Prof. Susan Randolph has been informed that her NSF Grant Proposal, “Economic and Social Rights: Obstacle to Growth or Handmaiden of Growth?” has been rated “highest priority” and will be funded pending final approvals. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Terra Lawson-Remer both at New School are co-PIs on the grant. The grant request is for $233,000 and will be implemented over three years. The abstract of the grant appears below.

Countries are bound under international law to respect, protect, and fulfill the economic and social rights of their citizens. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) legally obligates countries to fulfill the rights enumerated therein to the maximum of available resources. This translates to an obligation of progressive realization—under which the level of obligation on each country differs according to its resource capacity, but all must move as expeditiously and effectively as possible towards rights fulfillment.
In the face of the progressive realization standard, measuring the extent to which countries meet their economic and human rights obligations has posed a challenge to scholars, human rights advocates, and the treaty monitoring body of the ICESCR. A central component of this project is the refinement and consolidation of an annual and longitudinal international social and economics rights fulfillment index (SERF Index) that for the first time makes the standard of progressive realization operational.
The second component of this project utilizes the SERF Index to address three empirical questions. First, is there a trade-off between meeting economic and social rights obligations and economic growth? Second, do some policies simultaneously foster the fulfillment of economic and social rights obligations and economic growth? Third, to what extent does a government’s success (or failure) to meet obligations under the ICESCR depend on direct ESR expenditures, the ability to raise revenues, and the interplay between the two? Cross-sectional and time-series econometric techniques are used to address the first two questions, while case studies are used to address the third.
As a whole, the project will promote greater understanding of the policies that promote economic and social rights, conflicts and synergies between those policies and other goals, and the political economy dynamics inducing countries to meet or shirk their obligations under the ICESCR. The project also develops and makes publicly accessible a rigorous assessment tool—the SERF Index—for use by scholars, human rights advocates, and UN Treaty bodies alike.

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