The link between Social Rights and Human Rights

On May 30 Social Platform invited Mr Jan Jarab, the EU Regional Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights together with Ms Kohner, Director of the Permanent Secretariat of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions to an interesting discussion on how to apply a human rights approach to EU advocacy and policy work. Highlights from the session included:

Mr Jan Jařab, Regional Representative, the EU Regional Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – “The gap between social NGOs and HR organisations in terms of terminology and substance is steadily decreasing”

  • We are moving further away from the Cold War division between economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights. The international HR community (e.g. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) has over the last 10 years taken economic, social and cultural rights more seriously and they understand that the links with civil and political rights are inseparable. Also Social NGOs are increasingly using the HR language and are more aware of how it can be used;
  • Access to economic, social and cultural rights cannot be properly addressed if discrimination in access to these rights is not recognised. (E.g. Minorities, migrants and Roma’s access to decent income, access to health care etc.) States are duty bearers and individuals right holders (active subjects and not passive objects);
  • The HR approach combines the classical welfare state approach with the market driven approach. The classical welfare state approach is paternalistic and materialistic, concerned about providing for the weakest in society, you see a classical division between social partners and masses instead of individuals. The markets driven approach (‘Thatcherism’) is about customers and goods and not individuals and rights. A customers approach is based on the assumption that you are entitled to your rights because you pay for it. From a HR approach individuals are rights holders no matter whether they contribute economically or not. A HR approach takes on both a paternalistic approach and individual rights.
  • Contemporary social NGOs can grow synergies with the HR community by defining a HR inspired future and relying more on international HR mechanisms, e.g. Special Rapporteurs and Universal Periodic Review.


Ms Debbie Kohner, Director of the Permanent Secretariat of the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions

  • Ms Kohner presented the newly established Permanent Secretariat of the European Group of national HR Institutions (NHRI). See her power point presentation here.


Presentations by Social Platform members

  • ATD Quart Monde: presented the UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, the principles provide for the first time global policy guidelines focusing specifically on the human rights of people living in poverty. They are intended as a practical tool for policy-makers to ensure that public policies (including poverty eradication efforts) reach the poorest members of society, respect and uphold their rights, and take into account the significant social, cultural, economic and structural obstacles to human rights enjoyment faced by persons living in poverty.
  • FEANTSA: Presented their campaign on housing through Housing Rights Watch, which is a European network of interdisciplinary groups of associations, lawyers and academics from various European countries who are committed to the promotion, protection and fulfillment of the right to housing to all. Their work has resulted in awareness raising to external stakeholders on access to rights for homeless people but also as internally within their membership (service providers) on how to take on a human rights approach in their work.