Friday, November 30, 2018



1. Through its various human rights protection and promotion mechanisms, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter the “IACHR” or the “Commission”) has consistently received information regarding numerous human rights violations faced by and specific to indigenous women in the Americas. During hearings and working visits in the past years, indigenous women from all over the Americas and organizations working to advance their human rights have reported to the Commission on various forms of discrimination that affect indigenous women with a severe impact on their personal integrity, cultural, and spiritual life. The Commission has also received numerous reports of acts of physical, psychological and sexual violence perpetrated against indigenous women, and information on formidable geographic, economic, and institutional barriers they face to adequately access basic services.1 The Commission has 
also dealt with a range of human rights violations against indigenous women through its individual petition and cases system.

2. The information received by the IACHR has also shed light on gaps at the international level in the protection of the rights of indigenous women, and the need for more responsive approaches and methods to address their individual cases and concerns.3 In this regard, the Commission has received concrete requests from indigenous women in the region to thoroughly examine the specific issues affecting them and issue recommendations to the States on this subject. 

3. Based on these considerations, the IACHR has decided to prepare a comprehensive report on indigenous women’s human rights in the Americas. The IACHR hopes this report will constitute an important step forward in dealing with the specific priority situation of indigenous women with the goal of promoting that States and the international community undertake further research and analysis of these topics, from a gender-based and ethno-racial perspective, and with a holistic approach, taking into consideration all historical, social, economic, and cultural variables which have a bearing on the human rights violations inflicted on indigenous women in the hemisphere. 

4. As part of this initiative, a questionnaire was circulated among OAS Member States and non-state actors in December 2014, which permitted the collection of valuable information on the main challenges and advances in the respect and guarantee of the rights of indigenous women in various countries. The IACHR is grateful to the States and civil society organizations which answered the questionnaire and submitted their responses to the Commission. Several meetings with indigenous women and experts on the subject matter were held in Guatemala, Peru, and Washington, DC between 2013 and 2014. This initiative was also complemented with IACHR visits to several countries of the hemisphere, during which specific information was gathered on the situation of indigenous women, including to Colombia (2012), Suriname (2013), Guatemala (2013), Canada (2013), and Honduras (2014). Additionally, the IACHR has conducted a number of hearings between 2013-2016 focused on the situation of indigenous women at the regional level and in specific countries. The Commission thanks Denmark for the support it offered in making this initiative possible, in particular with regard to its Mesoamerican component, and the concrete situation of indigenous women in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. 

5. During the implementation of this project, the Commission has been able to document the ways in which indigenous women have historically faced prejudice based on the multiple facets of their identities. A confluence of factors, such as racism, sexism, poverty and the structural and institutional inequalities stemming from them, as well as human rights violations related to their territories and the natural resources contained therein, heighten indigenous women’s vulnerability to violations of their rights.4 All of these sources of discrimination against indigenous women combine, creating superposed layers of mutually reinforcing human rights violations. 

6. As will be discussed throughout this report, the lives of the vast majority of indigenous women in the hemisphere are still marked by major impediments to the fulfilment of their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. Among others, they are faced with severely restricted opportunities to enter the labor market; unique geographic and economic challenges in order to gain access to health and education services; limited access to social programs and services; high rates of illiteracy; scarce participation in the political process; and social marginalization. 

7. This political, social, and economic marginalization of indigenous women contributes to a continuous situation of structural discrimination and makes them particularly susceptible to a variety of acts of violence prohibited by the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Eradication and Punishment of Violence against Women (hereinafter, “Convention of Belém do Pará”) and other Inter-American instruments. This marginalization and vulnerability of indigenous women is enhanced when States fail to produce comprehensive and disaggregated statistics, and do not properly document the differentiated forms of violence that affect indigenous women. Indigenous women are more likely to suffer acts of physical, psychological, and sexual violence within specific contexts. Violence against indigenous women is a fixture during armed conflicts, during the execution of major development, investment, and extractive projects, the militarization of indigenous lands, and in the context of their work as human rights defenders. Most of these acts are met by no response or a deficient response by State authorities, enabling the path for impunity. Indigenous women also face specific obstacles in attempting to obtain safe, adequate, effective, and culturally appropriate access to justice when their human rights are violated.6 Most justice systems throughout the hemisphere still lack a gender and ethno-racial perspective in their processing of individual cases, reflected in the scarcity of interpreters, translators, and legal personnel trained and sensitive to the culture and worldview of indigenous peoples. 

8. This report examines these challenges and seeks to promote more research and analysis concerning the specific human rights violations faced by indigenous women and the human rights standards and principles that should guide the response of States to their concerns. The report incorporates the perspective of indigenous women in the analysis of the human rights violations they experience, the human rights standards applicable to them, and the recommendations the Commission formulates for the Member States of the Organization of American States (hereinafter “the OAS”) to assist them in addressing the serious challenges they face. 

9. It is important to clarify in this report that indigenous women do not constitute a homogeneous group. Indigenous women are present throughout the hemisphere: in North, Central, South America, and in the Caribbean. They live in different countries with varying colonial histories and contemporaneous realities, have faced various degrees of dispossession of their lands and resources, and reside in urban areas or on their ancestral lands and territories. They also have diverse cultures and traditions, speak different native and “colonial” languages, and have differing needs and concerns.7 The Commission understands the term “indigenous women” to include women of all ages, from young girls to older women. In previous reports, the Commission has noted that, given the immense diversity of indigenous peoples in the world and the risk that a strict definition of “indigenous peoples” turns out to be restrictive, the term "indigenous peoples" does not have a precise definition in international law.8 It certainly follows that neither does the term “indigenous women.” Women’s selfidentification as a member of an indigenous community is therefore the principal criteria for belonging within this category.9 

10. Despite these differences, indigenous women in the Americas also have a common denominator: having historically faced and continuing to suffer multiple and overlapping forms of discrimination, based on factors such as their gender, ethnicity, age, disability, and/or situation of poverty, both from outside and within their own communities, or resulting from the historical and structural remnants of colonialism. All of these different layers of discrimination have increased their exposure to enduring human rights violations in every aspect of their daily lives, from their civil and political rights, to their economic, social and cultural rights, to their right to live free from violence. This report seeks to provide a detailed picture of the general human rights situation of indigenous women in the hemisphere, to identify current challenges, as well as to provide States with guidelines for the design and implementation of measures to ensure indigenous women’s human rights. 

11. Although this report will discuss the various forms of violence and discrimination which indigenous women face, the Commission’s focus is on their status as holders of rights and empowered actors as opposed to victims. It is abundantly clear that indigenous women make unique contributions and play fundamental roles within their families, their communities, their countries, as well as at the international level. Indigenous women are the guarantors of their culture. They have actively and successfully participated in the processes that lead to the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the adoption of the American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, among other     

12. The instant report consists of six chapters. The first chapter provides a brief account of the activities conducted by the IACHR pertaining to indigenous women’s rights. In the second chapter, the Commission establishes guiding legal principles and international standards that States must consider when developing laws, programs, and policies aimed at protecting the human rights of indigenous women, as well as priority themes and issues which need to be addressed by the States. In the third chapter, the IACHR examines the different dimensions of violence against indigenous women, emphasizing the particular ways in which they are affected, both individually and as a community, and the dimensions of the holistic approach that must guide States’ efforts to provide a response to this serious human rights situation. The fourth chapter addresses access to justice for indigenous women, highlighting the major obstacles they face. In the fifth chapter, the Commission examines generally some of the main challenges indigenous women still face in the protection of their basic economic, social, and cultural rights, also describing obstacles standing in the way of the full exercise of these rights. Lastly, in the final chapter, the Commission draws conclusions and makes recommendations based on the analysis presented in the report. 

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Gerda Lerner's 1986 history classic, The Creation of Patriarchy, traces the development of the patriarchy to the second millennium B.C.E. in the middle east, putting gender relations at the center of the story of civilization's history.  She argues that before this development, male dominance was not a feature of human society in general.  Women were key to the maintenance of human society and community, but with a few exceptions, social and legal power was wielded by men. Women could gain some status and privilege in patriarchy by limiting her child-bearing capacity to just one man, so that he could depend on her children being his children.

By rooting patriarchy -- a social organization where men rule over women -- in historical developments, rather than in nature, human nature or biology, she also opens the door for change.

 If patriarchy was created by culture, it can be overturned by a new culture. 

Part of her theory, carried through into another volume, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness, is that women were not conscious that they were subordinate (and it might be otherwise) until this consciousness began slowly to emerge, starting with medieval Europe.

In an interview with Jeffrey Mishlove on "Thinking Aloud," Lerner described her work on the subject of patriarchy:

"Other groups that were subordinated in history -- peasants, slaves, colonials, any kind of group, ethnic minorities -- all of those groups knew very quickly that they were subordinated, and they developed theories about their liberation, about their rights as human beings, about what kind of struggle to conduct in order to emancipate themselves. But women did not, and so that was the question that I really wanted to explore. And in order to understand it I had to understand really whether patriarchy was, as most of us have been taught, a natural, almost God-given condition, or whether it was a human invention coming out of a specific historic period. Well, in Creation of Patriarchy I think I show that it was indeed a human invention; it was created by human beings, it was created by men and women, at a certain given point in the historical development of the human race. It was probably appropriate as a solution for the problems of that time, which was the Bronze Age, but it's no longer appropriate, all right? And the reason we find it so hard, and we have found it so hard, to understand it and to combat it, is that it was institutionalized before Western civilization really, as we know it, was, so to speak, invented, and the process of creating patriarchy was really well completed by the time that the idea systems of Western civilization were formed."
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Saturday, November 24, 2018

UN General Assembly: 1st Resolution on Sexual Harassment

UNITED NATIONS, (Pakistan Point News - 20th Nov, 2018 ) In a historic move, a committee of the UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution on sexual harassment that would urge governments to condemn violence against women and girls, The resolution passed on Monday by the 193-member Assembly's Third Committee, which deals with social, cultural and humanitarian questions, calls on states not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with regard to the elimination of violence against women and girls.

The non-binding resolution urges states to take effective action to prevent and eliminate sexual harassment against women and girls, to address structural and underlying causes and risk factors, and to protect victims of all forms of violence, including sexual harassment.

It calls on states to address discrimination that places women and girls at greater risk of exploitation, violence and abuse, and to take appropriate action to empower and protect them.

The resolution calls on states to take necessary measures to ensure that employers in all sectors are held accountable when they fail to abide by laws and regulations addressing sexual harassment.

The text calls on states to encourage digital technology companies, including internet service providers and digital platforms, to strengthen or adopt positive measures with a view to eliminating violence and sexual harassment in digital contexts.

It also urges states to ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of all women and their sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights.

As the committee debated, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the launch of a UN awareness-raising campaign that violence against women and girls was a "global pandemic." "Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free of fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world," Guterres said.
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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Dominican Republic - Las Mariposas - Historical Feminist Fight Against Dictatorship & Violence

200 hundred pesos bill with the Mirabal sisters on it. From the left: Patria (born in 1924), Minerva (born in 1926) and María Teresa (born in 1935)
Dominican Republic - Las Mariposas - Historical Feminist Fight Against Dictatorship & Violence

In 1997 the United Nations designated 25 November, the day of the death of the Maribal sisters, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It starts a sixteen-day period of Activism against Gender Violence that ends on 10 December with the International Human Rights Day.

Their names were Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa. They were sisters, born in the family of a trader, Enrique Mirabal and were destined to live a comfortable life. Instead they became political activists and icons of the fight against one of the most bloody dictatorships in Latin America.

The Mirabal’s political engagement started when Minerva, a young law student, joint the democratic opposition movement, under the influence of her uncle. When she was 23, she personnally knew Trujillo. After refusing his romantic advances (something quite unusual as women generally were too afraid to reject him), she lost the right to practice the law.

Minerva Mirabal

Minerva Mirabal was one of the first women in the Dominican Republic to successfully finish doctoral studies, but her rejection of Trujillo’s romantic advances finished with her carreer of lawyer.

Patria and Maria Teresa followed Minerva’s example and the three sisters formed a group called the Fourteenth of June. The name made reference to the massacre organised by Trujillo’s men during a religious act on that precise day. Patria who witnessed the murder decided then to become an active member of the anti-Trujillo underground.

Rafael Trujillo governed in the Dominican Republic until 1961. He is considered as one of the most violent dictators in the history of Latin America. He is responsible for more than 50 000 deaths.

The sisters, using the cover name of “Mariposas” (Butterflies) distributed pamphlets informing about Trujillo’s crimes. While their political involvement became largely known, the repression of the regime became more and more brutal. Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa as well as their husbands were emprisoned and tortured. However, given their recognition, their case became largely commented. In 1960, the Organisation of American States sent its observers to the Dominican Republic. Under the international pressure, Rafael Trujillo released the three sisters.

Mirabal sisters inspired many young middle-class Dominicans to fight against Trujillo.

On 25 November 1960, Patria, Minerva and María Teresa were visiting their husbands in prison. On their way home, they were stopped by Trujillo men. They were beated and then strungled to death. Their bodies were placed in the car and pushed by the killers from a hill to make it look like an accident.

Press article about the death of the Mirabal sisters

Press article about the death of the Mirabal sisters

Following the official version, the Mirabal died in a car accident. The press title says: “Three mother and a driver die in a critical accident. The driver did not know the road.”

Trujillo thought that killing the Mirabal would free him of a great problem. However, it had a reverse effect and the murder turned the society against the dictator. It is believed that the death of the Mariposas was the reason of the killing of Trujillo six months after, in 1961.

Rafael Trujillo was killed on 30 May.

Since their death, the Mirabal sisters became for the Dominican society the symbol of the popular and feminist resistance. They inspired many songs, poems and movies. However, the details of the crime were largely unknown until 1996, when Joaquín Balaguer, Dominican president for more than two decades and a former protégé of Trujillo, was forced to leave the office. Since 1997 the Dominican Republic recognised Mariposas as national heroes.

Moreover, since the death of Patria, Minerva and María Teresa, their fourth sister Dédé, who was never politically involved, dedicated her life to keep the memory of her sisters alive. She created the Mirabal Sisters Museum in their homtown, Salcero. She also raised six children of her sisters. One of them was Minou Tavárez Mirabal, Minerva’s daugther and a deputee in the Dominican parliament since 2002.

In 1997 the United Nations designated 25 November, the day of the death of the Maribal sisters, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It starts a sixteen-day period of Activism against Gender Violence that ends on 10 December with the International Human Rights Day.
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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Duty to Protect Life 3/3

18.  The second sentence of paragraph 1 provides that the right to life “shall be protected by law”. This implies that States parties must establish a legal framework to ensure the full

enjoyment of the right to life by all individuals as may be necessary to give effect to the right to life. The duty to protect the right to life by law also includes an obligation for States parties to adopt any appropriate laws or other measures in order to protect life from all reasonably foreseeable threats, including from threats emanating from private persons and entities.

19.  The duty to protect by law the right to life entails that any substantive ground for deprivation of life must be prescribed by law, and defined with sufficient precision to avoid overly broad or arbitrary interpretation or application. [50] Since deprivation of life by the authorities of the State is a matter of the utmost gravity, the law must strictly control and limit the circumstances in which a person may be deprived of his life by such authorities [51] and the States parties must ensure full compliance with all of the relevant legal provisions. The duty to protect by law the right to life also requires States parties to organize all State organs and governance structures through which public authority is exercised in a manner consistent with the need to respect and ensure the right to life, [52] including establishing by law adequate institutions and procedures for preventing deprivation of life, investigating and prosecuting potential cases of unlawful deprivation of life, meting out punishment and providing full reparation.

20.  States parties must enact a protective legal framework which includes effective criminal prohibitions on all manifestations of violence or incitement to violence that are likely to result in a deprivation of life, such as intentional and negligent homicide, unnecessary or disproportionate use of firearms, [53] infanticide, [54] “honour” killings, [55] lynching, [56] violent hate crimes, [57] blood feuds, [58] ritual killings. [59], death threats, and terrorist attacks. The criminal sanctions attached to these crimes must be commensurate with their gravity, [60] while remaining compatible with all provisions of the Covenant.

21. The duty to take positive measures to protect the right to life derives from the general duty to ensure the rights recognized in the Covenant, which is articulated in article 2, paragraph 1, when read in conjunction with article 6, as well as from the specific duty to protect the right to life by law which is articulated in the second sentence of article 6. States parties are thus under a due diligence obligation to undertake reasonable positive measures, which do not impose on them disproportionate burdens, [61] in response to reasonably foreseeable threats to life originating from private persons and entities, whose conduct is not attributable to the State. [62] Hence, States parties are obliged to take adequate preventive measures in order to protect individuals against reasonably foreseen threats of being murdered or killed by criminals and organized crime or militia groups, including armed or terrorist groups. [63] States parties should also disband irregular armed groups, such as private armies and vigilante groups, that are responsible for deprivations of life [64] and reduce the proliferation of potentially lethal weapons to unauthorized individuals. [65] States parties must further take adequate measures of protection, including continuous supervision, [66] in order to prevent, investigate, punish and remedy arbitrary deprivation of life by private entities, such as private transportation companies, private hospitals [67] and private security firms. [68]

22. States parties must take appropriate measures to protect individuals against deprivation of life by other States, international organizations and foreign corporations operating within their territory [69] or in other areas subject to their jurisdiction. They must also take appropriate legislative and other measures to ensure that all activities taking place in whole or in part within their territory and in other places subject to their jurisdiction, but having a direct and reasonably foreseeable impact on the right to life of individuals outside their territory, including activities taken by corporate entities based in their territory or subject to their jurisdiction, [70] are consistent with article 6, taking due account of related international standards of corporate responsibility, [71] and of the right of victims to obtain an effective remedy.

23.  The duty to protect the right to life requires States parties to take special measures of protection towards persons in situation of vulnerability whose lives have been placed at particular risk because of specific threats [72] or pre-existing patterns of violence. These include human rights defenders, [73] officials fighting corruption and organized crime, humanitarian workers, journalists, [74] prominent public figures, witnesses to crime, [75] and victims of domestic and gender-based violence and human trafficking. They may also include children, [76] especially children in street situations, unaccompanied migrant children and children in situations of armed conflict, members of ethnic and religious minorities [77] and indigenous peoples, [78] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, [79] persons with albinism, [80] alleged witches, [81] displaced persons, asylum seekers, refugees [82] and stateless persons. States parties must respond urgently and effectively in order to protect individuals who find themselves under a specific threat, by adopting special measures such as the assignment of around-the-clock police protection, the issuance of protection and restraining orders against potential aggressors and, in exceptional cases, and only with the free and informed consent of the threatened individual, protective custody.

24.  Persons with disabilities, including psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, are also entitled to specific measures of protection so as to ensure their effective enjoyment of the right to life on equal basis with others. [83] Such measures of protection shall include the provision of reasonable accommodation when necessary to ensure the right to life, such as ensuring access of persons with disabilities to essential facilities and services, [84] and specific measures designed to prevent unwarranted use of force by law enforcement agents against persons with disabilities. [85]

25. States parties also have a heightened duty of care to take any necessary measures [86] to protect the lives of individuals deprived of their liberty by the State, since by arresting, detaining, imprisoning or otherwise depriving individuals of their liberty, States parties assume the responsibility to care for their life [87] and bodily integrity, and they may not rely on lack of financial resources or other logistical problems to reduce this responsibility. [88] The same heightened duty of care attaches to individuals held in private incarceration facilities operating pursuant to an authorization by the State. The duty to protect the life of all detained individuals includes providing them with the necessary medical care and appropriately regular monitoring of their health, [89] shielding them from inter-prisoner violence, [90] preventing suicides and providing reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. [91] A heightened duty to protect the right to life also applies to individuals quartered in liberty-restricting State-run facilities, such as mental health facilities, [92] military camps, [93] refugee camps and camps for internally displaced persons, [94] juvenile institutions and orphanages.

26.  The duty to protect life also implies that States parties should take appropriate measures to address the general conditions in society that may give rise to direct threats to life or prevent individuals from enjoying their right to life with dignity. These general conditions may include high levels of criminal and gun violence, [95] pervasive traffic and industrial accidents, [96] degradation of the environment, [97], deprivation of land, territories and resources of indigenous peoples, [98] the prevalence of life threatening diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria, [99] extensive substance abuse, widespread hunger and malnutrition and extreme poverty and homelessness.  [100] The measures called for addressing adequate conditions for protecting the right to life include, where necessary, measures designed to ensure access without delay by individuals to essential goods and services such as food, [101] water, shelter, health-care, [102] electricity and sanitation, and other measures designed to promote and facilitate adequate general conditions such as the bolstering of effective emergency health services, emergency response operations (including fire-fighters, ambulances and police forces) and social housing programs. States parties should also develop strategic plans for advancing the enjoyment of the right to life, which may comprise measures to fight the stigmatization associated with disabilities and diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases, which hamper access to medical care; [103] detailed plans to promote education to non-violence; and campaigns for raising awareness of gender-based violence  [104] and harmful practices, [105] and for improving access to medical examinations and treatments designed to reduce maternal and infant mortality. [106] Furthermore, States parties should also develop, when necessary, contingency plans and disaster management plans designed to increase preparedness and address natural and man-made disasters, which may adversely affect enjoyment of the right to life, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, radio-active accidents and massive cyberattacks resulting in disruption of essential services.

27.  An important element of the protection afforded to the right to life by the Covenant is the obligation on the States parties, where they know or should have known of potentially unlawful deprivations of life, to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute such incidents including allegations of excessive use of force with lethal consequences. [107] The duty to investigate also arises in circumstances in which a serious risk of deprivation of life was caused by the use of potentially lethal force, even if the risk did not materialize [108] This obligation is implicit in the obligation to protect and is reinforced by the general duty to ensure the rights recognized in the Covenant, which is articulated in article 2, paragraph 1, when read in conjunction with article 6, paragraph 1, and the duty to provide an effective remedy to victims of human rights violations [109] and their relatives, [110] which is articulated in article 2, paragraph 3 of the Covenant, when read in conjunction with article 6, paragraph 1. Investigations and prosecutions of potentially unlawful deprivations of life should be undertaken in accordance with relevant international standards, including the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016), and must be aimed at ensuring that those responsible are brought to justice, [111] at promoting accountability and preventing impunity, [112] at avoiding denial of justice [113] and at drawing necessary lessons for revising practices and policies with a view to avoiding repeated violations. [114] Investigations should explore, inter alia, the legal responsibility of superior officials with regard to violations of the right to life committed by their subordinates. [115] Given the importance of the right to life, States parties must generally refrain from addressing violations of article 6 merely through administrative or disciplinary measures, and a criminal investigation is normally required, which should lead, if enough incriminating evidence is gathered, to a criminal prosecution. [116] Immunities and amnesties provided to perpetrators of intentional killings and to their superiors, and comparable measures leading to de facto or de jure impunity, are, as a rule, incompatible with the duty to respect and ensure the right to life, and to provide victims with an effective remedy. [117]

28.   Investigations into allegations of violation of article 6 [118] must always be independent, [119] impartial, [120] prompt, [121] thorough, [122] effective, [123] credible [124] and transparent, [125] and in the event that a violation is found, full reparation must be provided, including, in view of the particular circumstances of the case, adequate measures of compensation, rehabilitation and satisfaction. [126] States parties are also under an obligation to take steps to prevent the occurrence of similar violations in the future. [127] Where relevant, the investigation should include an autopsy of the victim’s body, [128] whenever possible, in the presence of a representative of the victim’s relatives. [129] States parties need to take, among other things, appropriate measures to establish the truth relating to the events leading to the deprivation of life, including the reasons and legal basis for targeting certain individuals and the procedures employed by State forces before, during and after the time in which the deprivation occurred, [130] and identifying bodies of individuals who had lost their lives. [131] States parties should also disclose relevant details about the investigation to the victim’s next of kin, [132] allow them to present new evidence, afford them with legal standing in the investigation, [133] and make public information about the investigative steps taken and the investigation’s findings, conclusions and recommendations, [134] subject to absolutely necessary redactions justified by a compelling need to protect the public interest or the privacy and other legal rights of directly affected individuals. States parties must also take the necessary steps to protect witnesses, victims and their relatives and persons conducting the investigation from threats, attacks and any act of retaliation. An investigation into violations of the right to life should commence when appropriate ex officio. [135] States should support and cooperate in good faith with international mechanisms of investigation and prosecutions addressing possible violations of article 6. [136]

29.  Loss of life occurring in custody, in unnatural circumstances, creates a presumption of arbitrary deprivation of life by State authorities, which can only be rebutted on the basis of a proper investigation which establishes the State’s compliance with its obligations under article 6. [137] States parties also have a particular duty to investigate allegations of violations of article 6 whenever State authorities have used or appear to have used firearms or other potentially lethal force outside the immediate context of an armed conflict, for example, when live fire had been used against demonstrators, [138] or when civilians were found dead in circumstances fitting a pattern of alleged violations of the right to life by State authorities. [139]

30.  The duty to respect and ensure the right to life requires States parties to refrain from deporting, extraditing or otherwise transferring individuals to countries in which there are substantial grounds for believing that a real risk exists that their right to life under article 6 of the Covenant would be violated. [140] Such a risk must be personal in nature [141] and cannot derive merely from the general conditions in the receiving State, except in the most extreme cases. [142] For example, as explained in paragraph 34 below, it would be contrary to article 6 to extradite an individual from a country that abolished the death penalty to a country in which he or she may face the death penalty. [143] Similarly, it would be inconsistent with article 6 to deport an individual to a country in which a fatwa had been issued against him by local religious authorities, without verifying that the fatwa is not likely to be followed; [144] or to deport an individual to an extremely violent country in which he has never lived, has no social or family contacts and cannot speak the local language. [145] In cases involving allegations of risk to the life of the removed individual emanating from the authorities of the receiving State, the situation of the removed individual and the conditions in the receiving States need to be assessed inter alia, based on the intent of the authorities of the receiving State, the pattern of conduct they have shown in similar cases, [146] and the availability of credible and effective assurances about their intentions. When the alleged risk to life emanates from non-state actors or foreign States operating in the territory of the receiving State, credible and effective assurances for protection by the authorities of the receiving State may be sought and internal flight options could be explored. When relying upon assurances from the receiving State of treatment upon removal, the removing State should put in place adequate mechanisms for ensuring compliance with the issued assurances from the moment of removal onwards. [147]

31.  The obligation not to extradite, deport or otherwise transfer pursuant to article 6 of the Covenant may be broader than the scope of the principle of non refoulement under international refugee law, since it may also require the protection of aliens not entitled to refugee status. States parties must, however, allow all asylum seekers claiming a real risk of a violation of their right to life in the State of origin access to refugee or other individualized or group status determination procedures that could offer them protection against refoulement. [148]
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Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Prohibition against Arbitrary Deprivation of Life 2/3

10.  Although it inheres in every human being [23] the right to life is not absolute. The Covenant does not provide an enumeration of permissible grounds for deprivation of life, but by requiring that deprivations of life must not be arbitrary, Article 6, paragraph 1 implicitly recognizes that some deprivations of life may be non-arbitrary. For example, the use of lethal force in self-defence, under the conditions specified in paragraph 12 below would not constitute an arbitrary deprivation of life. Even those exceptional measures leading to deprivations of life which are not arbitrary per se must be applied in a manner which is not arbitrary in fact. Such exceptional measures should be established by law and accompanied by effective institutional safeguards designed to prevent arbitrary deprivations of life. Furthermore, States which have not abolished the death penalty and which are not parties to the Second Optional Protocol or other treaties providing for the abolition of the death penalty can only apply the death penalty in a non-arbitrary manner, with regard to the most serious crimes and subject to a number of strict conditions elaborated in part IV below.

11.  The second sentence of paragraph 1 of Article 6 requires that the right to life be protected by law, while the third sentence requires that no one should be arbitrarily deprived of life. The two requirements partly overlap in that a deprivation of life that lacks a legal basis or is otherwise inconsistent with life-protecting laws and procedures is, as a rule, arbitrary in nature. For example, a death sentence issued following legal proceedings conducted in violation of domestic laws of criminal procedure or evidence will generally be both unlawful and arbitrary.

12.  Deprivation of life is, as a rule, arbitrary if it is inconsistent with international law or domestic law. [24] A deprivation of life may, nevertheless, be authorized by domestic law and still be arbitrary. The notion of “arbitrariness” is not to be fully equated with “against the law”, but must be interpreted more broadly to include elements of inappropriateness, injustice, lack of predictability, and due process of law [25] as well as elements of reasonableness, necessity, and proportionality. In order not to be qualified as arbitrary under article 6, the application of potentially lethal force by a private person acting in selfdefense, or by another person coming to his or her defence, must be strictly necessary in view of the threat posed by the attacker; it must represent a method of last resort after other alternatives have been exhausted or deemed inadequate; [26] the amount of force applied cannot exceed the amount strictly needed for responding to the threat; the force applied must be carefully directed only against the attacker; [27] and the threat responded to must involve imminent death or serious injury. [28] The use of potentially lethal force for law enforcement purposes is an extreme measure [29], which should be resorted to only when strictly necessary in order to protect life or prevent serious injury from an imminent threat. [30] It cannot be used, for example, in order to prevent the escape from custody of a suspected criminal or a convict who does not pose a serious and imminent threat to the lives or bodily integrity of others. [31] The intentional taking of life by any means is permissible only if it is strictly necessary in order to protect life from an imminent threat. [32]

13.  States parties are expected to take all necessary measures intended to prevent arbitrary deprivations of life by their law enforcement officials, including soldiers charged with law enforcement missions. These measures include appropriate legislation controlling the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials, procedures designed to ensure that law enforcement actions are adequately planned in a manner consistent with the need to minimize the risk they pose to human life, [33] mandatory reporting, review, and investigation of lethal incidents [34] and other life-threatening incidents, and the supplying of forces responsible for crowd control with effective "less-lethal” means and adequate protective equipment in order to obviate their need to resort to lethal force. [35] In particular, all operations of law enforcement officials should comply with relevant
international standards, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (General Assembly resolution 34/169)(1979) and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (1990), [36] and law enforcement officials should undergo appropriate training designed to inculcate these standards [37] so as to ensure, in all circumstances, the fullest respect for the right to life. [38]

14. While preferable to more lethal weapons, States parties should ensure that “lesslethal” weapons are subject to strict independent testing and evaluate and monitor the impact on the right to life of weapons such as electro-muscular disruption devices (Tasers), [39] rubber or foam bullets, and other attenuating energy projectiles, [40] which are designed for use or are actually used by law enforcement officials, including soldiers charged with law enforcement missions. [41] The use of such weapons must be restricted to law enforcement officials who have undergone appropriate training, and must be strictly regulated in accordance with applicable international standards, including the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. [42] Furthermore, such “less-lethal” weapons can only be employed, subject to strict requirements of necessity and proportionality, in situations in which other less harmful measures have proven to be, or clearly are ineffective to address the threat. [43] States parties should not resort to “less-lethal” weapons in situations of crowd control which can be addressed through less harmful means, [44] especially situations involving the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly.

15.  When private individuals or entities are empowered or authorized by a State party to employ force with potentially lethal consequences, the State party is under an obligation to ensure that such employment of force actually complies with article 6 and remains responsible for any failure to comply. [45] Among other things, a State party must rigorously limit the powers afforded to private actors, and ensure that strict and effective measures of monitoring and control, and adequate training, are in place, in order to guarantee, inter alia, that the powers granted are not misused, and do not lead to arbitrary deprivation of life. For example, a State party must take adequate measures to ensure that persons who were involved or are currently involved in serious human rights violations or abuses are excluded from private security entities empowered or authorized to employ force. [46] It must also ensure that victims of arbitrary deprivation of life by private individuals or entities empowered or authorized by the State party are granted an effective remedy. [47]

16.  Article 6, paragraphs 2, 4 and 5 implicitly recognize that countries which have not abolished the death penalty and that have not ratified the Second Optional Protocol are not legally barred under the Covenant from applying the death penalty with regard to the most serious crimes subject to a number of strict conditions. Other procedures regulating activity that may result in deprivation of life, such as protocols for administering new drugs, must be established by law, accompanied by effective institutional safeguards designed to prevent arbitrary deprivation of life, and be compatible with other provisions of the Covenant.

17.  The deprivation of life of individuals through acts or omissions that violate provisions of the Covenant other than article 6 is, as a rule, arbitrary in nature. This includes, for example, the use of force resulting in the death of demonstrators exercising their right of freedom of assembly; [48] and the passing of a death sentence following a trial which failed to meet the due process requirements of article 14 of the Covenant. [49
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Friday, November 16, 2018

General comment No. 36 (2018) on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to life General remarks 1/3

1.  This general comment replaces earlier general comments No. 6 (16th session) and 14 (23rd session) adopted by the Committee in 1982 and 1984, respectively. 

2.  Article 6 recognizes and protects the right to life of all human beings. It is the supreme right from which no derogation is permitted even in situations of armed conflict and other public emergencies which threatens the life of the nation.[1] The right to life has crucial importance both for individuals and for society as a whole. It is most precious for its own sake as a right that inheres in every human being, but it also constitutes a fundamental right [2] whose effective protection is the prerequisite for the enjoyment of all other human rights and whose content can be informed by other human rights. 

3.  The right to life is a right which should not be interpreted narrowly. It concerns the entitlement of individuals to be free from acts and omissions that are intended or may be expected to cause their unnatural or premature death, as well as to enjoy a life with dignity. Article 6 guarantees this right for all human beings, without distinction of any kind, including for persons suspected or convicted of even the most serious crimes.

4.  Paragraph 1 of article 6 of the Covenant provides that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life and that the right shall be protected by law. It lays the foundation for the obligation of States parties to respect and to ensure the right to life, to give effect to it through legislative and other measures, and to provide effective remedies and reparation to all victims of violations of the right to life.

5.  Paragraphs 2, 4, 5 and 6 of article 6 of the Covenant set out specific safeguards for ensuring that in States parties which have not yet abolished the death penalty, it must not be applied except for the most serious crimes, and then only in the most exceptional cases and under the strictest limits. [3] The prohibition on arbitrary deprivation of life contained in article 6, paragraph 1 further limits the ability of States parties to apply the death penalty. The provisions of paragraph 3 regulate specifically the relationship between Article 6 of the Covenant and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (‘the Genocide Convention’). 

6.  Deprivation of life involves an intentional [4] or otherwise foreseeable and preventable life-terminating harm or injury, caused by an act or omission. It goes beyond injury to bodily or mental integrity or threat thereto. [5] 

7.  States parties must respect the right to life and have the duty to refrain from engaging in conduct resulting in arbitrary deprivation of life. States parties must also ensure the right to life and exercise due diligence to protect the lives of individuals against deprivations caused by persons or entities, whose conduct is not attributable to the State. [6] The obligation of States parties to respect and ensure the right to life extends to reasonably foreseeable threats and life-threatening situations that can result in loss of life. States parties may be in violation of article 6 even if such threats and situations do not result in loss of life. [7]

8.  Although States parties may adopt measures designed to regulate voluntary terminations of pregnancy, such measures must not result in violation of the right to life of a pregnant woman or girl, or her other rights under the Covenant. Thus, restrictions on the ability of women or girls to seek abortion must not, inter alia, jeopardize their lives, subject them to physical or mental pain or suffering which violates article 7, discriminate against them or arbitrarily interfere with their privacy. States parties must provide safe, legal and effective access to abortion where the life and health of the pregnant woman or girl is at risk, or where carrying a pregnancy to term would cause the pregnant woman or girl substantial pain or suffering, most notably where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or is not viable. [8] In addition, States parties may not regulate pregnancy or abortion in all other cases in a manner that runs contrary to their duty to ensure that women and girls do not have to undertake unsafe abortions, and they should revise their abortion laws accordingly. [9] For example, they should not take measures such as criminalizing pregnancies by unmarried women or apply criminal sanctions against women and girls undergoing abortion [10] or against medical service providers assisting them in doing so, since taking such measures compel women and girls to resort to unsafe abortion. States parties should not introduce new barriers and should remove existing barriers [11] that deny effective access by women and girls to safe and legal abortion [12], including barriers caused as a result of the exercise of conscientious objection by individual medical providers. [13] States parties should also effectively protect the lives of women and girls against the mental and physical health risks associated with unsafe abortions. In particular, they should ensure access for women and men, and, especially, girls and boys, [14] to quality and evidence-based information and education about sexual and reproductive health [15] and to a wide range of affordable contraceptive methods, [16] and prevent the stigmatization of women and girls seeking abortion.[17] States parties should ensure the availability of, and effective access to, quality prenatal and post-abortion health care for women and girls, [18] in all circumstances, and on a confidential basis. [19]

9.  While acknowledging the central importance to human dignity of personal autonomy, States should take adequate measures, without violating their other Covenant obligations, to prevent suicides, especially among individuals in particularly vulnerable situations, [20] including individuals deprived of their liberty. States parties that allow medical professionals to provide medical treatment or the medical means in order to facilitate the termination of life of afflicted adults, such as the terminally ill, who experience severe physical or mental pain and suffering and wish to die with dignity, [21] must ensure the existence of robust legal and institutional safeguards to verify that medical professionals are complying with the free, informed, explicit and, unambiguous decision of their patients, with a view to protecting patients from pressure and abuse. [22]
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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Inclusive social protection: policy implications

Availability, accessibility and adequacy are the prerequisites to leaving no one behind, as elaborated below.

Inclusion requires that social protection systems meet the needs of a diverse population at all stages of the life cycle. Contributory schemes rely on the payment of contributions, which may not be affordable to all. Inclusive social protection systems must therefore guarantee access to a minimum set of tax-financed alternatives. The right to social protection for all cannot be realized if it fails to reach those who need it most.

In recent years, many low-income countries have rapidly expanded access to social protection, mainly through tax-financed programmes. Some of these are grounded in solid legal frameworks. Others are implemented in the form of smallscale, often temporary, assistance that can help address short-term needs but leaves participants vulnerable to future shocks. Embedding social protection programmes in strong legal and institutional frameworks helps secure political and fiscal support.


All persons should be covered by social protection systems without discrimination.8 Universal programmes—available to all without conditions—are most likely to ensure inclusion and non-discrimination.

Even in a policy framework grounded in universalism, however, certain segments of the population face greater challenges than others in overcoming poverty and social exclusion. Special measures may be necessary, even temporarily, to help these groups. Promoting the inclusion of some groups, such as persons with disabilities, may require sustained special efforts. In other cases, the goal of special or targeted measures should be to bring everyone to the same starting line—leaving no one behind.

 Targeting is widely used to reach those individuals and groups most in need. Over the last several decades, universal programmes have at times been replaced by targeted schemes, which are perceived to allocate resources more efficiently. However, sound targeting typically requires advanced administrative capacities. Means testing, in particular, can involve methodologically complex surveys and high administrative costs. Targeting should therefore not be approached as a cost-saving measure. Moreover, inaccurate targeting can result in significant undercoverage—or “errors of exclusion”. In general, special or targeted measures must be approached as a complement to—rather than a substitute for—universal schemes.

Conditional cash transfers are aimed at encouraging human capital formation while promoting income security. However, their effectiveness depends on implementation. Some programmes use non-compliance with conditions simply to impose penalties on beneficiaries or exclude them from the programme. Punitive measures do little to promote the inclusion of those furthest behind.

Across all social protection schemes, lack of beneficiary involvement in design or delivery tends to limit effectiveness. Participation and consultation are important to ensure that barriers to access are identified and addressed. Several chapters in the report highlight examples of social protection schemes refined through consultation between Governments and potential beneficiaries. Beneficiary feedback, including robust grievance mechanisms, is also crucial to ensure that the rights of potential beneficiaries are respected. Making social protection programmes more inclusive requires transparent official avenues for people to challenge their exclusion or denounce discrimination and corruption. Supportive institutional environments are crucial in this regard.

Finally, accessible information and public communication campaigns tailored to the needs of potential beneficiaries are key to reaching those most in need.


Social protection transfers are often inadequate or insufficient in amount or duration to guarantee income security and health for all. Tax-financed schemes, in particular, tend to be lacking. If social protection systems are to make a meaningful impact on inclusion, many countries will need to increase investments in social protection and sustain such investments through economic cycles.

While fiscal space for social spending has increased in the last 10 years in most developing countries, more can be done to mobilize domestic resources and optimize public spending. About 100 countries out of 125 with data have gaps in their social protection floors that could be closed by spending less than 6 per cent of their GDP (Bierbaum and others, 2016, annex). However, 12 countries would need to spend over 10 per cent of GDP to close these gaps. These countries will need substantial help from the international community to set up social protection floors or expand social protection systems (Bierbaum and others, 2016, annex).
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Monday, November 12, 2018

Explaining gaps in social protection

 Gaps in social protection are but one symptom of disadvantage and exclusion. The prejudicial treatment of people based on their background or identity prevents some groups from accessing a broad range of public goods and services.

For example, members of disadvantaged groups typically have limited influence on decision-making in their communities. That is, they may not be allowed to participate in committees responsible for selecting beneficiaries of social protection. They may not have the political connections needed to push back against exclusionary policy design and underinvestment in social protection programmes. And they may lack information about such programmes, including on their criteria or application processes, due to illiteracy or poor communication channels. These disadvantages affect all the social groups examined in this report, as well as those for whom there are less data—such as homeless persons and those internally displaced. Women are disproportionately affected in all categories.

Social and economic disadvantages alone can also limit social protection, even in countries where laws no longer discriminate against certain groups. In labour markets of developed and developing countries alike, indigenous peoples, members of ethnic or racial minorities, migrants, persons with disabilities and youth receive lower wages than the rest of the population on average, as do women. They are overrepresented in the informal sector, where social protection is largely absent. In addition, spatial disadvantages, such as geographic isolation, hinder access to social protection among some groups, including indigenous peoples and members of ethnic minorities.

None of these barriers are insurmountable. The design and implementation of policies can either keep social protection out of reach for some or, alternatively, give those left behind the opportunity to benefit from them. Whether or not they result in greater social inclusion depends on the specific measures in place and the way in which they are implemented.
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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples: marginalization is the norm

 Indigenous peoples and members of ethnic or racial minorities are generally at higher risk of poverty than the rest of the population. They also face substantial disadvantages in access to health care, education and employment. Members of these groups often live in rural and remote areas that lack adequate infrastructure and services. In cities, living in areas of concentrated poverty contributes to their marginalization.

 Due to labour market disadvantages, members of ethnic minorities tend to be inadequately covered by contributory schemes. In response, many countries have increased tax-financed social protection in recent years, to the benefit of minorities. For example, a significant proportion of indigenous peoples receive conditional cash transfers, primarily in Latin America. These have had some positive effects on school enrolment and even on the educational attainment of indigenous and minority children. But the long-term impact is questionable, since the services rendered are often of poor quality. Data on health impacts are also mixed. Evidence presented in chapter VII suggests that these schemes have had a negligible effect on income inequality, at least so far. In many cases, the size of transfers is too small to make a significant difference.

Whether social protection programmes benefit indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities depends on how well they address the needs of these groups and the challenges they face. These include geographic isolation, inadequate infrastructure, lack of information in local languages and discrimination. Intercultural dialogue and the participation of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities in the design and implementation of social protection measures can help overcome these barriers
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Thursday, November 8, 2018

International migrants: carrying their own weigh

 Although international migration is not a new phenomenon, a growing number of people choose or are forced to migrate. In 2015, there were an estimated 244 million international migrants around the globe (United Nations, 2015a). Migrants can face daunting challenges while in transit and in their country of destination. But on balance, international migration has been a positive phenomenon, transforming millions of lives and even whole societies for the better. And despite popular perceptions, migrants generally pay more in taxes and contributions than they take from social protection programmes in their countries of destination. Over the long term, they are unlikely to constitute a disproportionate fiscal burden for receiving countries.

That said, international migrants face substantial risk of exclusion from social protection programmes due to ineligibility or inadequate coverage. Migrants admitted under long-term residence and work permits (one year or longer) generally have legal access to social protection on the same terms as nationals, but only after having resided or worked in the country for a certain period of time.7

Governments struggle to reduce what they perceive as incentives for irregular migration, while respecting the human rights of all migrants. In practice, equal treatment in access to social protection is rare. Migrants in an irregular situation are often able to access emergency health care, either by law or de facto, and accident compensation benefits. Access to tax-financed social assistance programmes, however, is seldom granted.

 Migrants often have social protection entitlements from their home countries, which they can lose if the benefits are not portable across borders. Adequate “portability” means that benefits accrued in one country must be payable in another. It also means that benefits must be determined on the basis of an individual’s full contribution in all countries where he or she has paid into the system.

Most negotiated bilateral and multilateral agreements that ensure the portability of entitlements cover long-term contributory benefits, mainly old-age pensions. Health care benefits are less often within the purview of these agreements, even when contributory. Tax-financed payments are rarely portable.

In 2000, only about 23 per cent of all international migrants worldwide were legally covered by adequate and portable social protection programmes in their countries of destination (Avato, Koettl and Sabates-Wheeler, 2009). The disconnect between law and practice, particularly when it comes to migrants, should also be noted. Due to the multiple administrative and social barriers migrants face, effective coverage of migrants is likely to lag far behind that required by law, as described in chapter VI.
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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Persons with disabilities: breaking down barriers

Persons with disabilities: breaking down barriers An estimated 15 per cent of the world’s population experience moderate or severe disability—that is, severe or extreme impairments, limitations in functioning and restrictions in participation (WHO and World Bank, 2011). Persons with disabilities routinely face accessibility and attitudinal barriers that hinder their participation in social, economic and political life. They have less access to education, poorer health and lower participation in the formal labour market than people without disabilities and, as a result, are at considerable risk of poverty.

Almost all countries offer some form of social protection to persons with disabilities. However, more than half of these are contributory social insurance schemes, which leave behind children as well as persons with disabilities who are not working in the formal labour market. Significant gaps in coverage are found even in high-income countries: in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), for example, over 20 per cent of persons with disabilities were not receiving any public benefits in the late 2000s, nor were they employed (OECD, 2010a). In recent years, many OECD countries have taken steps to reform social protection for persons with disabilities, tightening conditions for eligibility and receipt of benefits and leveraging sanctions when these are not met. As a result, the number of persons with disabilities receiving public benefits in these countries has declined.

Although several developing countries have made great strides in improving coverage of persons with disabilities, benefits are often inadequate. Data for 29 developing countries indicate that the amounts received through tax-financed disability schemes are often less than 15 per cent of per capita GDP.5 Disability benefits range from 51 per cent of per capita GDP in Uzbekistan and 35 per cent in Brazil to less than 5 per cent in China and India. Significant variations are also found in richer countries: means-tested disability benefits in Singapore range from 3 per cent to 5 per cent of per capita GDP, while those in the Republic of Korea range from 2 per cent to 7 per cent, depending on the severity of the disability and the beneficiary’s level of income.6 While disability benefits can help households meet their basic needs, they fall short of covering the costs of disability-related expenses. Nor are they sufficient to replace wages, even though the inability to work is often set as a condition for payment.

Social protection schemes are just one of the policy tools needed to support persons with disabilities and their families, and they must be carefully designed, lest they undermine economic participation. For example, when eligibility for benefits is conditional on a person’s inability to work, it perpetuates dependency and reinforces negative stereotypes. An inclusive approach to social protection empowers its recipients and ensures a basic income for all individuals, regardless of circumstances.
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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Old age: responding to a rapidly ageing population

 The number of persons aged 60 and over is projected to double from 2015 to 2050.4 As the share of older persons continues to grow in countries around the world, the need to guarantee their income security will become increasingly urgent. In countries with comprehensive social protection systems, older persons can rely on pensions to partly meet their needs. In many developing countries, however, a high proportion of older persons receive no public support whatsoever and face high economic and social insecurity.

Old-age pensions account for more than half of all public spending on social protection (excluding health expenditure). While 68 per cent of the world’s older population received a pension in 2016, significant regional and gender disparities were found. Only 26 per cent of people above retirement age received a pension in Central and Southern Asia, and 23 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa (United Nations, 2017a). Moreover, the rate of pension coverage is still lower for women than men in all regions, despite the fact that women tend to live longer.

Countries that rely exclusively on contributory pension schemes to provide oldage income security largely fail to achieve universal coverage. But while coverage is still insufficient overall, rapid progress has been made in the last two decades. Over 90 per cent of populations above the statutory retirement age received pensions in 53 countries in 2016, versus 34 countries in 2000 (ILO, 2017a). Effective coverage has increased in almost all developing countries. Many of them are now reaching more people through tax-funded (social) pensions. However, when targeted to older persons living in poverty, pension systems typically leave a significant coverage gap: a “missing middle” of older persons who are not living in poverty but who may nevertheless be vulnerable to it.

Meeting the needs of a rapidly expanding older population will be critical to achieving the SDGs. As the share of older persons grows, Governments will need to find the right balance between expanding coverage while providing adequate benefits and ensuring the long-term sustainability of pension schemes. While very generous pensions may not be sustainable, inadequate pensions jeopardize the well-being of older persons and their participation in social life. They may also erode trust in the State and result in less willingness to pay the taxes and contributions that are necessary to ensure income security in old age. The commitment to leave no one behind and promote inclusive societies calls for safeguarding or even strengthening the poverty-reducing role of pensions, even where reforms to cut overall pension costs are deemed necessary.
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Friday, November 2, 2018

From youth to adulthood: turning risks into opportunities

The transition to adulthood can be a time of enormous opportunities—but also risks. Globally, the youth unemployment rate is twice as high as the total unemployment rate (ILO, 2017b). Even if they do find a job, young people are overrepresented in so-called vulnerable employment, often in the informal sector. In addition, a growing number of young people are neither in the education system nor employed or in training.

Creating a social and economic environment that enables young people to thrive in adulthood—including pathways to decent work—is central to promoting their inclusion. But when opportunities for work are lacking, social protection can play a vital role in addressing exclusionary risks.

Although few social protection schemes formally exclude youth, most of the programmes available to young people require contributory payments. Because of their age and their high participation in informal employment, young people have shorter formal work histories than adults. They have paid less into contributory schemes and therefore tend to benefit less from them than adults. When it comes to unemployment protection, only 20 out of 201 countries provide unemployment benefits for first-time job seekers (ILO, 2014a).

Young people in need can access tax-financed schemes, where available, including unemployment assistance and minimum income benefits or health care. However, cash benefits for children and families often elude them, either because of their age (benefits are typically cut off after age 18) or because they no longer live with their parents.
Failing to invest in youth—by, for instance, limiting access to unemployment insurance for first-time job seekers or providing health care to workers in formal employment only—can have long-term costs, including squandered human capital and social unrest. Excluded young people miss out on opportunities for training and skills development. Furthermore, young parents who live in poverty cannot afford to invest in the health and education of their children, perpetuating the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
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