ICJ and Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Forum on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The ICJ convened a Forum of international legal experts and Myanmar civil society actors in Yangon from the 24 to 25 November 2018 on Myanmar’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Representing each of Myanmar’s 14 States and Regions, more than 130 civil society members attended the event, which was co-hosted with the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission in collaboration with Dan Church Aid, Norwegian Church Aid, Equality Myanmar and the Local Resource Center.

The ICJ’s Asia Pacific Regional Director, Frederick Rawski, introduced the Forum objectives which were to raise awareness of the rights, obligations and reporting processes associated with Myanmar’s ratification of the ICESCR on 6 October 2017.

As a State Party to the ICESCR, Myanmar is obliged to respect, protect and fulfill a variety of human rights including the rights to: decent work, an adequate standard of living, adequate housing, food, water and sanitation, social security, health, and education.

The Chairperson of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Virginia Brás Gomes, discussed the vital role civil society plays in documenting and providing information about human rights challenges, and advocating for law to be enforced and interpreted in compliance with the State’s international law obligations.

Virginia B. Dandan of the Philippines, a former Chairperson of the Committee, described the rights protected under ICESCR and highlighted the universality of human rights and the indivisibility of economic, social and cultural rights from other human rights including protection from discrimination.

Visiting Myanmar from the ICJ’s Southern Africa Office, legal adviser Timothy Fish Hodgson, ICJ Legal Adviser in the ICJ Africa Programme, discussed from a comparative perspective the justiciability of ESC rights in South Africa, and the roles lawyers and other civil society actors have played in progressing rights protections.

Legal advisers from the ICJ’s Myanmar Team moderated a series of panel discussions where civil society representatives discussed challenges and opportunities related to the realization of ESC rights in Myanmar.

Separate to this initiative, the visiting international experts also travelled to Nay Pyi Taw to engage with government. Myanmar’s first State report to the ESCR Committee is due in late 2019, also opening opportunities for civil society engagement.

This event was part of the ICJ’s ongoing effort to convene civil society actors to discuss the promotion and protection of human rights through legal mechanisms.

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