On November 28, 2017, the International Movement ATD Fourth World along with Bahá’í International Community and Regions Refocus hosted the 40th informal working breakfast on Agenda 2030: Achieving Sustainable Development while Protecting Human Rights – Challenges and Best Practices. Opening remarks were given by Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, and Mr. Ignacio Saiz, Executive Director at the Center for Economic and Social Rights, followed by an open discussion led by Daniel Perell from the Bahá’í International Community.
A diverse group of stakeholders came together to discuss key issues related to the role and importance of human rights in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At a time where human rights are seen negatively and where corporate interests are predominant in global policy-making, how can we ensure that development policies and programs are based on a human right approach that is respectful of the dignity of those left behind?
In their opening remarks, Professor Alston and Mr. Saiz described the current state of human rights in the world by delivering a fairly gloomy description. As a matter of fact, SDGs have not had a great deal of uptake in the context of international human rights even in the context of a new Development Agenda recognizing the indivisibility of human rights and where Governments can no longer pick and choose sets of rights. In discussing the implementation of the Agenda 2030, a crucial aspect of the conversation also resided in the need to improve monitoring and accountability also through a human rights perspective. Again, review mechanisms of the Agenda 2030 were qualified as weak, not effective nor meaningful.
The question was asked: how can we enhance the role of human rights in the wider UN system? Recommendations made included ways to engage human rights mechanisms at all levels to connect to the SDGs, build bridges between Second Committee and Third Committee work, and examine strategic plans and link these back to the UN and the SDGs. This is the third decade of working towards the eradication of poverty and it is critical for the UN system acknowledge this goal and transform the ways of working. Human rights advocates need to go to decision-making spaces where neoliberal economic policy is being created to effect change and transform the lives of individuals living in poverty.