Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Sarah Joseph and Adam McBeth
Chapter 2: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: An Examination of State Obligations
Manisuli Ssenyonjo 1 Introduction Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (‘ESC rights’) are protected in several international human rights treaties, the most comprehensive of which is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (‘ICESCR’ or the ‘Covenant’).1 On 10 December 2008 the United Nations (‘UN’) General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR,2 which provides the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (‘CESCR’), an expert body which monitors the implementation of ESC rights under the ICESCR, with three new roles: (i) to receive and consider individual and group communications claiming ‘a violation of any of the economic, social and cultural rights set forth in the Covenant’; (ii) to receive and consider inter-State communications to the effect that a State party claims that another State party is ‘not fulfilling its obligations under the Covenant’; and (iii) to conduct an inquiry in cases where the Committee receives reliable information indicating ‘grave or systematic violations’ by a State party of any ESC rights set forth in the ICESCR.3 The Optional Protocol will come into force after ratification by the required number of ten States in accordance with Article 18 of the Optional Protocol. This will usher in a new era of accountability for violations of ESC rights in international law and dispel claims that ESC rights under the ICESCR were not intended to be justiciable.4 This means that, more than ever before, it is 1 Opened for signature 16 December 1966, 993 UNTS 3 (entered into force 3...
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