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Enforcing MDGs through rights

Aug 21, 2009

UN Millennium Campaign's publication The MDGs through Socio-Economic Rights is an advocacy tool for parliamentarians, legislators and citizens groups, promoting the MDGs as human rights in constitution making and national reform processes.

The MDGs through Socio-Economic Rights

Publisher: UN Millennium Campaign, 2009


The constitution, as fundamental law, provides the framework for the structures and powers of the State. All laws, policies and administrative acts must be compatible with it. A good constitution tries to strike a balance between giving the State sufficient powers to discharge its critical functions, and limiting those powers to protect the rights of the people.

This handbook, jointly produced by the United Nations Development Programme and the UN Millennium Campaign, aims to bridge the gap between citizens and constitutions in developing countries, using the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as an entry point to ensure the basic rights of the poor and excluded are recognized and met.

This handbook is an abridged version of the forthcoming publication The MDGs through Socio-economic Rights: Constitution Making and Implementation, which is envisaged as an advocacy tool for parliamentarians, legislators and citizens groups to promote the MDGs as human rights in constitution making and constitutional reform processes in national contexts.

Taking the MDGs into account in the constitution making and reform process can facilitate greater awareness among parliamentarians. It can enable both State and non-State actors to play a proper role in promoting and monitoring the implementation of the MDGs, enhancing accountability in the delivery mechanisms. In this way, the MDGs and the constitution can reinforce each other.

The publication argues that the importance of the integration of the MDGs and socio-economic rights arises from the fact that the primary responsibility for their promotion lies with national governments and societies – despite the considerable development of international norms and institutions.

The viability and success of a constitution is premised on the ideology of constitutionalism, a belief in the value of restrictions on power (expressed as substantive and institutional limitations) and the practice of the rule of law with the emphasis on rules and the modes of their enforcement. These reflect and spring from political and cultural traditions.

Drafting and amending constitutions has traditionally been the prerogative of constitutional lawyers and jurists. However, experience has shown that active citizen engagement in constitution making is an imperative in our times, essential to confer legitimacy to constitutions.

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