University of Washington

Show Me the Money: Achieving Economic, Social and Cultural Rights through Government Budgets

Task Force Report
Expert Evaluation Presentation
Task Force Poster

Most governments around the world have committed to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which requires that member states devote “the maximum” of their resources to “achieving progressively the full realization” of the Covenant’s goals, and also guarantee that the rights enunciated in the Covenant will be exercised “without discrimination of any kind.” But the notions of maximum available resources (MAR), progressive realization (PR), and non-discrimination (ND) remain difficult to operationalize in practice. The broad policy area this TF will focus on is “how can MAR, PR, and ND be more explicitly operationalized in terms of government budgets?” The ultimate goal of the TF is to assist a major global civil society network – International Budget Partners – to get the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to adopt a general comment on MAR, PR and ND in terms of government budgets. More specifically, the TF will examine the following questions: What does the obligation to use the “maximum of available resources” mean for the amount and type of revenue a government should raise and how it should prioritize its spending? What data should be used when assessing whether the government has developed and implemented its budget in a way that effectively and progressively realizes people’s economic, social and cultural rights? How is it possible to recognize discrimination in the budget—in the way the government raises its revenue as well as allocates and expends its funds?

Task Force Instructor

Sanjeev Khagram

Sanjeev Khagram holds a joint faculty appointment with the Evans School and Jackson School of International Studies. He serves as the director of the Marc Lindenberg Center for Humanitarian Action, International Development, and Global Citizenship at the Evans School.  He has also worked extensively with global action networks, multilateral agencies, governments, corporations, civil society organizations, professional associations, and universities all over the world with extended periods in: Brazil, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom. Born a refugee of Idi Amin’s Uganda, he is of Asian Indian heritage and currently resides with his family in Seattle.  Khagram holds a Ph.D. in political science from Standford University. He also holds a MA of economics from Stanford's Food Research Institute, and BA in development studies/engineering, also from Stanford.

Expert Evaluator


Helena Hofbauer

Helena Hofbauer joined the International Budget Partnership (IBP) in January 2007 as the manager for Partnership Development. She is based at IBP-Mexico City and works with groups through¬out Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the development of capacities for civil society budget work and a South-South transfer and sharing of knowledge in the field. She currently manages IBP's Partnership Initiative, along with the Civil Society Budget Initiative and the Central America Incentive Fund. Hofbauer worked on refugee issues and human rights in Mexico before becoming the founding director of Fundar, Centro de Analisis e Investigación, one of the leading budget groups around the world. Hofbauer worked on health and budgets, gender sensitive budgeting and transparency, at the same time of engaging in the development of comprehensive budget advocacy strategies throughout Mexico and the Latin American region. She earned a BA in International Relations at El Colegio de México and a MA in International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.



Alizeh Bhojani

Major: International Studies Track: Human Rights; French
I was drawn to this Task Force because I have always been interested by the definition, function, and implementation of human rights in societies. Working at a non-profit human rights organization, I encounter accounts of human rights violations without recompense or restitution for the victim. Economic, social, and cultural rights lay the groundwork for a stable society and are essential for good governance. Our Task Force tackles the issues surrounding the implementation of economic, social, and cultural rights from international, national, and local levels and I am excited to better understand the relationship between budgets, international aid, and civil society.


Giselle Lopez

Major: International Studies Track: Human Rights; Law, Society and Justice
I chose to take part in this task force because I have a strong interest in human rights and the actual mechanisms that are used to implement them. Social, economic and cultural rights require proactive and progressive measures by governments to be fully realized, and prioritizing budgets to meet these goals is an effective way to support these measures. Apart from human rights, I am also interested in international humanitarian law and conflict resolution. As the coordinator, I have the privilege to work with everyone and to take part in the overall development of the report, and I am happy to work with such an intelligent and enthusiastic group of people.


Task Force Members

Kelsey Bachenberg

Major: International Studies
Minor: Spanish
With an interest in both international development and human rights, this task force which addresses the ways in which ICESCR may be realized through national budgets was of immediate interest for me. Human rights seems to be a subject that is so often regarded abstractly and romantically, and to see the ways in which rights have been concretely realized through budget work is both exciting and inspiring. My paper addresses the issue of budget leakages, cases in which funds allocated for a certain program are misused and captured before reaching beneficiaries, and the ways in which national auditing processes may be strengthened to combat corruption in budget expenditures

Elisa Casey

Major: International Studies
I am an International Studies major, with a focus in development. I chose to be in this task force because I was interested to learn about more tangible and concrete forms of economic development and social justice. I have worked with various non-profits, but was excited to learn more about the steps states can take towards progressively realizing rights. My work within this task force is focused on the Right of Education and the actions states should take in order to adequately make education available, accessible, acceptable, and adaptable. Working with a non-profit organization in the Dominican Republic focused on education and building schools, I was interested to learn more about the global state of education, what has been achieved, and what still needs to be done.

Youjin Choe

Majors: International Studies and Geography
The task force on ICESCR grabbed my attention because the topic was about human right and its budgetary implication. I did independent research on migrant workers in South Korea and got interested in effective implementation of government policy and budget regarding human rights. I hope to use this opportunity to work further on my academic interest.

Manmeet Dhami

Major: International Studies
Minors: Human Rights; Education, and Diversity
I've taken a number of human rights classes here at the UW and I'm excited to gain an even deeper understanding of how human rights can be best achieved. For this Task Force, I'm researching how budgets can be used to ensure non-discrimination in the implementation of ICESCR. I'm specifically analyzing "right to health" and "right to education" cases in Colombia.

Camille Dodson

Major: International Studies Track: Human Rights
Minor: African Studies
With Human Rights as my IS track, I have focused my studies on critically understanding human rights work in practice. As part of this Task Force, I am interested in exploring how long-standing, and sometimes problematic, institutionalized approaches to human rights can be redesigned and applied in new ways to more effectively promote social justice through economic, social and cultural rights.

Julian Fellerman

Major: International Studies
I decided on this particular Task Force due to its rather practical topic of using government budgets as an effective tool to advocate for human rights. I am interested in the overall structure of overseas development assistance in the framework of the current global economy, with specific regards to its role in achieving the rights outlined by ICESCR. Furthermore, I am keen on exploring further the lesser-known but extremely important function of export credit agencies in international development, including their role in facilitating trade and financial flows between developed and developing countries.

Neena Goswamy

Majors: International Studies, Women Studies
I am researching the effects of wasteful expenditures on local constituency and ways that bad practices in government can be improved. It is both interesting and shocking to find to what length some politicians will go to ensure their corruptive practices that benefit their personal tastes rather than their local constituency. Apart from this, I am largely interested in issues concerning women's rights and also other issues of difference such as race, class, and sexuality.

Thayer Hastings

Major: International Studies
Minor: Human Rights
Economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) receive the short end of the human rights 'stick', often referred to as second generation rights. I am examining budget allocation in the context of development aid. Specifically, I am researching development banks and accountability mechanisms that can promote ESCR.

Kristen Hess

Major: International Studies Track: Human Rights
Minors: Women Studies and Diversity
I am interested in reforming development work, which drew me to this Task Force. Putting UN frameworks and guidelines into practice is undoubtedly difficult, but I believe it is important to find and implement a practical strategy to actually realize ICESCR goals to improve the livelihood of people worldwide.

Naomi Joswiak

Majors: International Studies and Political Science
Minor: Human Rights
I am interested in understanding the fundamental motives and consequences of global human rights abuses. I am inspired by justice, peace, freedom, and eradicating oppression worldwide. For this Task Force I am researching how poverty influences international food insecurity and the ways that we can promote greater access to resolve the food crisis.

Jeff Meigs

Majors: International Studies and Spanish
I am interested in both the possibilities and limitations of international covenants such as ICESCR. I hope that through this Task Force I am able to obtain a more complete grasp as to what ICESCR can and, perhaps more importantly, cannot achieve. Rather than focus on broad international concerns, such as poverty, development and aid giving, I tend to focus my energy on issues closer to home; those which I have more responsibility and control over. Currently, I work in food service, intern at the ACLU, and am a musician.

Akshika Patel

Major: International Studies Track: Human Rights; and South Asian Studies
In my independent research I looked the systematic rape in Kashmir and the role of international law. From that research I hoped to take a task force involving human rights. In the task force, I am writing on the updates of maximum available resources as well as an analysis of several court cases involving MAR, PR, and ND in India. I am excited to work with such a great group of people.

Brittney Riley

Major: International Studies Track: Human Rights Track
I decided to take this Task Force simply because it sounded the most interesting and relevant. After taking many classes on human rights and learning about specific issues, I was excited to learn and research ways to actually solve these problems. I am passionate about international human rights and hope to continue in this field after I graduate!

Emilia Sternberg

Majors: International Studies Track: Human Rights; and Swedish
I am researching how states can progressively realize the right to health as laid out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. I believe very strongly that economic, social, and cultural rights are fundamental human rights that should be made available to all people. Foremost amongst these is the basic right to health, which is integral to all other parts of life. I believe that through international cooperation and budgetary realignment it is feasible for all the people of the world to enjoy "the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

Cassandra Tillman

Major: International Studies
Minor: Human Rights
Throughout my academic career at UW I have taken numerous human rights classes.These classes have focused on the philosophy of rights, the current issues and politics of human rights, documents and treaties etc. While I have gained a lot of insight on the subject, none of my classes addressed possibilities for revision and universal realization of human rights in contemporary times. I was interested in participating in this Task Force to focus on the problem of implementing real world strategies for achieving human rights. After graduating from the University of Washington this March, I plan to finish a degree in nursing. I hope to someday work for an NGO or government body concerned with health rights in developing countries.

Sarah Van Houten

Major: International Studies
Minor: Spanish
I am researching the different perspectives of effectiveness and efficiency of social spending and analyzing how that impacts the notion of "maximum available resources" discussed in the ICESCR. I also outline the process of developing effective and efficient programs and policies in a way that both maximizes the use of resources and produces tangible results. I am excited to contribute in the effort to re-focus the ICESCR in a way that helps IBP better reach their goal of using budgets to realize global economic, social, and cultural rights.


Center for Global Studies
International Studies Program
University of Washington
Box 353650
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 685-2707
(206) 685-0668 fax

Sara R. Curran
Program Chair
(206) 543-6479

Sabine Lang
Associate Program Chair

Lauren Dobrovolny
Program Coordinator
(206) 685-2707