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Help us draw the blueprint for a Rights-Based Economy


Want to transform how the economy works? We’re looking for activists, researchers, feminists, youth leaders, artists, trade unionists and human rights defenders, who want to help build a blueprint to show how the economy can work for people and the planet. Respond to our short survey and join us in envisioning a Rights-Based Economy.

We’re living in an era of unprecedented wealth, with resources that could allow everyone on the planet to flourish. However, the neoliberal economic system - built to favor only a few - has created or exacerbated multiple crises: climate breakdown, extreme inequality, and the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. At the Center for Economic and Social Rights, we believe this moment is ripe for mobilization for systemic and radical change. To seize this opportunity, we are expanding our work on envisioning a Rights-Based Economy (RBE) - an economic model that firmly prioritizes human rights over profit, and that works for both people and the planet.

The RBE is a bold and ambitious vision. In order to learn, find synergies, collaborate and expand our imagination, CESR is starting a collaboration and learning process, with the aim to gather ideas, critiques, stories and proposals from a wide variety of allies including trade unions and labor rights activists, feminist groups, movements for racial justice, indigenous communities and environmental justice movements; economic justice actors including those working on debt and fiscal policy, and more.

Show your interest by filling out this short survey

So far, we’ve published an initial vision for a Rights-Based Economy, and made a powerful short video to explain the idea to a wider audience. As part of our current efforts to further build out a “blueprint” for a Rights-Based Economy, we’ve identified five key pillars that we believe are crucial objectives and elements of the RBE:

  1. Guaranteeing dignity and wellbeing for all, at all stages of life: ensuring that every person has access to the goods and services necessary to thrive, such as housing, healthcare, food, and water.
  2. Pursuing substantive equality, dismantling intersecting inequalities and systems of oppression: addressing historical legacies of oppression and the drivers of structural inequality, creating greater equity in opportunity and outcomes. 
  3. Tackling power imbalances in the economy: fundamentally shifting power from corporations to communities, and rewriting the rules which make the playing field so uneven and create massive obstacles to social mobility.  
  4. Working in harmony with nature, not exploiting it: pursuing a developmental pathway which values the intrinsic worth of nature and nurtures respect for the earth’s natural systems, learning from indigenous knowledge and practices. 
  5. Democratizing and decolonizing the global economy: radically transforming institutions and systems of global economic governance to overturn asymmetries between the global North and the global South in accessing and controlling resources. 

The purpose of the blueprint is to draw up a clear picture of the overall “architecture” of the Rights-Based Economy. It will outline its key features and, importantly, visualize the relationships between them. It also gives us guidance on the actions needed to build it.

Our aim is to create a tool that can help to: 

  • Strengthen messaging in campaigns for economic justice.
  • Foster public debate about the purpose of the economy and its role in realizing people’s rights. 
  • Design economic policies that improve our collective wellbeing. 
  • Inspire creative ideas that turn the vision of a Rights-Based Economy into action!

In doing this work, we are consciously building on and learning from the work of other movements and organizations working to bring about economic transformation focused on economic, environmental, and racial justice. CESR aims to contribute to this broader struggle by leveraging the power of human rights as normative, political and moral claims. 

Why human rights? They: 

  • Incorporate widely agreed-upon values and principles such as equity, dignity, solidarity and justice. 

  • Challenge the logic of the failed neoliberal policies which have ruled the policy and development arena for more than four decades. Because human rights contain legally binding obligations it means that necessities for human wellbeing such as water, food, healthcare, housing, and education are non-negotiables. 

  • Require governments to generate sufficient resources to ensure the realization of rights both individually and collectively. That includes taking steps to ensure the realization of rights of those beyond their own borders. 

  • Give greater normative weight to demands for fundamental and structural changes to global economic governance to tackle both income and wealth inequality and enable a fair distribution of resources to all so that every person can live a dignified life. 

Please take a few minutes to respond to this short survey to tell us which of the five pillars most speaks to you, and in which form or capacity you might like to engage with us to build the RBE. Meanwhile, watch the space for upcoming events, and sign up to our mailing list here for more updates about our work.