An introduction to economic, social and cultural rights

Despite having the same binding legal force as civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights are not so perceived.

Indeed, a number of States view these rights as aspirational, dangerously reminiscent of a planned economy or cite developing country status as a reason for non-implementation.

Under our “Evolving Law Programme”, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) aims to create a legal framework for the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights, depoliticising the current debate by:

  1. encouraging the legal implementation of these rights through international mechanisms; and
  2. analysing State and international practice to illustrate the specific content of economic and social rights.

Economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to food, health (click here for the ICJ’s Report on the Right to Health), housing or education, are among the most frequently violated of human rights, however, there is currently no legal remedy at the universal level for such violations. As the attached ICJ produced documentation demonstrates, this organisation actively lobbies for the adoption of an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR that would allow individual and/or group complaints and remedies for treaty violations. As part of this effort, the ICJ:

  1. Provides legal expertise to the Independent Expert (click here for the ICJ’s Report of the Roundtable on the Draft Optional Protocol convened in Geneva on 30 November 2001), appointed by the Commission of Human Rights tasked with reporting on the draft Optional Protocol;
  2. Arranges consultations and informal meetings with key States;
  3. Provides legal advice on contentious provisions of the draft instrument to the Expert and Working Group, when the latter is established in 2003;
  4. Provides explanatory documents such as fact sheets (click here for the ICJ’s fact sheets) on the interpretation of economic, social and cultural rights to be used by the ICJ and other key actors, (States, non-governmental organisations and other concerned expert bodies) during the Commission on Human Rights; and
  5. Seeks State support for the draft instrument.
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