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Human Rights Initiative Distinguished Lecture: The World Bank as a Human Rights-Free Zone

Tuesday, September 15, 2015
12:00 AM
1636 SSWB



The World Bank is perhaps the single most important actor in relation to development theory and practice.  Yet it’s official position is that it’s Articles of Agreement prohibit it from addressing human rights in its activities. Professor Alston will argue that the Bank’s approach is incoherent and self-defeating, and sets a terrible example for governments and others who argue that human rights issues can and should be treated in isolation from development. He will suggest some possible directions for a revised policy designed to take account of some of the Bank’s apparent concerns.


Philip Alston was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in June 2014, by the Human Rights Council. Born and educated in Australia (Law and Economics) and with a doctorate from the University of California, he is an international law scholar and human rights practitioner. He is John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law at New York University School of Law and has previously taught at various law schools around the world, including the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Harvard Law School, Australian National University, and the European University Institute.

Professor Alston has also served the United Nations in various capacities since the 1980s. He was the first Rapporteur of the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights from 1987 until 1990, and then chaired the Committee for eight years until the end of 1998. During this period, he played a central role in efforts to reform and streamline the U.N. treaty body system and, as an Independent Expert appointed by the U.N. Secretary-General, he reported to the General Assembly on measures to ensure the long-term effectiveness of the U.N. human rights treaty bodies (reports in 1989, 1993 and 1997). Between 2002 and 2007, he served as Special Adviser to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Millennium Development Goals, and between 2004 and 2010, as Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. He was also Unicef’s legal adviser throughout the process of drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child.