Project on Public Finance and Human Rights

The Center’s Project on Public Finance and Human Rights is a joint initiative with University of Pretoria’s Centre for Human Rights and University of Connecticut’s Business and Human Rights Initiative.  The Project supports research and scholarship on the intersections between human rights, central banking, international financial regulation, and development finance.  The Project also supports a network of scholars, practitioners, civil society activists, and policy makers interested in reexamining the relationship between all aspects of public finance, human rights, and environmental and social sustainability.  The Project is currently planning several workshops over the next year where experts from various fields related to banking, finance, and social and economic rights will explore, in more detail, this groundbreaking new area of study.

The major central banks in the world have become important actors in global financial governance.  While their decisions and actions are motivated by their domestically focused mandates, they exert powerful influences on global economic governance.  They are, additionally, seen as playing important roles in  international efforts to address climate change, through social, political, and economic transitions from a carbon intensive to a zero carbon economy and inequality.  Ultimately, they occupy an unusual position in the architecture of global financial governance.  However, their international responsibilities for the extra-territorial impacts of their decisions and actions are not well defined. There are no international standards to guide their conduct in regard to these impacts, as well as no mechanisms through which those outside their home jurisdictions who are adversely affected by their decisions and actions can hold them accountable.

The Project on Public Finance and Human Rights supports impact, actionable research on frameworks for assessing the role that central banks play in global economic governance.  This research will explore ideas related to and suggest standards that can be used for guiding the role of central banks as global economic governance actors in the future. These standards will pay due regard to the domestically determined mandates of central banks and to their home states international legal obligations, as determined by the international treaties that they have signed and customary international law principles that are binding on them. They will also examine concerns that these standards may only be relevant to the major central banks and may create challenges for central banks and economic policy makers in other countries.

Project Partners

In addition to supporting research and scholarship, the Project also hosts a number of closed and public events for key stakeholders.  These events and workshops are designed to convene small gatherings of subject matter experts to interrogate and review issues, concepts, and ideas of public finance and human rights, including sovereign debt, central banking, international financial regulation, and development finance.   

upcoming & past events

  • A presentation and discussion on the Financial Services Human Rights Benchmark by: David Kinley (University of Sydney Law School) and Kym Sheehan, with a response by: Ariel Meyerstein
  • "The Financial Services Human Rights Benchmark Project and its Potential Applicability to South Africa's Financial Sector"
    • September 15, 2021
  • "Unavoidable Power and Unaccountable Impacts? The Roles and Responsibilities of Central Banks in Global Economic Governance"
    • October 22, 2020
  • Online workshop on central banks and international
    • October 1, 2020
  • Expert Reference Group meeting on central banks and human rights responsibilities 
    • March 27, 2019
  • Expert Working Group on international finance and human rights
    • April 17, 2017

Resources & Relevant Articles