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Bringing the financial sector to book for rights abuses


It has become painfully clear in recent years that better regulation of the financial sector is crucial to protecting human rights. The role of opportunistic and uncontrolled speculation in exacerbating serious international problems – ranging from the food and fuel crises to the ongoing economic and financial quagmire in which the world finds itself – is widely recognised, yet effective regulation of the financial sector remains a pending task. In an effort to confront this critically important challenge, a task force of human rights organizations and networks, including CESR, has now launched a new website, Righting Finance, devoted to highlighting the impacts of poor financial regulation on human rights around the world.

The new resource, which can be accessed at, brings together human rights perspectives on various areas of financial activity and the corresponding regulatory requirements. Issues such as financial sector taxation, derivatives trading, and the operations of hedge and private equity funds are all examined to tease out their potential human rights impacts.

Given that multiple interlinked crises have dramatically undermined many fundamental rights and freedoms, from employment and an adequate standard of living to the rights to housing, food and even the right to life, the urgency of the task at hand should not be underestimated. Ever since the effects of the ‘Great Recession’ began to be felt globally back in 2008, CESR and its partners around the world have been pushing for the links between finance sector activities and threats to human rights to be recognized and legislated for appropriately. Moreover, the growing chorus of concern among social justice organizations has been echoed by the United Nations, with several UN Special Rapporteurs issuing a joint call to EU governments earlier this year to promote the adoption of a global financial transactions tax, aimed in part at promoting financial sector accountability.

The Righting Finance website has been developed by a civil society initiative entitled 'A bottom up approach to righting financial regulation', which is being coordinated by the Center for Concern. CESR serves on the steering committee of the new collaboration, along with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), the CIVICUS Alliance, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, ESCR-Net, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), IBASE, Social Watch and the Norwegian Center for Human Rights.

CESR and its partners have issued a series of short briefings, including on the need for a human rights approach to financial regulation, the human rights obligations of Central Banks, the Financial Transaction Tax as a human rights imperative, and the role of the G20. Financial regulation is also addressed in the recent CESR briefing, Fiscal Fallacies: 8 myths about the 'age of austerity' and human rights responses.