“…the right to live a dignified life can never be attained unless all basic necessities of life – work, food, housing, health care, education and culture – are adequately and equitably available to everyone1”
CRISTINA MEJÍA OCAMPO
MASTER 2 HUMAN RIGHTS HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRES & INTERNATIONALCOOPERATION
INSTITUTE DES HAUTES ETUDES EUROPÉENNES Strasbourg - 2011
Fact Sheet No.16 (Rev.1), CESCR
INTRODUCTION Different nations and individuals worldwide are currently facing alarming levels of deprivation that are against the right to live with dignity. According to the UNDP: "a fifth of the developing world's population goes hungry every night, a quarter lacks access to even abasic necessity like safe drinking-water, and a third lives in a state of abject poverty at such a margin of human existence that words simply fail to describe it2". Problems such as misery, unemployment, hunger, diseases, illiteracy, among others, have been directly influenced by global changes and constitute serious violations of social, economic and cultural rights.
These rights havehistorically received less attention in relation to civil and political rights. Despite of the repetitive efforts of the international community to give both of them an equal status and to maintain a coherent system of law, they have suffered from a second-class status regarding mechanisms of enforcement. Besides, public policies and practices have not been yet substantially modified by each nation to keepup with legal evolution. Such situation had led the international community to intervene and to make additional efforts in order to enforce the law on states parties. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) represents the most important international legal framework for protecting these basic human rights, as well as it Optional Protocol, which aims to strengthit. The implementation of the ICESCR is monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) through the submission of reports by states parties and the dialogue with its representatives regarding the main challenges and difficulties faced by each contracting government.
This paper presents an overview of the mandate, activities and way of working of the CESCR, includingthe reporting process, the concluding observations and the optional protocol to the ICESCR, which provides an effective remedy for domestic and individual complaints. It also gives an idea of the core provisions of the ICESCR and the importance of respecting economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR). At the end of the paper readers will find a critical assessment on the Committee’s work,emphasizing the importance of renewed commitment to the full realization of ESCR3 and the remaining challenge not only for the international community but also at the national, regional and individual level.
UNDP, Human Development Report 1994, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 2 http://www.un.org/millennium/law/iv-3.htm
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(ICESCR) The ICESCR was adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200 A (XXI) of 16/12/1966. After 20 years of debates, it entered into force on 3 January 19764. The Covenant is part of the Bill of Human Rights5, it contains some of the most important international legal provisions stating economic, social and cultural rights, including rightsrelating to self determination (Art.2), to labor rights (to work in just and favorable conditions and to join and form trade unions - Art. 6,7,8), to social protection (including social insurance - Art.9), to an adequate standard of living (adequate food, clothing and housing - Art.11); protection and assistance to the family (Art.10); to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health...