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National Debt v Right to Social Security

Author: Alison Graham

The Centre has been very active in tracking the cost of austerity in the UK, which led to the targeting of cuts on disabled people, people on low incomes and other groups lacking effective political power. international researcher Alison Graham has kindly shared her PhD thesis which explores these important issues in much more detail. As she suggests questions of methodology and accountability need to be considered much more seriously in the future. What is clear, however, is that the UK's austerity policy stands as an extreme example of inappropriate policy, clearly in breach of the UK's international human rights obligations. 

During the recent financial global crisis that began in 2008, and the subsequent rise in national debt from the bail-out of the banks, many states claimed insufficient resources, and implemented austerity measures that included reducing spending on social security.

This thesis argues that current approaches by international mechanisms to judge such austerity measures are insufficient and irrelevant. It puts forward its own interpretation of how the relevant human rights treaties should be interpreted in order to properly evaluate the necessity and legitimacy of austerity measures that can jeopardise people's right to social security. This is based on the reality that, to a large degree, resources available depend on a government’s policies and choices, and that states must argue the necessity of such measures with clear and concluding evidence. They must show that they had no choice, and that any other measure would have worsened general welfare. Lastly, the thesis uses the analysis developed to suggest that the UK’s austerity measures that have undermined and violated the right to social security are not justified by its national debt.

Read and download the free pdf in your browser here.

The publisher is the University of Lancaster.

National debt versus the right to social security © Alison Graham 2016.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.