Debating Economic and Social Rights

Photo:Shutterstock/Donatas Dabravolskas (All rights reserved)

Photo: Boris Stroujko/Shutterstock (All rights reserved)

Are legal protections useful to activists fighting poverty?

Almost 70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave equal recognition to economic and social rights, alongside civil and political rights. Yet there is continued controversy as to whether the human rights to food, housing, education, or health deserve such recognition or are properly the subject of legal protection and adjudication. Why?

Is it simply a reflection of a political bias that distrusts the welfare state model that is supposedly implicit in programs to fulfil these rights? Or are there genuine differences between, for example, a right to food and a right to free speech that suggest only the latter can be protected effectively through law and the courts? In any case, should struggles for social justice rely on the courts? How does the reframing of these struggles in the language of human rights help?




Economic and social rights force us to pressure a return to the state

November 6, 2019
By: Katharine G. Young
Español | Français

Constitutional entrenchment is only part of the battle for recognition of economic and social rights, ...

What does that mean here? Localizing human rights in the UK

October 31, 2019
By: Koldo Casla & Kath Dalmeny

Some people believe that there is a lot of skepticism towards international human rights in England, ...

The United States’ Global Water Strategy must recognize these rights at home

June 26, 2019
By: Inga T. Winkler & JoAnn Kamuf Ward

The United States—and many other wealthy nations—are facing an invisible but profound crisis of sanitation ...

Irish Traveller communities in Cork monitor and campaign for social rights

October 25, 2018
By: Koldo Casla

Traveller communities in Ireland are using international human rights law to monitor their housing conditions ...

Court judgements are shaking political foundations—and upholding rights

September 14, 2017
By: James A. Goldston

In Kenya, Guatemala and Brazil, courts have defied presidents and shaken up politics—is court-centric ...

Evicted rights in Spain: no room of one’s own

June 7, 2017
By: Koldo Casla

Thousands of people are being evicted in Spain due to austerity measures, and women are disproportionately ...

Human rights are not losing traction in the global South

November 22, 2016
By: Sakiko Fukuda-Parr 

In the debate on whether human rights have stalled, analysts are ignoring huge strides in socioeconomic ...

Putting universality into the Universal Periodic Review

October 24, 2016
By: Allison Corkery 

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review is systematically marginalizing economic and social ...

The UK government cannot reconcile austerity measures with human rights

July 20, 2016
By: Jamie Burton & Alice Donald & Koldo Casla

UK governments have claimed austerity measures are necessary while ignoring the disproportionate adverse ...

The International Labour Organization: workers rights champion or 90-pound weakling?

July 18, 2016
By: Gordon Digiacomo

The ILO oversees the global protection of workers’ rights. It should consider instigating and/or supporting ...

Using budget analysis to confront governments: what practitioners need to know

May 2, 2016
By: Ian Allen & Megan Manion & Thandi Matthews & Robert Ralston

Millions of dollars that could address socio-economic disparities are lost through illicit financial ...

Where’s the evidence? Moving from ideology to data in economic and social rights

January 27, 2015
By: Octavio Luiz Motta Ferraz
Español | Português

To advance the polarized openGlobalRights debate on economic and social rights, we need more empirical ...

Open budgets, open politics?

October 30, 2014
By: Dan Berliner
Español | Français

Budget transparency has the potential to make governments more accountable, but research shows that ...

Workers’ rights really are human rights

October 21, 2014
By: Virginia Mantouvalou

Workers’ rights are human rights, and we have a moral and legal obligation to protect them. No one should ...

Winners and losers: how budgeting for human rights can help the poor

September 25, 2014
By: Helena Hofbauer
Español | Bahasa | Français | 简体中文

Recent research reveals the impact that international covenants could have on government taxation and ...

Beyond the courts – protecting economic and social rights

September 22, 2014
By: Irene Khan  & David Petrasek
Français | Español | العربية

The overlapping and interdependent nature of human rights suggests efforts to protect only some rights ...

Yes, economic and social rights really are human rights

August 8, 2014
By: Stanley Ibe

The argument that socio-economic rights are not “real” human rights is far too simplistic. While the ...

Human rights and social justice: the in(di)visible link

July 3, 2013
By: Ignacio Saiz & Alicia Ely Yamin

The distinction that Aryeh Neier draws between human rights and social justice is premised on a limited ...