The goal of this resource is to serve as an advocacy tool for engagement with the CEDAW and ESCR Committees to more explicitly recognize the implementation of ESCR as a strategy to increase women's equality. March 2010.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights. It equally recognises civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Political circumstances related to the Cold War divided this whole into civil and political (CP) rights on the one hand and economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights on the other.
ESC rights have also been regarded as second-class rights. It has been shown, however, that without the adequate living conditions that these rights ensure CP rights cannot be fulfilled.
What do we mean by Economic, Social and Cultural rights? They include:
• Fair and safe working conditions for workers;
• The right to seek and choose work;
• The right to form, join and act together in trade unions;
• Social security, including government assistance during old age and in times of unemployment, and money or other help for people at other times when they need assistance in order to live their lives with dignity;
• Assistance and protection for families;
• Equal marriage rights for men and women;
• An adequate standard of living for everyone, involving adequate clothing, housing, and food;
• A high standard of health and health care for all;
• Satisfactory primary education for all and increased opportunities for further education;
• The right to participate in the cultural life of the community; and
• The right to benefit from scientific progress.
ESC rights have gained more attention both at global and local levels.
This situation was reflected in the sphere of the United Nations. The International Bill of Human Rights comprises three texts: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR-1966), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR-1966) and its two optional protocols.
The ICESCR is monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Unlike the ICCPR, the ICESCR was among the only major human rights treaties to lack a petition mechanism.
On December 10th, 2008, on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations adopted the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) bringing the possibility of international justice one step closer for millions of excluded people, groups, communities and peoples worldwide.
The Optional Protocol is important because it provides victims of economic, social and cultural rights violations who are not able to get an effective remedy in their domestic legal system with an avenue to get redress. For the OP to enter into force, 10 States need to ratify or accede to it. An NGO coalition named the International NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR is campaigning to ensure the ratification and implementation of the OP by September 24, 2009, the day of the UN Signature Ceremony in New York.
The Optional Protocol is important because it provides victims of economic, social and cultural rights violations who are not able to get an effective remedy in their domestic legal system with an avenue to get redress. It was adopted on December 10th 2008 and NGOs are campaigning to ensure the ratification and implementation of the OP.
Article 22 states: “Everyone, as a member of society (…) is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality”.
Several actors met to consider the nature and scope of the obligations of States parties to the ICESCR, the consideration of States parties Reports by the ECOSOC Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and international co-operation under Part IV of the Covenant. (PDF document).
Article 75 states: “The World Conference on Human Rights encourages the Commission on Human Rights, in cooperation with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to continue the examination of optional protocols to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”.
This fact sheet analyses the ICESCR and the function of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, whose primary function is to monitor the implementation of the Covenant by States parties.
This comprehensive page provides links to basic texts and treaties, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (World Conference on Human Rights- 1993); regional treaties and documents; regional mechanisms and many more.
The 184-page document contains 21 in-depth case studies of the litigation of ESC rights at the international and national level. In an interview format, advocates, community leaders and judges share their experiences on the judicial enforcement of ESC rights, including whether the legal decisions had an effective impact on reducing poverty. The interviewees also offer their thoughts on the challenges involved in legal action and the design of appropriate litigation strategies (pdf format).
This link includes a preface that gives contextual information. The Quito Declaration offers a comprehensive analysis of the legal obligations of States and other actors, a summary of the most pressing socio-economic problems facing Latin America viewed through the lens of rights violations, and a call to action around ESC rights (pdf format).
The human rights situation in Zimbabwe has been deteriorating rapidly since 2000. Human rights violations are taking place, women human rights defenders are suffering increasing repression as they mobilize to confront the government in the face of a spiralling economic and social rights crisis in Zimbabwe. The government's policies, particularly on land reform and forced evictions, have contributed significantly to reducing the entire population's capacity to obtain access to their rights to food, health, education and housing. July 2007.
Latin America is the region of the world with the greatest inequalities in income, which is a region where there is continual violation of economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights. This volume brings together multiple perspectives on economic and social rights with the aim of establishing a theoretical context and analyzing the strengths and limitations of strategies that are currently being pursued, as well as the value added of a rights-based approach to promote social justice. (PDF document). May 2007.
Inter-linking between peace and security, democracy and the respect of human rights, and development has been enforced through the Millennium Declaration and the UN General Assembly Summit 2005. Therefore any strategy of change needs to take these three dimensions into consideration. It is worth highlighting that these challenges are not only related to the local strategy of change, but they are highly affected by the global context, mainly at the political and economic levels. March 2006.
Shadow report to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) by local Palestinian NGOs regarding the report of Israel concerning the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. May 2003 (pdf format).
This joint statement by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UN Commission on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteurs on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights states that ESC rights “provide principles and operational strategies to address the problems which are at the centre of the MDGs. They should be the criteria when establishing tools for measuring progress towards the achievement of MDGs” (doc format).
Dignity International, Hakijamii Trust of Kenya and Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (India) made a joint submission expressing the Draft Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights are a step in the right direction, however, they fall short of articulating the scope of certain human rights and the respective obligations of states which are already well elaborated in the various general comments to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. November 2007.
Poverty tends to be viewed as a problem that is infinite and incurable, to do with standards of living, and debate then turns around to what is a ‘minimal’ or ‘acceptable’ standard –is it $2 a day or more? Poverty should be seen as a violation of rights; solidarity and philanthropy should be debated together with the market and social justice, and the relationship between funders and fundraisers. By Firoze Manji, June 2005.
Within the framework of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Social Watch organized a workshop on ESCR and public policies with main focus on the models to combat poverty and the perspective of human rights. Members of the Social Watch Network from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Tanzania and Uruguay took part in this event. January 2005.
On December 10th 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has thus turned into the contemporary universal consensus on individual, collective and inalienable rights of all human beings. 10th December 2004.
A human rights approach to poverty reduction links poverty reduction to questions of obligation, rather than welfare or charity. It compels us to look behind national averages and identify the most vulnerable people – and design strategies to help them. Pdf format.
The recognition of the right to health is expressed in international instruments. The right to health is also dependent on the realization of ecomoic, social and cultural rights: food, housing, hygiene, proper work conditions, the exercise of various freedoms, in particular those associated with trade unions, etc. In other words, the preservation and promotion of health imply more than just access to medical care and medicines. This brochure is part of a series of the Human Rights Programme of CETIM. January 2007.
The report "Bringing Human Rights to Bear in Times of Crisis: A human rights analysis of government responses to the economic crisis" aims to deepen our understanding of how governments have conducted themselves and how effective economic policies have been in defending and strengthening the enjoyment of human rights in a time of multiple and interlocking social and economic crises. March 2010 (pdf)
The NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on ESC rights has launched a new phase of its campaign to ensure wide ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol. June 2009.
The NGO Coalition to the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR provides a focal point for NGOs at all levels (domestic, regional and international) who support the adoption of an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR.
Report of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to the Commission on Human Rights on a draft Optional Protocol for the consideration of communications in relation to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The document includes the following sections: ESC Rights within the UN Human rights system; the importance of the proposed Optional Protocol; summary of the progress to date and the way ahead (doc format). It also provides links and excerpts of relevant documents (doc format). 2002.
Statement of the NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to the Open-Ended Working Group on Discussions on the Options for an Optional Protocol. January 2005.
The United Nations Human Rights Council approved by consensus an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Statement by the NGO coalition. June 2008.
The 2008 Social Watch Report, "Rights is the Answer", documents how governments are falling short in their commitment to eradicate poverty and achieve gender equity through the testimony of civil society groups in 59 countries. Its main message is that any solution to the multiple crises currently affecting the world requires a "rights-based approach". December 2008.
This manual is designed especially for facilitators who have gone through Dignity's Human Rights Based Development programmes who want to multiply these at the organisational, local, national, regional and other relevant contexts. October 2008.
This manual is an easy-to-use resource aimed at building human and institutional capacity to effectively use ESC rights, and responds to human rights defenders’ need for aid in integrating ESC rights into their active work. January 2008.
Overviews of innovative civil society practices adopted in six countries and analysis of the opportunities for increasing collaboration between civil society organizations and national public audit institutions. (PDF) March 2007.
A new report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by the independent expert on the effect of economic reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights concluded that current concepts of debt sustainability used by the Bretton Woods institutions do not sufficiently reflect Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and human rights related objectives. (PDF). February 2007.
The manual is a product of the increased attention that human rights scholarship and activism have recently given to economic, social and cultural rights. Its object is to provide human rights activists with guidance on how the international process could be used to support their domestic struggles. It looks at the concept of ICESCR obligations and its different types. Most of the rights in the ICESCR are examined in detail and the obligations under these rights analysed. (PDF document).
The legal protection countries give economic, social and cultural rights is considerably weaker than in the case of other rights and should be strengthened, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says in a report presented to the Economic and Social Council at its current session. Available for download in English, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic. July 2006.
This guide prepared by Fundar, the International Budget Project, and the International Human Rights Internship Program provides guidance to civil society organizations on how to use budget analysis as a tool to help assess a government's compliance with its ESC rights obligations. (PDF document). 2004.
This primer outlines some of the key features of the economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). It presents an overview of the rights, outlines their scope and content, and gives examples of violations and what can be done to address them. September 2005.
This manual includes the following sections: history, obligations of states, which are the specific ESC rights, selected governing standards, ESC rights and poverty, beneficiaries of ESC rights, case studies and useful links.
This link includes a list of recent Human Rights Watch reports that address, at least in part, economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to health care, education, and fair conditions of labour.
In the last few years, there have been many claims about whether or not trade liberalization enhances – or undermines – human rights, and about whether trade agreements should do more – or nothing – to promote human rights. A new article from the International Journal on Human Rights focuses on ways that human rights advocates can ensure that trade and trade rules promote rather than undermine human rights. (PDF document). January 2006.
This publication explores the use of general exception clauses in world trade agreements as a vehicle to protect human rights. In particular, it sets out to demonstrate how three specific exceptions—allowing States to take measures to protect public morals, human life or health, and public order—could be relevant to human rights. (PDF document). December 2005.
Given this context, and in preparation for the upcoming Hong Kong Ministerial in December 2005, The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) training seminar on trade and human rights (May 2005) aimed to increase advocates’ understanding of the dynamics of global trade and the WTO, and to equip them with practical strategies for making human rights arguments in the trade arena, specifically with respect to the "ecosoc" rights codified in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). PDF document. August 2005.
The debate on whether or not the WTO protects – or undermines – human rights, and on whether the WTO should do more – or nothing – to promote human rights has hardly progressed since it started, even though the terms ‘human rights’ and ‘WTO’ are more and more frequently juxtaposed, and the number of participants in the discussion is rising. April 2004, doc format.
This panel discussion was co-sponsored by Rights & Democracy and 3D? Trade - Human Rights - Equitable Economy. It was scheduled during the WTO's Fifth Ministerial Conference in September 2003. The panel, and this report of it, aim to depolarise discussions about human rights in trade by dispelling some of the recurring concerns expressed both by developing and developed countries (pdf format).
The goal of this resource is to serve as an advocacy tool for engagement with the CEDAW and ESCR Committees to more explicitly recognize the implementation of ESCR as a strategy to increase women's equality. March 2010.
The Montreal Principles were adopted at a meeting of experts held 7-10 December 2002 in Montreal, Canada. These principles are offered to guide the interpretation and implementation of the guarantees of non-discrimination and equal exercise and enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights that are established in different international instruments (PDF format).
In 2005 AWID asked over 50 activists working in diverse settings all over the world what strategies they found most useful in their efforts to improve economic and social rights for women? What were the greatest challenges they were encountering in their work? Did the ESCR framework actually fulfill its promise in presenting them with a new and more effective approach to their work? A new report synthesizes and analyzes some important examples and lessons that emerged through this investigative process. (PDF document). October 2006.
During the 61st session the Commission will adopt another resolution on "Women equal ownership of, access to and control over land and the equal rights to own property and to adequate housing". On this occasion the UN Rapporteur on the Right the Adequate Housing presented his report on Women and the right to housing, resulting from studies and regional consultations organized by civil society. Study by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component on the right to an adequate standard of living, Miloon Kothari. Pdf format, March 2005. Pdf format, March 2005.
Gender-based violence is a crosscutting and complex phenomenon that needs to be tackled on all fronts. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on Rights of Women in Africa provides a comprehensive mechanism for addressing gender-based violence in Africa. However, African women cannot access because only 4 member states of the African Union have ratified it. By Mary Wandia, November 2004.
This article states that “women are not only affected [by globalization] as part of the family and as a disadvantaged group of society, but also as a result of their position in the sexual division of work”.
This special edition by the Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) on food, presents a collection of information and documents on the rise in food prices worldwide and how it is affecting poor populations with a rights-based approach. April 2008.
Despite real advances in China, India, South Africa, and several Latin American and Caribbean countries, overall there has been little progress in reducing the number of victims of hunger and malnutrition around the world, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Jean Ziegler said in a report presented to the UN Human Rights Council on its seventh session from 3-28 March 2008.
Each year, more than ten million children die before their fifth birthdays, about half of them from causes associated with malnutrition. However, people have a right to adequate food, and to be free from hunger, as a matter of international law. The right is articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and several other international instruments. PDF format.
Economic, social and cultural rights include the right to an adequate standard of living. The human right to adequate food is explicitly recognized as part of this broader human right. While the focus here is on food, social organizations have much to learn from the work that has emerged on health, education, housing, and other issues relating to an adequate standard of living. June 2004.
The applicants ask the City to provide them and other similarly situated persons with 50 litres of free water per person per day, as well as the option of water credit which is afforded to the wealthier and largely white residents of Johannesburg who get water on credit, rather than having to use pre-payment meters. August 2009.
A collaborative project developed under the leadership of the Centre for Legal and Social Studies (CELS) in Argentina, the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and the Social Rights Advocacy Centre (SRAC) in Canada, compiles and analyses paradigmatic jurisprudence and other decisions from national courts and international human rights bodies related to economic, social and cultural rights. February 2007.