Economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) include the rights to decent work, an adequate standard of living, housing, food, water and sanitation, social security, health, and education.
ESCR are thus as essential as the freedom of expression or the right to a fair trial for ensuring human dignity.
States have repeatedly affirmed their belief in the universality and interdependence of all human rights, and their commitment to treat economic, social and cultural rights on an equal footing with civil and political rights.
To date, 160 States have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and are therefore obligated to respect, protect and fulfil these rights.
Major obstacles remain
However, despite the guarantee of ESCR under international law, victims of violations of these rights still face major obstacles in accessing justice, effective remedies and reparations.
The ICJ is working with various actors at the national, regional and international levels to identify and address these obstacles, ensure accountability and combat impunity in cases of violations of ESCR.
Our means for achieving these objectives include legal advocacy, especially at the national and regional levels, so as to improve legal frameworks for the protection of ESCR and bring them in line with international standards.
We also offer training and engage in dialogue with civil society actors, lawyers and judges so that they can use international law more systematically in the adjudication of ESCR claims at the domestic and regional levels.
We further provide legal and advocacy support to individuals and groups whose ESCR have been threatened or violated, and help them bringing their cases to courts.
At the international level, we advocate for stronger standards and mechanisms for the enforcement and protection of ESCR.
This includes promoting ratification of the new optional protocol to the ICESCR by States that, once in force, will allow victims of ESCR violations that have been unable to obtain justice at the national level to bring their case to the relevant UN Committee for review.