Government Budgets and Human Rights: An Expenditure-Based Approach for OECD Countries

Government Budgets and Human Rights: An Expenditure-Based Approach for OECD Countries

Mehmet Avcı
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4620-1.ch014
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Fiscal resources, as well as legal infrastructure, are required to fulfill human rights obligations. This emphasizes the importance of fiscal perspective for realizing human rights, and it finds a soul in the budget as concepts of public expenditures and revenues. Budgets, as the government's most important fiscal plan, outline how resources will be allocated. In this regard, budgets play a vital role for the realizing of human rights. Human rights-based budgeting approach has become increasingly popular in recent years. This technique considers human rights obligations for allocating resources; hence, it assists in defining public expenditures. This study focused on human rights from a fiscal perspective and the causality relationship between public expenditures, and human rights was investigated by employing the Dumitrescu-Hurlin panel causality test for the period 1995-2017 in 26 OECD countries, based on the assumption that public expenditures are an important instrument in realizing human rights. Findings reveal a bidirectional causality between public spending and human rights.
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Governments can use fiscal policy tools to intervene in economic and social life. Fiscal policy procedures and the state budget are significant in financing human rights from this perspective. As a result, the subject of how much consideration countries give to human rights when determining budget expenditures is noteworthy. In this regard, expenditure side of a government budget is quite explanatory. However, before going any further, it is necessary to quickly highlight power of the purse or the right to the budget process, which is critical in terms of using the state budget for realizing human rights. Because the process in issue was not simple, it has been fraught with difficulties.

Formulation and implementation of the government budget, as well as the parliament's oversight of which revenues will be received, at what level, and where these revenues will be spent, is critical in democratic societies. After a long struggle, this right, known as the right to budget or power of purse, was finally obtained. While the struggle is primarily aimed at upholding the rule of law, tax burden is a major consideration in terms of fiscal dynamics. The origins of this power of the purse goes back to the Middle Ages, when King John, the English king, promised in the Magna Carta (1215) with the barons that no taxes would be imposed without their approval (Shick, 2002:18; Fölscher, 2006:5). Furthermore, because expenditures would be made in accordance with revenue, this promise assures that expenditures are also indirectly controlled. Beyond its historical roots, the power of purse now includes parliament's approval in determining revenues and expenditures, and this continues for each budget year in democratic societies.

The connection between budget and human rights arises from the fact that the right to power of purse stems from a fight for human rights. In other words, power of purse is a basic human right. As a result, governments can use the national budget to implement human rights. Human rights can be protected and developed, particularly through public expenditures in budget. For instance, human rights are essentially built on the rule of law; hence, a solid legal system can be built by allocating public funds to the required physical and human resources. Human rights, on the other hand, are a crucial tool for achieving more equitable education, health care, and social results, therefore government budgets play an important role in protecting and improving human rights. Finally, all these cases highlight the inextricable link between the government budgets and human rights. In this framework, the literature has led to the growing subject known as human rights-based budgeting.

In order to understand the basics of human rights budget works, which have gained popularity since the mid-1990s, the reasons from a wider perspective for civil society budget works should be revealed (Blyberg, 2009:124). With the end of the Cold War, increased expectations for democracy have been the most influential factor in the development of civil society. In this framework, the UN and World Bank policies on good governance and its principles, the development of mechanisms that allow civil society to participate in the formation of local public policies as localization spreads, the facilitation of civil society budget examinations based on the development of technological possibilities, and some international organizations' incentives on civil society budget works all contribute to civil society development. Following the rise of civil society, human rights budget studies advanced, focusing primarily on the protection of economic and social rights. In other words, the development in the literature can be summarized as civil society budget works, human rights budget works, human rights-based budgeting and, more specifically, economic and social rights-based budgeting. As a result, a new budgeting approach has emerged, focusing on allocating budgetary resources to realize human rights obligations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: It is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966 and came in force from 3 January 1976. It commits its parties to work toward the granting of economic, social, and cultural rights to the Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories and individuals, including labor rights and the right to health, the right to education, and the right to an adequate standard of living.

Good Governance: It is the process of measuring how public institution conduct public affairs and manage public resources and guarantee the realization of human rights in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption and with due regard for the rule of law.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: It is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.

Human Rights-Based Budget: It is a budgeting approach that aims to fulfill human rights obligations through using human rights as a reference point in resources allocation and budget decisions.

Limburg Principles: It is principles on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were adopted in Maastricht on 22–26 January 1997. These Principles clarify the nature and scope of state parties' obligations.

Human Rights: Human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.

Government Budget: It is a government's fiscal plan that authorizes governments to collect public revenues and make public expenditures for a set period of time and includes estimated amounts.

Power of Purse: The right to budget refers to the ability of parliaments elected by the people to decide on public revenues and spending. It means that the legislature has a voice in how the executive branch spends money and how taxes and other revenues are raised to pay for it.

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