Message from the Co-Executive Directors
The Global Initiative began in 2010, as an initiative to advance the realization of economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights globally, tackling the endemic problem of poverty and social injustice through a human rights lens. Our vision is of a world where ESC rights are fully respected, protected and fulfilled and on equal footing with civil and political rights, so that all people are able to live in dignity. To realize this vision, our role is one of catalyzing social change through strategic leveraging of international spaces. This is work that we undertake in close partnership with local partners and advocates from around the world; what we like to call “making the UN work for the poor.” To this aim, the Global Initiative is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in the USA with offices there and Geneva, Switzerland. It enjoys Consultative Status with the UN, as well as Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).
The Global Initiative works to advance three strategic priority areas:
- Strategic litigation and legal advocacy;
- Advancing women’s and ESC rights; and
- Human rights and development.
Through these strategic areas, we contribute to the advancement of substantive ESC rights while at the same time tackling cutting edge and emerging issues that dramatically impact people’s lives. Issues like land, water, sanitation, housing, education and health, among others. The achievements we made in these three areas in 2014 are highlighted in this annual report.
There is, however, an important thread which ties this work together and it lies at the heart of the work we do, and our approach to human rights advocacy. All of the work in our three strategic priorities has benefited from a similar methodology that has increasingly been recognized as our unique contribution to the field of ESC rights advocacy. Namely, working with local and national groups to use international human rights law and access international human rights mechanisms to achieve impact at the domestic level. This methodology not only amplifies the voices of local advocates and activists by leveraging the power of international law and mechanisms, but also informs the content, meaning and interpretation of international human rights law from the perspective of marginalized individuals, groups and communities. As such, this two-way exchange of information and advocacy results both in specific change at the local level and structural change within the international human rights normative framework.
In Geneva, we often serve as a bridge for local partners seeking to engage with UN human rights mechanisms, offering support, advice and connections. Many of these partnerships you can read about in this report. We are also uniquely placed to advocate on ESC rights issues in our own capacity and our ongoing presence in Geneva has allowed us to deepen our engagement across UN human rights mechanisms – providing a clear and consistent voice for ESC rights. This ongoing engagement has enabled us to step into new spaces and engage in exciting new ways. As examples, in 2014 we were able to provide periodic ‘Advocacy Updates’ and ‘Updates from Geneva’ which highlight important advancements, events and discussions related to ESC rights, as well as though pieces such as one on Legal accountability of non-State actors for human rights violations abroad. We were also able to engage with UN experts on a range of ESC rights issues, for example by emphasizing the extra-territorial human rights obligations and their critical role in formulating an effective and relevant human rights response to climate change with the Independent Expert on Human Rights and the Environment, and by hosting an NGO Consultation with Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing to address recent and emerging themes related to the right to housing worldwide.
These and other activities have resulted in our becoming a visible leader, and this in turn has led to our being regularly invited to provide our own substantive expertise as an organization working globally on ESC issues. For example, in 2014 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights invited a select few non-governmental organizations to meet with him to discuss priorities. The large traditional players (organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc.) were at the table, and we are honored to be able to say that so was the Global Initiative. Even though we are undoubtedly much smaller, and far newer as an organization, we believe that this recognition demonstrates that we are valued for the high quality of our advocacy work and the unique perspective that we provide to the Geneva human rights scene and beyond. We think it bodes well for the fact that we are a unique organization, playing an important role, and making a contribution which is not only significant, but urgently needed in today’s world.
We are happy to report that we have ended 2014 on a sound financial footing which lays the foundation for organizational growth in 2015 and beyond. We are extremely grateful to our donors for the financial support we receive, and for their shared vision.
Finally, while 2014 was a year of growth and achievement, it was also one of loss. We met Opiata Odindo many years before founding the Global Initiative, and his tireless dedication to fighting for the rights of the poor in Kenya has been an ongoing inspiration to us personally. In 2013, we were thrilled when he agreed to join our Board, and as a Board member he helped to chart the course of this organization with thoughtfulness and a deep seated commitment to the cause. Our friend passed away in Nairobi, Kenya on 16 August 2014 after a battle with cancer, but we will remain ever grateful to him for his encouragement, warmth and leadership.
We look forward to the Global Initiative’s continued work and engagement with our partners worldwide to ensure that all of the gains we have achieved so far continue to move us toward the transformative impact we seek. To that end, in 2015 the Global Initiative will engage in a strategic planning and organizational development planning process to culminate in a consolidation and focused strategy aimed at building upon our strengths with the aim of contributing to even more meaningful change in the years to come.
Mayra Gomez and Bret Thiele
Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Access a full copy of the Annual Report HERE.