Activist???s Manual on the ICESCR[pdf 1.25 mb]
CESR's Guide to the Legal Framework of ESCR
Justiciability of ESCR
Optional Protocol to the ICESCR
Other Resources and Links
Workshop Report: Developing a Common Framework for the Promotion of ESCR[pdf 123.81 kb]
What are Economic, Social, and Cultural rights?
Economic, social, and cultural rights include the human right to work,the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, clothing,and housing, the right to physical and mental health, the right tosocial security, the right to a healthy environment, and the right toeducation. For more information on a specific ESC right, click one of the links on the left.
ESCR are part of a larger body of human rights law that developed in the aftermath of World War II.Human rights law includes all economic and social rights, plus civiland political rights like the right to free speech and the right to afair trial. These rights are deeply intertwined: for example, the rightto speak freely means little without a basic education. Similarly, theright to work means little if you are not allowed to meet and assemblein groups to discuss work conditions.
The most important human rights law is in the International Bill of Human Rights, which includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Economic and social rights are also included in numerous other human rights legal instruments. Among the most important are:
The U.N. human rights system is rooted inthe International Bill of Rights, but also includes additional humanrights treaties. Each of the treaties is governed by a Treaty Body thatprovides authoritative interpretations of its terms. The Treaty Bodiesalso publish General Comments, which elaborate on specific articles ofthe treaties. For a list of General Comments to the ICESCR, click here. For more information on the U.N. human rights system, click here.
CESR has prepared a Guide to the LegalFramework of economic, social, and cultural rights that elaborates onhow those rights exist in international law. Click here for the Guide. In 1995, CESR hosteda set of workshops that explored the theoretical and practical concernssurrounding economic, social, and cultural rights advocacy andpractice. Click here for the Workshop Report[pdf 123.81 kb].
Why are they called "rights"?
All the world's great religious and moral traditions, philosophers, andrevolutionaries, recognize that human beings deserve to live infreedom, justice, dignity and economic security. The International Billof Rights grew out of these traditions, and calls for all governmentsto make sure their citizens have human rights -- civil, political,social, cultural and economic. Referring to economic, social andcultural issues as "rights" uses the legal framework developed underinternational law, and gives individuals legitimate claims againststate and non-state actors for protection and guarantees.
During the Cold War and trickle-down economics theory, ESCR werefrequently mis-labled as "benefits," meaning individuals had no basicclaim to things like food and shelter. After the Covenant came intoforce in 1976, jurisprudence around economic and social rights began todevelop and great progress following the formation of the UnitedNations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
Economic and social rights require governments and other powerfulactors to ensure that people have access to basic needs, and thatpeople have a voice in decisions affecting their well-being. Povertyand injustice are neither inevitable nor natural, but arise fromdeliberate decisions and policies, and the human rights legal frameworkprovides a way to hold public officials accountable for developmentpolicies and priorities.
What are the minimum requirements?
States are bound to ensure minimum human rights regardless of their resource constraints. For ESC rights, minimum core requirements include availablefoodstuffs for the population, essential primary health care, basicshelter and housing, and the most basic forms of education. The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights elaborated on state obligations under General Comment 3: The Nature of States Parties Obligations
How do states fulfill their minimum requirements?