National human rights institutions (NHRIs)—defined generally as independent bodies, officially established by legislation or constitution with a specific mandate to protect and promote human rights—have a number of unique institutional characteristics that can make them effective monitors of economic and social rights:


Kieran Fitzpatrick, Director of the Asia-Pacific Forum of NHRIs
discusses CESR's contribution to the work of APF members.
* NHRIs have a legally defined relationship with the state, which gives them authority to monitor compliance with international human rights norms;

* NHRIs rely on a broader set of advocacy tools than the judiciary or civil society groups—as well as a quasi-judicial competence to receive complaints and scrutinize law and practice; they provide advice, assistance and capacity building to government;

* Uniquely positioned between government, civil society and the UN human rights system, NHRIs can bring together various governmental and non-governmental actors;

* As permanent institutions, NHRIs are able to track issues over extended periods to identify trends in the level of rights fulfillment.

Related links:
Realizing Rights Through the Sustainable Development Goals: The Role of National Human Rights Institutions (CESR/DIHR, 2015)
Defending Dignity: A Manual for National Human Rights Institutions on Monitoring Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESR/APF, 2015)
National Human Rights Institutions Forum
Toolkit for Collaboration with National Human Rights Institutions (UNDP/OHCHR, 2010)
Equality for Women: A Handbook for National Human Rights Institutions on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (EQUITAS, 2008)
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: a Handbook for National Human Rights Institutions (OHCHR Professional Training Series No. 12, 2005)
International Roundtable on National Institutions Implementing Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (New Delhi, India, 2005)
General Comment No. 10: The role of national human rights institutions in the protection of economic, social and cultural rights (Committee on Economic and Social Rights, 1998)
Despite their potential, however, NHRIs have traditionally been less active in protecting and promoting economic and social rights than civil and political rights. Engaging in debates about how policies affect employment, health, housing, social security, and education requires knowledge of how these issues manifest in practice. Many NHRIs lack this requisite expertise, hampering their potential in relation to economic and social rights monitoring.

Identifying appropriate methodological approaches for NHRIs that can supplement their traditional fact-finding work—including building competency in community consultation; collecting and analyzing primary and secondary data; and interpreting economic, including budgetary, information—and prioritizing their implementation is therefore crucial.

The Center for Economic and Social Rights is committed to engaging NHRIs as key stakeholders in our efforts to empower and build the capacities of human rights accountability mechanisms to advocate more effectively for the fulfillment of economic, social and cultural rights. In partnership with the Asia Pacific Forum of National Institutions, CESR has recently completed a training manual for NHRIs on using new methodologies for monitoring economic, and social rights.

The goal of this work is to increase the number of NHRIs worldwide producing strong and methodologically sound reports on governments’ obligation to fulfill their economic and social rights, and also to increase the number of governments acting on the recommendations of such reports. To achieve its objective, CESR is seeking to create opportunities for sharing experiences and mutual learning among NHRIs on monitoring economic and social rights and to support specific NHRIs in incorporating OPERA in their monitoring initiatives.

Malaysia: new report on right to education for disabled children has important lessons for government
by Holly Stubbs
January 15th, 2016
The National Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and CESR are working to ensure children with disabilities are not denied their right to education.
Defending Dignity: APF-CESR manual for NHRIs on economic and social rights monitoring


Monitoring manual: CESR and the Asia-Pacific Forum present a new manual designed to strengthen the role of National Human Rights Institutions in monitoring ESC rights.
National Human Rights Institutions can help ensure post-2015 goals deliver
June 2nd, 2015
Briefing: A new document from CESR and the Danish Institute for Human Rights explains the role National Human Rights Institutions can and must play in post-2015 development.
Strictly business: national rights institutions and the private sector
June 25th, 2014
Blog: National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) have a critical part to play in making sure the private sector be called to account for its impact on human rights.
OPERA in the Occupied Territories
by Luke Holland
May 30th, 2014
Blog: CESR is working closely with Palestine's Independent Commission on Human Rights to support its efforts protect economic and social rights.
Supporting human rights institutions in the Asia-Pacific region
May 30th, 2014
Partnership: CESR is working closely with the Asia Pacific Forum to support the work of National Human Rights Institutions in Malaysia, New Zealand and Palestine.
New Zealand earthquake recovery: empowering people to claim their rights
January 29th, 2014
Report: A new report from the New Zealand Human Rights Commission - the fruit of a collaboration with CESR - analyses the human rights issues at stake in the Canterbury earthquake recovery.
Austerity ‘undermining human rights’, says Council of Europe Commissioner
December 5th, 2013
Publication: A new Council of Europe Issue Paper, commissioned from CESR, assesses the human rights impacts of austerity measures and sets out an agenda for change.
Accountability in the Post-2015 Development Framework: What role for National Human Rights Institutions?
August 14th, 2013
Thanks to their unique bridging role between the government and civil society, together with their human rights expertise, NHRIs can play a key role in the post-2015 framework.
‘OPERA’ tour strikes a chord with partners around the world
July 23rd, 2013
News article: In recent months, CESR has been sharing its OPERA framework with our partners in New Zealand, Malaysia and Slovenia.
Supporting Asia-Pacific rights institutions to engage with MDGs
October 17th, 2012
News articles: CESR is helping NHRIs address is how to produce stronger and more methodologically rigorous monitoring of governments’ compliance with their obligation to fulfil economic, social and cultural rights.
CESR contributes to major UN publication on future of MDGs
UNDP Publication: CESR Researcher Allison Corkery has contributed a chapter to the new UNDP publication 'Accelerating Achievement of MDGs by Ways and Means of Economic and Social Rights'.
Kenya's rights body issues landmark call on reproductive health
In May 2012 the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) released the findings of its national public inquiry into sexual and reproductive health. Its groundbreaking final report was produced with the support of CESR.
Strengthening institutional protection of economic and social rights in Kenya
CESR has been working closely with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights to support their pioneering work on economic and social rights.
National Human Rights Institutions and Economic and Social Rights
June 10th, 2011
This 2011 CESR briefing examines national human rights institutions as monitors of economic, social and cultural rights.