A government's responsibility is, first and foremost, to realize the human rights of its people. Realization of those rights—to food, housing, health, education, freedom of speech and assembly, to name but a few—is essential if a person is to be able to fulfill her potential and have her dignity as a human being respected.
When they think about human rights, most people don’t at first think “the government’s budget,” but the reality is that the two are integrally related. It takes resources to realize all rights—civil, political, economic, social and cultural—and a government’s capacity to realize its people’s rights is very significantly affected by how much money it has to spend and how it spends it.
Because the budget plays such a central role in the realization of human rights, it is essential that the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government understand the impact of that budget on the enjoyment of human rights, and how it should be shaped and spent to best guarantee the enjoyment of rights.
This is where civil society has a critical role to play, in ensuring that the three branches of government understand not only how budgets affect human rights, but also their role in guaranteeing those rights through the budget. Civil society groups also have a role in holding the government accountable for public expenditures. To play this multi-faceted role, civil society organizations (CSOs) must have the capacity to monitor, track and analyze the revenues, allocations and expenditures of the budget, be able to demonstrate the impact of the budget on human rights, and advocate effectively for a budget that is more responsive to human rights.