Human Rights

Research Paper 123, November 2020

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas: One Step Forward in the Promotion of Human Rights for the Most Vulnerable  

By Maria Natalia Pacheco Rodriguez and Luis Fernando Rosales Lozada

Peasants and other people living rural areas are among the most vulnerable in the world. In 2015, an estimated of 736 million people in the world lived in extreme poverty, of which 589 million – 80 per cent – live in rural areas. Despite increasing urbanization in the last decades, almost 45 per cent of the global population still lives in areas defined as rural, and most of them are among the poorest of the world. The situation is most likely worsening because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2018, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas by the supporting vote of a vast majority of countries. There are many reasons to consider the Declaration as one of the most relevant actions in the realm of human rights law taken by the United Nations in recent years. Some of them are the recognition of peasants as specific subjects of rights; the reaffirmation of existing standards tailored for the reality of people living in rural areas; and the development of international law to address existing gaps in the protection of their rights in complex subject matters such as the right to land, the right to seeds, and the right to means of production. In underscoring the importance of the Declaration for the world, this research paper narrates the process of construction of the Declaration, its contributions to international human rights law and stresses on its potential for poverty reduction and food security, in line with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the strategies of the UN Decade on Family Farming.

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Statements, November 2020

South Centre Statement to the 2nd Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the commitment of the international community to make the right to development (RtD) a reality for everyone, leaving no one behind, and building peaceful and inclusive societies on the basis of the respect of human rights.

The right to development becomes prominent during and in the aftermath of facing the COVID-19 pandemic. The creation of favorable conditions for international, economic, scientific and technological cooperation, including technology transfer and know-how, is part and parcel of the right to development through the promotion of the well-being of all peoples, the improvement of the economic conditions of the developing countries and bridging of the economic gap.

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Statement, November 2020

South Centre Statement for the Third Session of the WIPO Conversation on AI and IP

The South Centre is an intergovernmental organization of 54 developing countries working across various policy areas, including intellectual property. This statement focuses on increasing capacity on artificial intelligence (AI) and intellectual property (IP) matters in the context of the widening technological gap and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Statement, October 2020

PROPOSAL BY INDIA AND SOUTH AFRICA TO WAIVE CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE WTO TRIPS AGREEMENT TO SUPPORT THE GLOBAL COVID-19 PANDEMIC RESPONSE

The prolongation of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic threatens developing countries disproportionately, deepening the catastrophic social and economic crisis and reversing the gains made to date to eradicate extreme poverty and meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this situation, ensuring timely access to essential commodities by overcoming acute shortages faced by countries due to high demand and disruptions in the supply chain is critical. There is also an urgent need to speed up development of new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, at scale, and make these widely available.

As reaffirmed by many delegations in the special session of the WHO Executive Board, transfer of technology and know-how is fundamental for scaling up manufacturing of medical products and equipment. In this regard, India and South Africa have made a joint proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to support the global Covid-19 pandemic response.

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South Centre Semester Report, January-June 2020

South Centre Semester Report, 1 January to 30 June 2020

This Semester Report summarizes the activities undertaken by the South Centre during the period 1st January to 30 June 2020. It is intended to provide information, organized by themes, about recent developments in the areas covered by the Centre’s Work Program, meetings organized or co-organized by the Centre to examine particular issues or provide analytical support for negotiations taking place in various international fora, and conferences and other meetings where the Centre has participated. It also informs about publications made.

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SouthViews No. 204, 11 August 2020

The Covid-19 Pandemic and Liability under Investment Treaties

By Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah

COVID-19 can increase liability for countries under international investment treaties. Professor M. Sornarajah, Emeritus Professor at the National University of Singapore, discusses in this SouthViews the imminent challenges faced under such treaties by developing countries. The text is based on his presentation at the South Centre webinar on “Responsible Investment for Development and Human Rights: Assessing Different Mechanisms to Face Possible Investor-State Disputes from COVID-19 Related Measures” held on 30th July 2020. The recording of the webinar is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yXPswKuywvA

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SC Webinar Series on Development and COVID-19

Responsible Investment for Development and Human Rights: Assessing Different Mechanisms to face Possible Investor-State Disputes from COVID-19 Related Measures

Developing and least developed countries (LDCs), particularly in Africa, are especially vulnerable to the unfolding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UNCTAD, foreign direct investment flows will drop drastically up to 40% during 2020-2021. A number of developed and developing countries, including LDCs, have introduced a number of measures aimed at limiting the effects of the pandemic, protecting domestic industries for strategic sectors (e.g. health industry, energy sector, telecommunication, food production, etc.), and safeguarding the real economy, particularly by offering bonds or bailouts for companies and the public in general.

Law firms and risk managers are already advising foreign investors about the possibility of initiating investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) claims against host States on the grounds of the alleged breach of their investors’ rights, based on provisions such as : (i) full protection and security; (ii) fair and equitable treatment; (iii) national treatment and most-favoured nation treatment; and (iv) unlawful expropriation.

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SC Publication, July 2020

Designing an International Legally Binding Instrument on Business and Human Rights

By Daniel Uribe and Danish

The present document is substantially based on the background materials prepared by the South Centre (authored by Kinda Mohamadieh, Daniel Uribe, and Danish) for various sessions of the Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights (OEIGWG), established by Resolution 26/9 of the Human Rights Council, held since 2015.

The objective of this document is to provide support material for State delegations and other stakeholders for the negotiation of a binding international instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The document considers a number of issues and technical details that have been addressed during the different sessions of the OEIGWG.

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Policy Brief 81, July 2020

The UN General Assembly Resolutions on COVID-19: Solemn Assurances for Access to Health Technologies without an Action Plan

By Nirmalya Syam

The United Nations (UN) has the mandate under the Charter of the United Nations to promote solutions to international health problems, such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. While the UN secretariat, led by the Secretary-General, has undertaken a number of initiatives in response to COVID-19, member State initiatives in the UN has so far been limited to two resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly. Member States are currently negotiating an omnibus resolution of the General Assembly on COVID-19.  This policy brief analyzes the extent to which the General Assembly addresses the issue of timely, equitable and affordable access to health technologies, particularly for developing countries who have greater vulnerability to COVID-19. The adopted resolutions make very broad pledges for global solidarity but lack specific commitments to guide actions by member States. The omnibus resolution currently under negotiation should provide specific guidance to member States on actions to be taken based on the principles of solidarity and multilateral cooperation in diverse aspects impacted by COVID-19.

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SouthViews No. 199, 12 June 2020

COVID-19 Economy vs. Human Rights: A Misleading Dichotomy

By Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky

While COVID-19 is a threat to the rights to life and health, the human rights impact of the crisis goes well beyond medical and public health concerns. The health crisis itself and a number of state measures to contain it-—mainly isolation and quarantine-—are leading the world into an economic recession. States and others need to take preventive and mitigating measures urgently to contain the pandemic and these must entail global cooperation and coordination. Just as the health crisis response must be rooted in human rights law, so too must national and international responses to the drastic economic downturn.

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SouthViews No. 197, 22 May 2020

The post-Covid world needs a new social contract

By Alfred de Zayas

The post-Covid world requires a new social contract. The United Nations Secretary-General should convene a World Conference on Post-Covid Recovery based on multilateralism and international solidarity. This entails a paradigm shift in the prevailing economic, trade and social models.  Governments bear responsibility for their unwise and inequitable budgetary allocations, which prioritized military expenditures over investment in health, education and people-centered infrastructures. A new functional paradigm on human rights should discard the skewed and artificial division of rights into those of the first, second and third generations and impose new categories of enabling rights, inherent rights, procedural rights and end rights so as to ensure human dignity and development for all.

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SouthViews No. 193, 30 April 2020

Reforming Responsibly: Why Governments Should Assess the Human Rights Impacts of Economic Reforms

By Daniel Bradlow

The purpose of economic reforms is to change the structure and overall direction of an economy. They therefore will affect the amount and allocation of resources available to a country. This means that the reforms will also affect the human rights situation in the country. This requires impact assessments of each reform option before it is implemented.

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