Economic Inequality

Can human rights make a difference?

Shutterstock/Donatas Dabravolskas (All rights reserved)

Extreme inequality is one of the defining issues of our time, with the gap between rich and poor widening across the globe. But while economic inequality has become a prominent issue on the international development agenda, as well as in national political debates in many countries, the human rights community has barely begun to address its implications for the full range of human rights. This oGR debate will explore the consequences for human rights of rising wealth and income inequality. How can the human rights framework help to understand its causes, as well as to push for more appropriate policy responses? What obstacles and blind-spots must the human rights community confront if human rights are to be a more effective agenda for equality in the socio-economic sphere?

Collaborating editors: Ignacio Saiz and Gaby Oré Aguilar
at the Centre for Economic and Social Rights


Seeds of inequality: women in sustainable agriculture

September 19, 2019
By: Karine Belarmino & Marie Schaedel

Control over land management may be more important than mere legal entitlement when it comes to women’s ...

Fiscal policy is key to achieving SDGs and avoiding “climate apartheid”

July 25, 2019
By: Philip Alston & Nikki Reisch

Delivering on the SDG’s promise to reduce economic inequality requires progressive taxation and effective ...

Human rights—tackling inequality by catalyzing the agents of social change

February 12, 2019
By: Jackie Dugard
Español | Français

Some argue human rights are insufficient to tackle inequality but overlook the emancipatory power of ...

Irish Traveller communities in Cork monitor and campaign for social rights

October 25, 2018
By: Koldo Casla

Traveller communities in Ireland are using international human rights law to monitor their housing conditions ...

Could “hope and aspirations” end the vicious cycle of poverty?

September 11, 2018
By: Keetie Roelen

Non-invasive and non-punitive interventions that draw on positive emotions have promising potential ...

Rising inequality is a wake-up call for human rights

May 29, 2018
By: Ignacio Saiz

The challenges that economic inequality poses for human rights are not the death knell for the movement ...

New strategies for tackling inequality with human rights

May 25, 2017
By: Martín Abregú

To confront inequality, the Ford Foundation is harnessing the human rights framework to address political ...

Tackling inequality: the potential of the Sustainable Development Goals

March 2, 2017
By: Kate Donald 

Sustainable Development Goal 10 on reducing inequality will require profound changes to “business-as-usual” ...

Tackling economic inequality with the right to non-discrimination

October 25, 2016
By: David Barrett

Inequality may be compatible with human rights, but not if it violates the right to non-discrimination.

Inequality, business and human rights: the new frontier?

October 11, 2016
By: Uwe Gneiting 

Despite the growing urgency to address inequality, the business and human rights field has remained ...

Phantom rights: the systemic marginalization of economic and social rights

August 4, 2016
By: Philip Alston

Neither the UN nor civil society is doing much about the deep resistance of many states to proper recognition ...

The vicious spiral of economic inequality and financial crises

May 12, 2016
By: Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky 

There is compelling evidence that economic inequality is both a result of, and contributor to, economic ...

Who will take the lead on economic inequality, and who should?

May 5, 2016
By: Chris Albin-Lackey

Human rights lack the best language and tools to describe and solve inequality’s most pernicious impacts

How to get inequality on the global policy agenda

April 26, 2016
By: Leonard Seabrooke & Duncan Wigan

The Panama Papers give NGOs a prime opportunity to talk about inequality. But how they do it matters.

Everyone does better when everyone does better

April 14, 2016
By: Savio Carvalho

For long-term social and economic stability, investments into increased economic equality are essential ...

Tackling inequality as injustice: four challenges for the human rights agenda

March 30, 2016
By: Gaby Oré Aguilar & Ignacio Saiz
Español | Français

Human rights can help confront economic inequality, but four conceptual, normative, strategic and methodological ...

Inequality is more than just a problem for developing countries

March 14, 2016
By: Todd Landman 

Advanced economies are also experiencing persistent and increasing inequality, and its effect on human ...

Inequality, human dignity and the power of unions

February 18, 2016
By: Sergio Chaparro Hernández

Why does progress on equity and human rights depend more on workers’ organization than we usually think?

What does Zika have to do with inequality? Everything.

February 9, 2016
By: Rachel Schmidt

Women’s rights advocates are using fears around Zika to fight for better access to birth control, but ...

It’s about values: human rights norms and tolerance for inequality

December 22, 2015
By: Sakiko Fukuda-Parr 

Using principles of non-discrimination and status equality, human rights have the potential to fill ...

How inequality threatens all human rights

October 29, 2015
By: Radhika Balakrishnan & James Heintz
Español | Français | العربية

Inequality is not only a threat to economic and social rights—it threatens the realization of all forms ...

Human rights and the age of inequality

October 27, 2015
By: Samuel Moyn
Español | Français | العربية

The human rights regime and movement are simply not equipped to challenge global inequalities.

Extreme inequality as the antithesis of human rights

August 27, 2015
By: Philip Alston

Extreme inequality directly undermines human rights, and is a cause for shame for the human rights community.

Closing the doors of justice? The South African Constitutional Court’s approach to direct access

May 25, 2015
By: Jackie Dugard

Legal interventions can help improve poverty and inequality, but in South Africa the poor don’t have ...

Legal mobilization: a critical first step to addressing economic and social rights

December 14, 2014
By: Shareen Hertel

Legal mobilization for economic and social rights is a critical first step, not the end goal, as India's ...

Can legal interventions really tackle the root causes of poverty?

November 14, 2014
By: Sara Bailey

Legal interventions can ameliorate some of poverty’s most harmful consequences, but they cannot address ...

Poverty and human rights: can courts, lawyers and activists make a difference?

September 30, 2014
By: Chris Jochnick

We have long known that poverty is rooted in power, yet traditional power-blind approaches to poverty ...

Misunderstanding our mission

July 23, 2013
By: Aryeh Neier

The founder of Human Rights Watch tells Stephen Hopgood and James Ron that this organisation is globalizing ...