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Social and Economic Rights: What Difference Do They Make?

Sponsored by the Human Development and Public Services Group of DECRG
Date: October 27, 2006 : Venue: J B1-080

Contact: Varun Gauri

The idea that health care, education, and a basic livelihood are rights, for which institutions and public officials should be held accountable, is increasingly influential in international development. Many international and bilateral development agencies now regularly use human rights treaties and covenants in their development work. At the country level, the majority of national constitutions make health care or education a right of citizens.

Some believe that social and economic entitlements should not be legally enforceable, yet national-level courts and other institutions in many countries are in fact enforcing them. As a practical matter, what does this mean for the efficient and equitable provision of basic services? Does it matter if basic services and a livelihood are considered rights? What difference do social and economic rights make?

9:00 – 9:10  
Introduction and Schedule for the Day
Varun Gauri, Senior Economist, World Bank

9:10 – 9:30  
Opening Remarks
Ana Palacio, Senior Vice President and Group General Counsel, World Bank

9:30 – 11:00  
Keynote Address
Speaker: Philip Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law, New York University, and Director, NYU Center for Global Justice and Human Rights
Chair: Shantayanan Devarajan, Chief Economist for South Asia, World Bank

11:15 – 12:45
Institutions of Accountability: Courts, National Human Rights Commissions,and International Bodies
Chair: Sanjay Pradhan, Sector Director, Public Sector Governance, World Bank

  • Varun Gauri, Senior Economist, World Bank, and Dan Brinks, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin
  • Chidi Odinkalu, Senior Legal Officer, Africa Open Society Justice Initiative, Abuja
  • William Forbath, Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair, University of Texas at Austin
  • Siobhan McInerney-Lankford, Counsel, World Bank

12:45 – 1:45   Lunch

1:45 – 3:15    
The Right to Health
Chair: Jacques Baudouy, Sector Director, Health, Nutrition, and Population, World Bank

  • Jonathan Berger, Head of Policy and Research, Aids Law Project, Johannesburg
  • Florian Hoffmann, Senior Fellow, Pontifícia Universidade Catolica, Rio de Janeiro
  • Chris Beyrer, Director, Center for Public Health and Human Rights, Johns Hopkins University
  • Jodi Jacobson, Executive Director, Center for Health and Gender Equity

3:15 – 4:45 
The Right to Education
Chair: Robin Horn, Sector Manager, Education, World Bank

  • Shylashri Shankar, Research Fellow, Center for Policy and Research, New Delhi
  • Bivitri Susanti, Executive Director, Centre for Indonesian Law and Policy Studies, Jakarta
  • Helen Hershkoff, Joel S. and Anne B. Ehrenkranz Professor of Law, New York University
  • Mara Bustelo, Coordinator, Human Rights and Economic and Social Issues, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Michael Bochenek, Deputy Director, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch



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