Rights in Focus

Economic, social and cultural rights are socioeconomic human rights, such as the right to education, right to housing, right to an adequate standard of living, the right to health and the right to benefit from cultural life and scientific advancement. These rights are recognised and protected in international and regional human rights treaties, and in the constitutions and domestic laws of most countries. States have a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfill economic, social and cultural rights and are required to take "progressive action" towards their fulfilment.

The sections below provide an introduction to some of the core economic and social rights, explaining how they are protected in law and key elements necessary for their realization.

What are Economic, Social and Cultural rights?

Economic, social and cultural rights are part of the body of human rights law that developed in the aftermath of World War II. Human rights law includes all economic and social rights, as well as civil and political rights like the right to free speech and the right to a fair trial. These rights are deeply intertwined: for example, the right to speak freely means little without a basic education, the right to vote means little if you are suffering from starvation. Similarly, the right to work means little if you are not allowed to meet and assemble in groups to discuss work conditions.