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FACT is not a four-letter word

An end-of-year message from CESR's Executive Director Ignacio Saiz

Of all the trends which have marked this turbulent year, none is more unsettling than the retreat from fact as the basis for political argumentation and decision-making. From the falsehoods of Brexit to the fallacies behind Brazil's twenty-year fiscal freeze, evidence and expertise have been willfully spurned in key political debates this year, giving prejudice and populism free rein in matters of public policy.

Yet well-founded analysis is crucial to addressing such critical contemporary challenges as the pronounced rise in income inequality, the perceived migration “crisis”, the plight of workers left behind in a globalized economy or the provision of public services in cash-strapped states. When policy proposals are based on fears rather than facts, on ill-formed assumptions rather than well-honed arguments, they can all too easily lead to scapegoating, discrimination and marginalization of the “other”.

At CESR, we believe that defending human rights requires dealing with – and relying on – facts. This year we’ve marshalled evidence to challenge the spurious justifications governments across the globe have used to impose drastic austerity measures on the poor, to encourage tax abuse by corporations and the super-rich, to deny migrants basic access to health-care, and to renege on their international development commitments to reduce inequality.  

We’ve harnessed the power of numbers to cut through the lies and spin so prevalent in current debates, using statistical data and analytical factsheets to highlight the human rights implications of complex socio-economic, fiscal and development policies in compelling and accessible ways. And we’ve put this analysis before the institutions tasked to uphold our rights: from national human rights commissions to regional and UN treaty bodies, from global development forums to digital democracy spaces. Policy makers often try to avoid facts so as to evade accountability. In the hands of the activists we partner with and the communities they serve, rigorous hard-edged evidence has become a vital tool to hold governments answerable for unjust policies and practices in many specific contexts.

Given the “truthiness” trend we have seen this year, I hope you will join us in defending facts as a matter of human rights. Now more than ever, we need to dispel the falsehoods surrounding economic and social policy through the sharp lens of human rights. Please support us however you can. A donation, however small, will make a huge difference to our small team’s ability to provide the cutting-edge analysis that fosters global activism and generates meaningful accountability. And please share our work with your friends, contacts and communities. “Post-truth” may be the word of the year gone by, but posting facts may be the best response to the challenges we will collectively face in the year ahead.