoil and political uncertainty. It is therefore proper and timely that we acknowledge and celebrate the massive achievement in setting down the global ethic that is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in this 70th anniversary year of its establishment.

Right to Housing, Right to Health… 4 years of silence!

Press Release by the ESC Rights Initiative on the 2nd October 2018

Right to Housing, Right to Health…
4 years of silence!

The 2014 Constitutional Convention’s request
to the Government not yet answered.

Members of the Irish Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Initiative support the calls of the #RaiseTheRoof rally and the #StillWaiting march

On Wednesday 3rd and Saturday 6th October, citizens and organisations involved in the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Initiative will join trade unions, students, housing and health civil society organisations and community groups in occupying the streets of Dublin.

The calls of the ESC Rights Initiative will underline the four years silence of the Government after the clear request of the Constitutionnal Convention in February 2014 and the importance to approach human rights as a comprehensive, inter-dependant and indivisible plan.

The need to strengthen the protection of Economic, Social and Cultural rights in Bunreacht na hEireann was outlined in the 8th Report of the Convention on the Constitution (2014). After a full investigation the citizens and party representatives of the Convention concluded by 85% that this protection was requested. Although the Government was committed to responding to this recommendation by the Summer 2014 there has been no response to date.

Incorporating a strong protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights into the Irish Constitution would provide a strong impetus to government to develop effective legislation and robust implementation mechanisms to address housing needs, health inequalities and endemic poverty among other issues.

Aiden Lloyd, chair of the ESC Rights Initiative said “Today’s Raise the Roof rally and the National Health Demonstration next Saturday illustrate the frustrations of the people. You have almost 8,000 people on hospital trolleys, massive waiting lists for elective surgery, children waiting in agony for scoliosis surgery. For more than one week now media are full of reports on the Housing crisis: 10,000 homeless, endemic overcrowding, unaffordable rents, and unaffordable houses. And I don’t want to forget the rampant poverty, especially child poverty. Can Ireland become a country where the basic human rights to health, housing and the freedom from poverty are constitutionally protected?”

Evidence from research and accounts by citizens facing the hardships of life in poverty demonstrate robustly the huge inter-dependence usually referred to as “indivisibility” of all human rights. Poor housing conditions impact the health of a family, the mental health of the parents, the social and school life of the children. Low paid insecure and irregular jobs for young parents limit the possibility to support the early education of children or to move out from the family home. Poor delivery of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights results in a poor civic, political and democratic life with low turnout at elections, mistrust in the system and the representatives. It also limits drastically individual freedom.

Pierre Klein, All Together in Dignity Ireland, active member of the ESC Rights Initiative said: ”The more you understand how everything is strongly interconnected in our social life, the more you want to defend the whole package of civic, political, family, economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms all together. I learned this from friends who really know what it means to face hardships. Today it is important that together we advance the right to housing and we reduce health inequalities! But we can’t forget the bigger picture including quality education, decent levels of income security, access to services and also the ban of discrimination of socio-economic grounds.”

The ESC Rights Initiative writes the members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach

The ESC Rights Iniative wrote on the 21st September 2018 to the members of the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Taoiseach on responding to the Eighth Report of the Convention on the Constitution (Economic, Social and Cultural (ESC) Rights)

The letter follows a February 2018 submission by the ESC Rights Initiative as the Oireachtas Committee was designated to respond to the Eight Report of the Convention on the Constitution on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

For the Initiative, “a matter of huge social importance regarding housing, health and other basic rigths remains undiscussed by any mechanism of the Oireachtas.” The Initiative asks “that this be remedied by pressing for the scheduling of this matter for discussion by the Committee.”

In accordance with its remit, the Convention on the Constitution conducted a full investigation in 2013 in order to ascertain whether the fundamental human right to health, housing, education, and other economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights are properly protected in Irish law. The Convention members subsequently concluded in February 2014 (by 85%) that protection of ESC rights needed to be strengthened in Bunreacht na hÉireann.

In the February 2108 ESC Rights Initiative submission, attention was drown to the commitment by Government to respond to all of the recommendations of the Convention within 4 months of receiving its report. In September 2018, after Four years and a half, Government has not responded to the Eighth Report of the Convention on the Constitution and  discussion on this matter has not been scheduled by the Joint Committee On Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, adding to the failure that has left this important report floating between departments and Oireachtas Committees for 4 years.

Thomas Pringle TD introduces a new private bill to protect Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Constitution

On Wednesday, 19 September 2018, the Independent TD for Donegal Thomas Pringle introduced again a private bill to protect Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Constitution.

After his successful Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill was passed by the Dáil in July, Thomas Pringle has this week introduced his piece of legislation which would make housing, health, education (among others) fundamental human rights with full protection under the Irish Constitution.

Here is a transcript from the Dáil Éireann debate (copied from www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2018-09-19/18/)

Deputy Thomas Pringle: “This is my third time introducing an economic, social and cultural rights Bill. It was been voted down twice by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, yet three times I have remained hopeful that they would reach some sort of epiphany and realise the need to incorporate these rights into our Constitution. We stand today amid a devastating housing and homelessness crisis, a crippling two-tier health system and an escalating trolley crisis with the education system not far behind in these gloomy times. These three vital components in our society are under siege by Fine Gael’s privatisation agenda and the continuation of Fianna Fail’s privatisation of our vital public services. Housing, health and education and workers’ rights, among many others, should be viewed as fundamental human rights, but to Fine Gael they are products that people can access based on their ability to pay.

When I first introduced this Bill in 2014, we were astonished at the emerging crisis, particularly in housing and health. In 2014, according to Focus Ireland, there were 2,580 people in homelessness, 20 of whom were in my own constituency of Donegal. Today, there are nearly 10,000 people in homelessness, not taking into account the changes in the way the Government collects statistics, which has reduced the numbers to its own benefit. The number is in fact far higher than that. According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s Trolley and Ward Watch, 7,942 people were on trolleys and waiting in wards. Today, that figure has increased by 22% compared with the 2014 average.

It is clear that Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the establishment parties, have paved the way for greater outsourcing and privatisation of State services, inevitably curbing the rights of individuals and targeting the most vulnerable people in society. My Bill seeks to reverse this ideology by preserving the defendable rights of individuals. These include housing, including prioritising social housing to address the current housing crisis; a universal right to healthcare based on need and not ability to pay; greater protection of workers’ rights to correct the imbalance of power in favour of employees and unions; equal access to education reflecting diversity in our society; a right to social protection in line with cost of living; and incorporation of the living wage, among many others, which time and time again, the people have called for.

The protection of economic, social and cultural rights continues to grow around the world. For example, the right to healthcare is included in 133 constitutions, while the right to join a trade union is included in 152. A total of 136 recognise the right to work and/or the state’s duty to provide work. Furthermore, the right to housing is included in 81 constitutions, while the right to culture is incorporated in 141.

Economic, social and cultural rights present a framework to undermine existing systems of injustice and inequality which are pervasive in today’s society as basic human rights are eroded consistently by private sector interests which, unfortunately, the Government promotes. Furthermore, economic, social and cultural rights can provide a legitimate framework for addressing climate change and ensuring the Government will facilitate a fair and just transition to a low carbon economy. Climate change is a huge impediment to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. Therefore, they are interlinked.

I also feel the need to engage in a bit of myth busting. A key tenet in the protection of economic, social and cultural rights is the notion of “progressive realisation” as defined in Article 2(1) and reflects the fact that it may not be possible to achieve full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights within a short period, particularly when resources are limited. Progressive realisation is seen as a necessary flexible device, reflecting the realities of the real world and the difficulties involved for any country in ensuring full realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. Most importantly, it establishes obligations on states parties to achieve full realisation of the rights as contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and that a state can only readjust them in reaction to an economic crisis if the necessary protections required for vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, in particular, are taken into account and where it is justified.

Economic, social and cultural rights are becoming increasingly necessary in the Irish context, particularly after a decade long recession from which a housing crisis has emerged. As Ireland experiences unprecedented numbers of families living in emergency accommodation, questions are being raised about how the provision of housing can be adequately and consistently provided for in an economy with frequent cycles of boom and bust, while not remaining at the mercy of ideological preferences as determined by the Government of the day. Greater protection of economic, social and cultural rights in the Constitution would provide the necessary anchor for rights such as those to housing, health and education to be provided for on the basis of need at all times, even amid times of economic or political turbulence. When it comes to budgetary measures, the Government would have to justify reasons for the allocation of resources not intended for the administration of economic, social and cultural rights. If a justification was not favourable, an individual could defend his or her rights in the courts and thereby hold the Government to account for its decision-making.

Together with the progressive realisation tenet, the referendum Bill would ensure the economic, social and cultural rights of individuals were balanced against the available resources of the State, regardless of ideological persuasion or the state of the economy at the time.”

An Ceann Comhairle: “Is the Bill opposed?”

Deputy Tony McLoughlin: “No.”
An Ceann Comhairle: “Since this is a Private Members’ Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members’ time.”
Deputy Thomas Pringle: “That the Bill be taken in Private Members’ time.”

Right to Housing, Right to Health,… Human Rights Together

Major mobilisations are taking place ahead of the presentation of the Irish Budget 2019 in October 2018 and include strong calls to strengthen provisions for the delivery of a Right to Housing and a Right to Quality Health Services. The Initiative supports these moves and will produce on 2nd October a statement connecting the calls with the wider challenge to protect all Human Rights together.

Make the Shift! A new global movement for the fundamental human right to housing

The Shift is a new worldwide movement to reclaim and realize the fundamental human right to housing – to move away from housing as a place to park excess capital, to housing as a place to live in dignity, to raise families and participate in community.

The Shift has been initiated by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Leilani Farha, in partnership with United Cities Local Government and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It brings together civil society, all levels of government, multilateral institutions, national human rights institutions, academia, philanthropists, artists, the private sector, and grassroots movements, and represents the interests of the individuals, families, communities, slum dwellers, and neighbourhood associations who understand and live the deep connections between housing, home and well-being.

The Shift calls for a change in the way we think and interact with housing and home. The Shift:

  • sees housing as a human right not a commodity
  • affirms housing as a vehicle for equality, dignity and inclusive community, rather than for inequality and the concentration of wealth
  • rejects forced evictions and displacement especially where they occur without the exploration of alternatives, without consultation and without provision of adequate alternative housing as defined in international human rights law
  • understands homelessness as a systemic failure to effectively and fully implement the right to housing and rejects the criminalization of homelessness
  • affirms the social function of housing and land and supports the agency of individuals to hold governments accountable so that their right to housing can be realized

More about the Shift here!

The ESC Rights Initiative contributes to the 2018 Compendium on Agenda 2030

The Irish Government supported in June 2018 stakeholder participation in the 2030 Agenda process at both a national and global level, in order to ensure that voices from civil society and the private sector continue to be heard as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are implemented.

Therefore the Government of Ireland has facilitated the production of a compendium of stakeholders’ inputs to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). The intention was to provide national stakeholders with an equal opportunity to present their individual observations regarding the SDGs, and Ireland’s implementation, directly to the 2018 session of the HLPF.

Stakeholder contributions where collected by means of an on-line process. Stakeholders were encouraged, when providing contributions to the compendium, to consider and respond to the following three questions:

– What are you/your organisation/your sector doing to support achieving the SDGs?
– What are your/your organisations key observations related to Ireland’s
SDG implementation?
– What would you/your organisation suggest Ireland do to further enhance
SDG implementation?

All contributions received have been included in the compendium and the content of those contributions has not been edited in any way by the Government of Ireland.

Read the ESC Rights Initiative input on page 20 here!

The compendium is separate to Ireland’s Voluntary National Review 2018 and that the views expressed in this compendium are solely those of the listed contributors, and do not represent those of the Government of Ireland.

Stand up for the EU Pillar of Social Rights!

A new group has been set up to encourage Governments and EU institutions to fully implement the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The group ‘Stand Up for the Social Pillar’ brings together social economy enterprises and organisations including cooperatives active in industry and services, trade unions, pro-European organisations and social NGOs, and has as its mission to

  • ensure that the European Pillar of Social Rights delivers results that improve people’s lives and builds support for a more social, inclusive and fairer European Union, characterised by less socio-economic inequalities;
  • encourage implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights by the EU Institutions, national Governments and other organisations;
  • promote social investments, social rights, social economy, the adoption of legislation and democratic dialogue with policy makers as means of implementing the Pillar;
  • spread knowledge about the European Pillar of Social Rights and its 20 principles at national and local level.

The alliance aims to give a much-needed new impulse to implementation of the Pillar now and into the future. Currently implementation is running into difficulties in Council and more needs to be done in the draft new EU 2020-27 budget for funding social investment. With the European elections next year candidates for the new Parliament – and Commission – need to be committed to continue implementation of the Pillar.

‘Stand Up for the Social Pillar’ aims to make national organisations more aware of the significance and political importance of the principles of the Pillar and create an environment in which national Governments and EU institutions commit to full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The group aims to have a series of activities in member states and the EU institutions, and with member organisations, starting with a meeting in the European Parliament on September 25.

Founding members of the new group are

CECOP – CICOPA Europe the European confederation of industrial and service cooperatives affiliates 26 members in 15 European countries representing 50,000 enterprises employing 1.3 million workers.

The European Movement the largest pan-European network of pro-European organisations. It is present in 39 countries and encompasses 36 International Associations, bringing together European civil society, business, trade unions, NGOs, political parties, local authorities and academia.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) represents 45 million workers in Europe and comprises 89 national trade union confederations in 39 countries, plus 10 European trade union federations.

Social Economy Europe is the voice of the 2.8 million social economy enterprises and organisations in Europe. SEE members are the European organisations of mutual and cooperative insurers, non-profit healthcare players, health mutuals and health insurance funds; foundations, associations of general interest, work integration social enterprises, paritarian institutions of social protection, ethical banks and financiers, and the European Cities and Regions for the social economy. At national level, SEE represents the national social economy organisations of France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and of Belgium.

Social Platform is the largest civil society alliance fighting for social justice and participatory democracy in Europe. Consisting of 49 pan-European networks of NGOs, Social Platform campaigns to ensure that EU policies are developed in partnership with the people they affect, respecting fundamental rights, promoting solidarity and improving lives.

For more information

Successes and challenges in protecting people as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a landmark instrument in the history of human rights.

70 years ago, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations, and sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It has significantly influenced the development of human rights law and policy, internationally, regionally and domestically.

Maynooth University Department of Law just organised a conference entitled

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Seventy; A Review of Successes and Challenges”

on 21st and 22nd June 2018. This conference included discussions by keynote speakers, in addition to a number of papers focusing on different aspects of human rights protection since the adoption of the UDHR.

Keynote speakers included:
• Prof Michael O’Flaherty, Director of the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union
• The Hon Mr Justice John Mac Menamin, Judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland
• Anastasia Crickley, Outgoing Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
• Prof Philip Leach, Director of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre and Professor of Law at Middlesex University
• Judge Shireen Fisher, Justice of the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone
• Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner, Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
• Professor Eduardo J. Ruiz Vieytez, Professor of Constitutional Law at University of Deusto, Bilbao
• Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties
• Esther Lynch, Confederal Secretary, European Trade Union Confederation
• Prof Keith Ewing, Professor of Public Law at King’s College London.
• Sindy Joyce, Human Rights Defender and Doctoral Scholar, University of Limerick
• Prof Randy Lippert, Professor of Criminology at University of Windsor, Canada

Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union Director Michael O’Flaherty delivered a keynote address reviewing the successes and challenges of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after 70 years.

He spoke about the role of fundamental rights in European societies, and addressed challenges related to protecting these rights within the EU.

He addressed the relationship between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and present-day Europe. He credited it with launching “a process through which Europe has built the strongest system of human rights protection in the world”. He added: “In recent decades, the European Union has played an increasingly important role in this system. We have developed the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union—landmark legislation I like to call a European ‘Bill of Rights’ —and the EU’s highest court has vigorously protected human rights in its rulings. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights is a global good practice, and is the only body of its kind operating at a regional level anywhere in the world.”

However, he also spoke of a number of pressing challenges, notably the worrying signs of backsliding human rights protection in many places within the EU. He gave the example of the treatment of Roma: ”In a climate of growing anti-Gypsyism, our leaders need to stand up for the Roma—arguably the most marginalized community in our societies, and a constant target of discrimination. Significant parts of this population live in homes without running water or electricity, lack access to health insurance, and go to bed hungry—all in one of the richest regions in the world.

“The European Union has recognised the urgent need to address the dire situation of the European Roma, putting up funding support Member States can use to make targeted investments that help our Roma brothers and sisters get a quality education, access to proper housing and health care. The means are there. But we need political will to make human rights a reality for everybody in society. ”

He also spoke of the challenges facing civil society organisations working on human rights in the EU: “It is no less important to acknowledge that the rich and dynamic tapestry of European civil society is one of the fundamental pillars of our democracies and of the rule of law. Across the EU, NGOs and other civil society actors need to be valued and respected as partners, not labelled as threats. Criminalising humanitarianism can never be right.”

However, he also gave a more upbeat look to the future: “In spite of the challenges facing the system of human rights protection in Europe, I am convinced that it is fit for purpose, but can always be strengthened. I am also optimistic that—so long as we are vigilant in insisting on compliance with human rights standards, calling out abuses where we see them, and reinvesting in building a culture of human rights—the system will continue to deliver for our people.” (source: http://fra.europa.eu/en/news)

On behalf of the ESC Rights Initiative, Kevin O’Kelly presented the content of the recent Initiative’s Submission to the Irish Oireachtas Committee.

Here you can download the Powerpoint of this presentation entitled “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Bunreacht na hÉireann”.

The European Pillar of Social Rights: the EU Tool to Leave No One Behind?


“In times of deep change – whether in life or in politics – it is only natural to come back to what defines you and to what holds you together.” These were the words of
President Juncker on the occasion of the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Right, 2017 November 2017.

Facing unprecedented challenges globally and at home, there cannot be a better time for the European Union to demonstrate that it is a Union designed for all its citizens, leaving no one behind. This is why ATD Europe and the European Economic and Social Council (EESC) came together to question: Will the EU Pillar of Social Rights be the key framework of a renewed commitment of the EU to combat and stop poverty?

This question will be discussed at the EESC on Tuesday 26th June 2018. Invitation here!

A discussion panel organised in Brussels at the Bringing together their scientific, political and activist experiences, and also different socio-cultural backgrounds, the panelists will try to answer the question and explain how genuinely fighting poverty could help the European Union win back the hearts of its citizens.

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