Stories of Impact
We are increasingly recognised as a leader in economic, social and cultural rights advocacy and litigation.
Our Future is Public conference
The GI-ESCR is proud to report the success of the Our Future is Public (#OFIP22) Conference. The Conference gathered social movements, trade unions and civil society organisations from all over the world in Santiago, Chile for a 4-day Conference aiming at developing strategies and narratives to strengthen public services for the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights and tackle the effects of climate change. The conference was attended by more than 400 people and many others participated virtually.
The result of which is the adoption of the Santiago Declaration which calls for universal access to quality, gender-transformative and equitable public services as the foundation of a fair and just society.
Victory through the International Finance Corporation’s decision to stop investing in fee-charging private schools
Among the achievements of the Privatisation in Education and Human Rights Consortium (PEHCR), GI-ESCR and partners celebrated the decision by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation not to resume investments in K-12 fee-charging private schools. In 2020, the IFC temporarily froze all direct and indirect investments in for-profit, fee-charging schools, from kindergarten to high school (K-12). The freeze has now been extended indefinitely. This decision, announced in June, followed the release of an evaluation by the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) of IFC’s investments in this area, which confirmed concerns that GI-ESCR and partners have been raising for years. The IFC noted that most private K–12 schools are difficult to invest in directly and cited several challenges, including weak financial results and the "potential for investments in private K–12 schools to exacerbate inequalities and have unintended, undesirable spillovers into the public sector school system".
This decision vindicates the monitoring and advocacy of GI-ESCR and partners, who have argued for many years that commercial actors have a detrimental impact on education.
The announcement came less than three months after the IFC indicated in March that it had divested from Bridge International Academies (BIA). BIA, also known as NewGlobe Schools, is a chain of for-profit schools that operate in five African countries and India.
At GI-ESCR we will continue to press other development finance institutions to follow IFC’s lead. We also want the World Bank Group to increase its support for public education systems that are equitable and aligned with human rights standards.
Our normative proposal was included in the draft constitution prepared by Chile’s Constitutional Convention
In 2022, along with partners and as part of our programmatic work in Chile, we submitted to the Chilean Constitutional Convention a normative proposal for universal public services of good quality. The proposal was accepted by the Constitutional Convention and eventually included into the draft constitution.
The proposal was inspired by the Global Manifesto for Public Services and the Principles of Human Rights in fiscal policy. It reflected our advocacy work to recognise ESC rights in Chile’s new Constitution and also fulfilled our programmatic objective to strengthen the capacity of national human rights frameworks to tackle social and economic injustice effectively.
The proposal was submitted through the popular initiative instrument (iniciativa popular de norma), a direct democracy mechanism created during the 2022 Constitutional process. The procedure enabled citizens and organisations to submit to the official constitutional debate any proposal that gathered the support of at least 15.000 signatures. Our proposal was among the 77 proposals (out of 2,495) that the Constitutional Convention deliberated.
The victory was bittersweet, however. The draft proposed by the Constitutional Convention was subsequently rejected in a referendum in September 2022. Despite the setback, we learned critical lessons that will help us to engage in the new constitutional process that is due to begin in 2023.
Overall, GI-ESCR successfully developed and strengthened working partnerships with national and international trade unions, civil society and grassroots organisations. These alliances enabled us to gather the signatures required by the constitutional process and then influence the work of the Constitutional Convention. While it is difficult to predict whether a new constitutional process will include this provision, we believe our initiative successfully linked public services, fiscal policies and ESC rights to the public agenda for the first time. This change has already shaped public and political perceptions of these issues and will influence their inclusion in future phases of the constitutional process.
Victory for indigenous women in Mexico who are fighting for a just energy transition
After years of advocacy, the Zapoteca indigenous community of Unión Hidalgo in Mexico achieved a significant victory over a transnational company that had failed to deliver a just energy transition. On 3 June 2022, Mexican authorities cancelled a large wind energy project that Electricité de France (EDF), a transnational French energy company, was planning to build on their territory without their participation or free, prior and informed consent. For several years, the community had denounced human rights abuses committed by those developing the energy project. These disproportionately affected indigenous women and girls, and included loss of access to their land and to natural resources on which their and their families’ livelihoods depended.
GI-ESCR was privileged to collaborate with ProDESC, a local organisation in Mexico that has led litigation and advocacy in defence of the indigenous community of Unión Hidalgo since 2019. To combat the escalating climate emergency, it is necessary to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy but also to deliver a gender-just transition that protects the planet and its people.
The case of Unión Hidalgo is paradigmatic because it reflects the structural problems that commonly occur during energy transition processes, and specifically highlights the fact that capital-intensive renewable energy projects may have adverse human rights impacts on communities, notably women.
We influenced the education sector in Côte d'Ivoire
In 2022, we published a joint report with our partner, Movement Ivoirien des Droits Humains, on the impact of privatised and commercialised education on the right to education in Côte d'Ivoire in light of the Abidjan Principles.
In the report, we recommended that the placement of students by the government in private schools (due to a lack of public schools) should depend on a set of criteria ensuring quality education in those schools. Such a rule would strengthen the regulation of private schools. We also recommended that the Education Act should be reviewed to align it with the Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education.
Following an education sector review, the Ministry of Education decided to implement both of these recommendations in 2023.
Manifesto for Public ServicesWorking alongside other members of the Public Services Facilitation Group, for which it acted as secretariat, GI-ESCR played a leading role in developing the ‘Global Manifesto for Public Services’. This landmark initiative calls for a new approach to public services that will address current crises and build more sustainable, socially just and resilient economies and societies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed starkly the consequences of decades of privatisation and commercialisation of services essential for human dignity. The manifesto offers detailed alternatives to a neoliberal model that has failed to protect human rights and provide a dignified life for all. It argues that public services are the foundation of fair and just societies and underpin a social pact that depends on core values of solidarity, equality and human dignity. It advances ten principles for universal and excellent public services for the 21st century and outlines how they can be funded.
The Manifesto was developed through a participatory, collective process that brought together actors from across civil society, academics and a range of social movements. It provides a unified vision, making joint work possible, and addresses questions, such as the role of the State and the scope of services, that had hindered collective action. Within a few weeks of its launch on 25 October 2021, the Manifesto had been endorsed by 199 organisations and it is now available in 7 languages.
It will remain open for signature throughout 2022 and is an unprecedented platform for collective action that enables a broader range of actors than ever before to scale up their action in the coming months and years. Public Services International and GI-ESCR have already used the Manifesto to develop a proposal on public services
for Chile’s constitutional process.
In November 2021, we convened Enough is enough II: The Future is Public. This event brought together nine human rights representatives to reflect on the crucial role of public services during and after the COVID-19 pandemic and transition to a more sustainable and resilient economy and society. The panel discussion was
watched by over 500 participants from across the world.
Indigenous Women of Unión Hidalgo
With ProDESC, a Mexican civil society organisation, GI-ESCR helped identify the gender impact of a large wind park built in the Zapotecan indigenous community of Unión Hidalgo, in the windswept Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico. We organised a dialogue with women human rights defenders in the community at which they analysed the disproportionate impacts on women’s rights of the project. Their experience reflects a trend. Global energy transition programmes tend to privilege land and capital-intensive renewable energy projects that do not share their benefits with local communities and shift most of the social and environmental costs onto the local community.
We presented the women’s analysis in a communication to United Nations Special Rapporteurs. Four Rapporteurs subsequently addressed allegation letters to Electricité de France, the French company developing the Gunaa Sicarú project, and to the States of Mexico and France. The letters requested the States and the company to uphold their human rights obligations to the Zapotecan community. They were signed by the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, the Special Rapporteur on the right to development, the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples’ rights, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
The fact that four Special Rapporteurs addressed this case had impacts at several levels:
- It indicated the relevance and urgency of the human rights abuses committed during development of the Gunaa Sicarú wind park.
- It made recipients of the letters accountable and supported litigation, currently proceeding in France, to demand that the company respect the rights of the community of Unión Hidalgo.
- It assisted UN Special Rapporteurs to build their capacity to address issues of climate change and just transition and develop standards that should inform the energy transition activities of public and private actors.
- It raised public awareness that human rights provide valuable guidance during the global transition to a low carbon world.
- Finally and critically, it supported and recognised the women and the community of Unión Hidalgo.
The Abidjan Principles: a milestone on the right to education 57 eminent experts on the right to education adopt the Abidjan Principles, which quickly become a landmark text on the right to education in the context of the growing commodification of education worldwide.
It is subsequently endorsed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as a tool for States to ensure the realisation of the right to education.
The Paris Peace Forum rewards the Abidjan Principles as one of the ten ‘most promising governance projects’ among 716 projects from 115 countries.
June 2019 and April 2020
Influencing development aid
The Abidjan Principles influence the policies of major education donors such as the Global Partnership for Education, the largest global fund dedicated to education and the International Finance Corporation, the corporate arm of the World Bank. Both of which decide to move away from for-profit education investments.
Landmark decision by International Finance Corporation regarding Bridge International Academies
Following a complaint of 10 Kenyan citizens legally supported by GI-ESCR, the Compliance Adviser Ombudsman (CAO) issues a preliminary finding raising “substantial concerns” about the International Finance Corporation (IFC) investment into Bridge International Academies (BIA).