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International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
ICESCR members.svg
Parties and signatories to the ICESCR:
  signed and ratified
  signed but not ratified
  neither signed nor ratified
TypeUnited Nations General Assembly Resolution
Signed16 December 1966[1]
LocationUnited Nations Headquarters, New York City
Effective3 January 1976[1]
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations
Works related to United Nations Trusteeship Agreements listed by the General Assembly as Non-Self-Governing at Wikisource
LanguagesFrench, English, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic[2]
ECOSOC Resolution 2007/25: Support to Non-Self-Governing Territories by the specialized agencies and international institutions associated with the United Nations (26 July 2007)

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 16 December 1966 through GA. Resolution 2200A (XXI), and came in force from 3 January 1976.[1] It commits its parties to work toward the granting of economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR) to the Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories and individuals, including labour rights and the right to health, the right to education, and the right to an adequate standard of living. As of July 2020, the Covenant has 171 parties.[3] A further four countries, including the United States, have signed but not ratified the Covenant.

The ICESCR (and its Optional Protocol) is part of the International Bill of Human Rights, along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including the latter's first and second Optional Protocols.[4]

The Covenant is monitored by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.[5]


The ICESCR has its roots in the same process that led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[6] A "Declaration on the Essential Rights of Man" had been proposed at the 1945 San Francisco Conference which led to the founding of the United Nations, and the Economic and Social Council was given the task of drafting it.[4] Early on in the process, the document was split into a declaration setting forth general principles of human rights, and a convention or covenant containing binding commitments. The former evolved into the UDHR and was adopted on 10 December 1948.[4]

Drafting continued on the convention, but there remained significant differences between UN members on the relative importance of negative civil and political versus positive economic, social and cultural rights.[7] These eventually caused the convention to be split into two separate covenants, "one to contain civil and political rights and the other to contain economic, social and cultural rights."[8] The two covenants were to contain as many similar provisions as possible, and be opened for signature simultaneously.[8] Each would also contain an article on the right of all peoples to self-determination.[9]

The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realisation of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.[10]

The first document became the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the second the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The drafts were presented to the UN General Assembly for discussion in 1954, and adopted in 1966.[11]


The Covenant follows the structure of the UDHR and the ICCPR, with a preamble and thirty-one articles, divided into five parts.[12]

Part 1 (Article 1) recognises the right of all peoples to self-determination, including the right to "freely determine their political status",[13] pursue their economic, social and cultural goals, and manage and dispose of their own resources. It recognises a negative right of a people not to be deprived of its means of subsistence,[14] and imposes an obligation on those parties still responsible for non-self governing and trust territories (colonies) to encourage and respect their self-determination.[15]

Part 2 (Articles 2–5) establishes the principle of "progressive realisation" (see below.) It also requires the rights be recognised "without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status".[16] The rights can only be limited by law, in a manner compatible with the nature of the rights, and only for the purpose of "promoting the general welfare in a democratic society".[17]

Part 3 (Articles 6–15) lists the rights themselves. These include rights to

  • work, under "just and favourable conditions",[18] with the right to form and join trade unions (Articles 6, 7, and 8);
  • social security, including social insurance (Article 9);
  • family life, including paid parental leave and the protection of children (Article 10);
  • an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and the "continuous improvement of living conditions" (Article 11);
  • health, specifically "the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health" (Article 12);
  • education, including free universal primary education, generally available secondary education and equally accessible higher education. This should be directed to "the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity",[19] and enable all persons to participate effectively in society (Articles 13 and 14);
  • participation in cultural life (Article 15).

As negative and positive rights are rights that oblige either action (positive rights) or inaction (negative rights), many of these aforementioned rights include specific actions which must be undertaken to realise them, as they are positive economic, social and cultural rights that go beyond relatively inaction-based civil and political negative rights.

Part 4 (Articles 16–25) governs reporting and monitoring of the Covenant and the steps taken by the parties to implement it. It also allows the monitoring body – originally the United Nations Economic and Social Council – now the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – see below – to make general recommendations to the UN General Assembly on appropriate measures to realise the rights (Article 21)

Part 5 (Articles 26–31) governs ratification, entry into force, and amendment of the Covenant.

Core provisions

Principle of progressive realisation

Article 2 of the Covenant imposes a duty on all parties to

take steps... to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.[20]

This is known as the principle of "progressive realisation". It acknowledges that some of the rights (for example, the right to health) may be difficult in practice to achieve in a short period of time, and that states may be subject to resource constraints, but requires them to act as best they can within their means.

The principle differs from that of the ICCPR, which obliges parties to "respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction" the rights in that Convention.[21] However, it does not render the Covenant meaningless. The requirement to "take steps" imposes a continuing obligation to work towards the realisation of the rights.[22] It also rules out deliberately regressive measures which impede that goal. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also interprets the principle as imposing minimum core obligations to provide, at the least, minimum essential levels of each of the rights.[23] If resources are highly constrained, this should include the use of targeted programmes aimed at the vulnerable.[24]

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights regards legislation as an indispensable means for realizing the rights which is unlikely to be limited by resource constraints. The enacting of anti-discrimination provisions and the establishment of enforceable rights with judicial remedies within national legal systems are considered to be appropriate means. Some provisions, such as anti-discrimination laws, are already required under other human rights instruments, such as the ICCPR.[25]

Labour rights

Article 6 of the Covenant recognizes the right to work as defined by the opportunity of everyone to gain a means of sustenance by means of freely chosen or accepted work.[26] Parties are required to take "appropriate steps" to safeguard this right, including technical and vocational training and economic policies aimed at steady economic development, and ultimately full employment. The right implies parties must guarantee equal access to employment and protect workers from being unfairly deprived of employment. They must prevent discrimination in the workplace and ensure access for the disadvantaged.[27] The fact that work must be freely chosen or accepted means parties must prohibit forced or child labour.[28]

The work referred to in Article 6 must be decent work.[29] This is effectively defined by Article 7 of the Covenant, which recognises the right of everyone to "just and favourable" working conditions. These are in turn defined as fair wages with equal pay for equal work, sufficient to provide a decent living for workers and their dependants; safe working conditions; equal opportunity in the workplace; and sufficient rest and leisure, including limited working hours and regular, paid holidays.

Article 8 recognises the right of workers to form or join trade unions and protects the right to strike. However, it allows these rights to be restricted for members of the armed forces, police, or government administrators. Several parties have placed reservations on this clause, allowing it to be interpreted in a manner consistent with their constitutions (e.g., China, Mexico), or extending the restriction of union rights to groups such as firefighters (e.g., Japan).[3]

Right to social security

Article 9 of the Covenant recognises "the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance".[30] It requires parties to provide some form of social insurance scheme to protect people against the risks of sickness, disability, maternity, employment injury, unemployment or old age; to provide for survivors, orphans, and those who cannot afford health care; and to ensure that families are adequately supported. Benefits from such a scheme must be adequate, accessible to all, and provided without discrimination.[31] The Covenant does not restrict the form of the scheme, and both contributory and non-contributory schemes are permissible (as are community-based and mutual schemes).[32]

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has noted persistent problems with the implementation of this right, with very low levels of access.[33]

Several parties, including France and Monaco, have reservations allowing them to set residence requirements in order to qualify for social benefits. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights permits such restrictions, provided they are proportionate and reasonable.[34]

Right to family life

Article 10 of the Covenant recognises the family as "the natural and fundamental group unit of society", and requires parties to accord it "the widest possible protection and assistance".[35] Parties must ensure that their citizens are free to establish families and that marriages are freely contracted and not forced.[36] Parties must also provide paid leave or adequate social security to mothers before and after childbirth, an obligation which overlaps with that of Article 9. Finally, parties must take "special measures" to protect children from economic or social exploitation, including setting a minimum age of employment and barring children from dangerous and harmful occupations.[37]

Right to an adequate standard of living

Article 11 recognises the right to an adequate standard of living. This includes, but is not limited to, the right to adequate food, clothing, housing, and "the continuous improvement of living conditions".[38] It also creates an obligation on parties to work together to eliminate world hunger.

The right to adequate food, also referred to as the right to food, is interpreted as requiring "the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture".[39] This must be accessible to all, implying an obligation to provide special programmes for the vulnerable.[40] This must also ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need, taking into account the problems of food-importing and food-exporting countries.[41] The right to adequate food also implies a right to water.[42]

The right to adequate housing, also referred to as the right to housing, is "the right to live somewhere in security, peace and dignity."[43] It requires "adequate privacy, adequate space, adequate security, adequate lighting and ventilation, adequate basic infrastructure and adequate location with regard to work and basic facilities – all at a reasonable cost."[43] Parties must ensure security of tenure and that access is free of discrimination, and progressively work to eliminate homelessness. Forced evictions, defined as "the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection," are a prima facie violation of the Covenant.[44]

The right to adequate clothing, also referred to as the right to clothing, has not been authoritatively defined and has received little in the way of academic commentary or international discussion. What is considered "adequate" has only been discussed in specific contexts, such as refugees, the disabled, the elderly, or workers.[45]

Right to health

Article 12 of the Covenant recognises the right of everyone to "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health".[46] "Health" is understood not just as a right to be healthy, but as a right to control one's own health and body (including reproduction), and be free from interference such as torture or medical experimentation.[47] States must protect this right by ensuring that everyone within their jurisdiction has access to the underlying determinants of health, such as clean water, sanitation, food, nutrition and housing, and through a comprehensive system of healthcare, which is available to everyone without discrimination, and economically accessible to all.[48]

Article 12.2 requires parties to take specific steps to improve the health of their citizens, including reducing infant mortality and improving child health, improving environmental and workplace health, preventing, controlling and treating epidemic diseases, and creating conditions to ensure equal and timely access to medical services for all. These are considered to be "illustrative, non-exhaustive examples", rather than a complete statement of parties' obligations.[49]

The right to health is interpreted as requiring parties to respect women's reproductive rights, by not limiting access to contraception or "censoring, withholding or intentionally misrepresenting" information about sexual health.[50] They must also ensure that women are protected from harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation.[51]

The right to health is an inclusive right extending not only to timely and appropriate health care, but also to the underlying determinants of health, such as access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation, an adequate supply of safe food, nutrition and housing, healthy occupational and environmental conditions.[52]

Right to free education

Article 13 of the Covenant recognises the right of everyone to free education (free for the primary level only, and "the progressive introduction of free education" for the secondary and higher levels). This is to be directed towards "the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity",[19] and enable all persons to participate effectively in society. Education is seen both as a human right and as "an indispensable means of realizing other human rights", and so this is one of the longest and most important articles of the Covenant.[53]

Article 13.2 lists a number of specific steps parties are required to pursue to realise the right of education. These include the provision of free, universal and compulsory primary education, "generally available and accessible" secondary education in various forms (including technical and vocational training), and equally accessible higher education. All of these must be available to all without discrimination. Parties must also develop a school system (though it may be public, private, or mixed), encourage or provide scholarships for disadvantaged groups. Parties are required to make education free at all levels, either immediately or progressively; "[p]rimary education shall be compulsory and available free to all"; secondary education "shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education"; and "[h]igher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education".

Articles 13.3 and 13.4 require parties to respect the educational freedom of parents by allowing them to choose and establish private educational institutions for their children, also referred to as freedom of education. They also recognise the right of parents to "ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions".[54] This is interpreted as requiring public schools to respect the freedom of religion and conscience of their students, and as forbidding instruction in a particular religion or belief system unless non-discriminatory exemptions and alternatives are available.[55]

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights interpret the Covenant as also requiring states to respect the academic freedom of staff and students, as this is vital for the educational process.[56] It also considers corporal punishment in schools to be inconsistent with the Covenant's underlying principle of the dignity of the individual.[57]

Article 14 of the Covenant requires those parties which have not yet established a system of free compulsory primary education to rapidly adopt a detailed plan of action for its introduction "within a reasonable number of years".[58]

Right to participation in cultural life

Article 15 of the Covenant recognises the right of everyone to participate in cultural life, enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, and to benefit from the protection of the moral and material rights to any scientific discovery or artistic work they have created. The latter clause is sometimes seen as requiring the protection of intellectual property, but the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights interprets it as primarily protecting the moral rights of authors and "proclaim[ing] the intrinsically personal character of every creation of the human mind and the ensuing durable link between creators and their creations".[59] It thus requires parties to respect the right of authors to be recognised as the creator of a work. The material rights are interpreted as being part of the right to an adequate standard of living, and "need not extend over the entire lifespan of an author."[60]

Parties must also work to promote the conservation, development and diffusion of science and culture, "respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity",[61] and encourage international contacts and cooperation in these fields.


A number of parties have made reservations and interpretative declarations to their application of the Covenant.

Algeria interprets parts of Article 13, protecting the liberty of parents to freely choose or establish suitable educational institutions, so as not to "impair its right freely to organize its educational system."[3]

Bangladesh interprets the self-determination clause in Article 1 as applying in the historical context of colonialism. It also reserves the right to interpret the labour rights in Articles 7 and 8 and the non-discrimination clauses of Articles 2 and 3 within the context of its constitution and domestic law.[3]

Belgium interprets non-discrimination as to national origin as "not necessarily implying an obligation on States automatically to guarantee to foreigners the same rights as to their nationals. The term should be understood to refer to the elimination of any arbitrary behaviour but not of differences in treatment based on objective and reasonable considerations, in conformity with the principles prevailing in democratic societies."[3]

China restricts labour rights in Article 8 in a manner consistent with its constitution and domestic law.[3]

Egypt accepts the Covenant only to the extent it does not conflict with Islamic Sharia law. Sharia is "a primary source of legislation" under Article 2 of both the suspended 1973 Constitution and the 2011 Provisional Constitutional Declaration.[3]

France views the Covenant as subservient to the UN Charter. It also reserves the right to govern the access of aliens to employment, social security, and other benefits.[3]

India interprets the right of self-determination as applying "only to the peoples under foreign domination"[3] and not to apply to peoples within sovereign nation-states. It also interprets the limitation of rights clause and the rights of equal opportunity in the workplace within the context of its constitution.[3]

Indonesia interprets the self-determination clause (Article 1) within the context of other international law and as not applying to peoples within a sovereign nation-state.[3]

Ireland reserves the right to promote the Irish language.[3]

Japan reserved the right not to be bound to progressively introduce free secondary and higher education, the right to strike for public servant and the remuneration on public holidays.[3]

Kuwait interprets the non-discrimination clauses of Articles 2 and 3 within its constitution and laws, and reserves the right to social security to apply only to Kuwaitis. It also reserves the right to forbid strikes.[3]

Mexico restricts the labour rights of Article 8 within the context of its constitution and laws.[3]

Monaco interprets the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of national origin as "not necessarily implying an automatic obligation on the part of States to guarantee foreigners the same rights as their nationals",[3] and reserves the right to set residence requirements on the rights to work, health, education, and social security.

Myanmar has a general reservation to interpret "the right of self-determination" to not interfere with the established government or authorize any action to undermine the government. Additionally, the term does not apply to Section 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, 2008. Section 10 reads: "no part of the territory constituted in the union such as regions, states, union territories, and self-administered areas shall ever secede from the Union."[62][63]

New Zealand reserved the right not to apply Article 8 (the right to form and join trade unions) insofar as existing measures (which at the time included compulsory unionism and encouraged arbitration of disputes) were incompatible with it.[3]

Norway reserves the right to strike so as to allow for compulsory arbitration of some labour disputes.[3]

Pakistan has a general reservation to interpret the Covenant within the framework of its constitution.[3]

Thailand interprets the right to self-determination within the framework of other international law.[3]

Trinidad and Tobago reserves the right to restrict the right to strike of those engaged in essential occupations.

Turkey will implement the Covenant subject to the UN Charter. It also reserves the right to interpret and implement the right of parents to choose and establish educational institutions in a manner compatible with its constitution.[3]

United Kingdom views the Covenant as subservient to the UN Charter. It made several reservations regarding its overseas territories.[3]

United StatesAmnesty International writes that "The United States signed the Covenant in 1979 under the Carter administration but is not fully bound by it until it is ratified. For political reasons, the Carter administration did not push for the necessary review of the Covenant by the Senate, which must give its 'advice and consent' before the US can ratify a treaty. The Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations took the view that economic, social, and cultural rights were not really rights but merely desirable social goals and therefore should not be the object of binding treaties. The Clinton Administration did not deny the nature of these rights but did not find it politically expedient to engage in a battle with Congress over the Covenant. The George W. Bush administration followed in line with the view of the previous Bush administration."[64] The Obama Administration stated "The Administration does not seek action at this time" on the Covenant.[65] The Heritage Foundation, a critical conservative think tank, argues that signing it would obligate the introduction of policies that it opposes such as universal health care.[66]

Optional Protocol

  states parties   states that signed, but have not ratified   states that have not signed
  states parties
  states that signed, but have not ratified
  states that have not signed

The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a side-agreement to the Covenant which allows its parties to recognise the competence of the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights to consider complaints from individuals.[67]

The Optional Protocol was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 2008.[68] It was opened for signature on 24 September 2009,[69] and as of January 2020 has been signed by 45 parties and ratified by 24.[70] Having passed the threshold of required ratifications, it has entered into force on 5 May 2013.[71]

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a body of human rights experts tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Covenant. It consists of 18 independent human rights experts, elected for four-year terms, with half the members elected every two years.[72]

Unlike other human rights monitoring bodies, the committee was not established by the treaty it oversees. Rather, it was established by the Economic and Social Council following the failure of two previous monitoring bodies.[36]

All states parties are required to submit regular reports to the Committee outlining the legislative, judicial, policy and other measures they have taken to implement the rights affirmed in the Covenant. The first report is due within two years of ratifying the Covenant; thereafter reports are due every five years.[73] The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of "concluding observations".

The Committee typically meets every May and November in Geneva.[74]

Parties to the covenant

The following are parties to the covenant:[75]

State Date signed Date ratified, acceded or succeeded Notes
Afghanistan 24 January 1983
Albania 4 October 1991
Algeria 10 December 1968 12 September 1989
Angola 10 January 1992
Antigua and Barbuda 3 July 2019
Argentina 19 February 1968 8 August 1986
Armenia 13 September 1993
Australia 18 December 1972 10 December 1975
Austria 10 December 1973 10 September 1978
Azerbaijan 13 August 1992
Bahamas 4 December 2008 23 December 2008
Bahrain 27 September 2007
Bangladesh 5 October 1998
Barbados 5 January 1973
Belarus 19 March 1968 12 November 1973 Signed and ratified as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Belgium 10 December 1968 21 April 1983
Belize 6 September 2000 9 March 2015
Benin 12 March 1992
Plurinational State of Bolivia 12 August 1982
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1 September 1993 The former Yugoslavia had signed the Covenant on 8 August 1967 and ratified it on 2 June 1971.
Brazil 24 January 1992
Bulgaria 8 October 1968 21 September 1970
Burkina Faso 4 January 1999
Burundi 9 May 1990
Cambodia 17 October 1980 26 May 1992 Democratic Kampuchea had signed the Covenant on 17 October 1980
Cameroon 27 June 1984
Canada 19 May 1976
Cape Verde 6 August 1993
Central African Republic 8 May 1981
Chad 9 June 1995
Chile 16 September 1969 10 February 1972
China 27 October 1997 27 March 2001 The Republic of China had signed on 5 October 1967
Colombia 21 December 1966 29 October 1969
Comoros 25 September 2008
Congo 5 October 1983
Costa Rica 19 December 1966 29 November 1968
Côte d'Ivoire 26 March 1992
Croatia 12 October 1992 The former Yugoslavia had signed the Covenant on 8 August 1967 and ratified it on 2 June 1971.
Cuba 28 February 2008
Cyprus 9 January 1967 2 April 1969
Czech Republic 22 February 1993 Czechoslovakia had signed the Covenant on 7 October 1968 and ratified it on 23 December 1975.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea 14 September 1981
Democratic Republic of the Congo 1 November 1976
Denmark 20 March 1968 6 January 1972
Djibouti 5 November 2002
Dominica 17 June 1993
Dominican Republic 4 January 1978
Ecuador 29 September 1967 6 March 1969
Egypt 4 August 1967 14 January 1982
El Salvador 21 September 1967 30 November 1979
Equatorial Guinea 25 September 1987
Eritrea 17 April 2001
Estonia 21 October 1991
Ethiopia 11 June 1993
Finland 11 October 1967 19 August 1975
Fiji 16 August 2018
France 4 November 1980
Gabon 21 January 1983
Gambia 29 December 1978
Georgia 3 May 1994
Germany 9 October 1968 17 December 1973 The German Democratic Republic had signed and ratified the convention with reservations on 27 March 1973 and 8 November 1973
Ghana 7 September 2000 7 September 2000
Greece 16 May 1985
Grenada 6 September 1991
Guatemala 19 May 1988
Guinea 28 February 1967 24 January 1978
Guinea-Bissau 2 July 1992
Guyana 22 August 1968 15 February 1977
Haiti 8 October 2013
Honduras 19 December 1966 17 February 1981
Hungary 25 March 1969 17 January 1974
Iceland 30 December 1968 22 August 1979
India 10 April 1979
Indonesia 23 February 2006
Iran (Islamic Republic of) 4 April 1968 24 June 1975
Iraq 18 February 1969 25 January 1971
Ireland 1 October 1973 8 December 1989
Israel 19 December 1966 3 October 1991
Italy 18 January 1967 15 September 1978
Jamaica 19 December 1966 3 October 1975
Japan 30 May 1978 21 June 1979
Jordan 30 June 1972 28 May 1975
Kazakhstan 2 December 2003 24 January 2006
Kenya 1 May 1972
Kuwait 21 May 1996
Kyrgyzstan 7 October 1994
Lao People's Democratic Republic 7 December 2000 13 February 2007
Latvia 14 April 1992
Lebanon 3 November 1972
Lesotho 9 September 1992
Liberia 18 April 1967 22 September 2004
Libya 15 May 1970
Liechtenstein 10 December 1998
Lithuania 20 November 1991
Luxembourg 26 November 1974 18 August 1983
Madagascar 14 April 1970 22 September 1971
Malawi 22 December 1993
Maldives 19 September 2006
Mali 16 July 1974
Malta 22 October 1968 13 September 1990
Marshall Islands 12 March 2018
Mauritania 17 November 2004
Mauritius 12 December 1973
Mexico 23 March 1981
Monaco 26 June 1997 28 August 1997
Mongolia 5 June 1968 18 November 1974
Montenegro 23 October 2006
Morocco 19 January 1977 3 May 1979
Myanmar 16 July 2015 6 October 2017
Namibia 28 November 1994
Nepal 14 May 1991
Netherlands 25 June 1969 11 December 1978
New Zealand 12 November 1968 28 December 1978
Nicaragua 12 March 1980
Niger 7 March 1986
Nigeria 29 July 1993
Norway 20 March 1968 13 September 1972
Pakistan 3 November 2004 17 April 2008
Palau 20 September 2011
State of Palestine 2 April 2014
Panama 27 July 1976 8 March 1977
Papua New Guinea 21 July 2008
Paraguay 10 June 1992
Peru 11 August 1977 28 April 1978
Philippines 19 December 1966 7 June 1974
Poland 2 March 1967 18 March 1977
Portugal 7 October 1976 31 July 1978
Qatar 21 May 2018
Republic of Korea 10 April 1990
Republic of Moldova 26 January 1993
Romania 27 June 1968 9 December 1974
Russian Federation 18 March 1968 16 October 1973 Signed and ratified as the Soviet Union.
Rwanda 16 April 1975
San Marino 18 October 1985
Sao Tome and Principe 31 October 1995 10 January 2017
Senegal 6 July 1970 13 February 1978
Serbia 12 March 2001 The former Yugoslavia had signed the Covenant on 8 August 1967 and ratified it on 2 June 1971. The 2001 declaration of succession was made by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Seychelles 5 May 1992
Sierra Leone 23 August 1996
Slovakia 28 May 1993 Czechoslovakia had signed the Covenant on 7 October 1968 and ratified it on 23 December 1975.
Slovenia 6 July 1992 The former Yugoslavia had signed the Covenant on 8 August 1967 and ratified it on 2 June 1971.
Solomon Islands 17 March 1982
Somalia 24 January 1990
South Africa 3 October 1994 12 January 2015
Spain 28 September 1976 27 April 1977
Sri Lanka 11 June 1980
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 9 November 1981
Sudan 18 March 1986
Suriname 28 December 1976
Swaziland 26 March 2004
Sweden 29 September 1967 6 December 1971
Switzerland 18 June 1992
Syrian Arab Republic 21 April 1969
Tajikistan 4 January 1999
Thailand 5 September 1999
The Republic of Macedonia 18 January 1994 The former Yugoslavia had signed the Covenant on 8 August 1967 and ratified it on 2 June 1971.
Timor-Leste 16 April 2003
Togo 24 May 1984
Trinidad and Tobago 8 December 1978
Tunisia 30 April 1968 18 March 1969
Turkey 15 August 2000 23 September 2003
Turkmenistan 1 May 1997
Uganda 21 January 1987
Ukraine 20 March 1968 12 November 1973 Signed and ratified as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 16 September 1968 20 May 1976
United Republic of Tanzania 11 June 1976
United States of America 5 October 1977
Uruguay 21 February 1967 1 April 1970
Uzbekistan 28 September 1995
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 24 June 1969 10 May 1978
Viet Nam 24 September 1982
Yemen 9 February 1987 Effected as Yemen Arab Republic
Zambia 10 April 1984
Zimbabwe 13 May 1991

States not members of the Covenant

Signed but not ratified [76]

State Signed
Comoros 25 September 2008
Cuba 28 February 2008
Palau 20 September 2011
United States of America 5 October 1977

Neither signed nor ratified

  1. Andorra
  2. Botswana
  3. Bhutan
  4. Brunei
  5. Kiribati
  6. Malaysia
  7. Federated States of Micronesia
  8. Mozambique
  9. Nauru
  10. Oman
  11. Saint Kitts and Nevis
  12. Samoa
  13. Saudi Arabia
  14. Singapore
  15. St. Lucia
  16. South Sudan
  17. Tonga
  18. Tuvalu
  19. United Arab Emirates
  20. Vanuatu

Non-members of the UN

  1. Cook Islands
  2. Niue
  3. Taiwan[notes 1][77]
  4. Vatican City (through the Holy See)[notes 2]


  1. ^ The ROC lost its United Nations seat in 1971 (replaced as the representative of China by the People's Republic of China under Resolution 2758). The Republic of China government signed the Covenant in 1967 but did not ratify; in 2009 Taiwan (Republic of China) finally ratified it, but the deposit was rejected by the UN.[citation needed]
  2. ^ The Vatican is not a member of the United Nations though it holds observer status.


  1. ^ a b c "International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights".
  2. ^ "EISIL International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights".
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v "UN Treaty Collection: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights". UN. 3 January 1976.
  4. ^ a b c "Fact Sheet No.2 (Rev.1), The International Bill of Human Rights". UN OHCHR. June 1996. Archived from the original on 13 March 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  5. ^ "Committee on economic, social and cultural rights".
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  8. ^ a b United Nations General Assembly Resolution 543, 5 February 1952.
  9. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 545, 5 February 1952.
  10. ^ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Part I, Article 1, Paragraph 3.
  11. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2200, 16 December 1966.
  12. ^ The following section summarises the text of the Covenant.
  13. ^ ICESCR, Article 1.1
  14. ^ ICESCR, Article 1.2
  15. ^ ICESCR, Article 1.3
  16. ^ ICESCR, Article 2.2
  17. ^ ICESCR, Article 4
  18. ^ ICESCR, Article 7
  19. ^ a b ICESCR, Article 13.1
  20. ^ ICESCR, Article 2.1
  21. ^ "ICCPR". UN. pp. Article 2.1. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 13 July 2008.
  22. ^ Paragraph 9, "CESCR General Comment 3". UN OHCHR. 14 December 1990. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  23. ^ CESCR General Comment 3, paragraph 10.
  24. ^ CESCR General Comment 3, paragraph 12.
  25. ^ CESCR General Comment 3, paragraphs 3–6.
  26. ^ ICESCR, Article 6.1.
  27. ^ "CESCR General Comment 18: The Right to Work" (PDF). UN Economic and Social Council. 6 February 2006. pp. paragraph 31. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  28. ^ CESCR General Comment 18, paragraph 23.
  29. ^ CESCR General Comment 18, paragraph 7.
  30. ^ ICESCR, Article 9.
  31. ^ "CESCR Draft General Comment 19: The right to social security". UN Economic and Social Council. 4 February 2008. paragraphs 1 – 4. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2008.
  32. ^ CESCR Draft General Comment 19, paragraph 5.
  33. ^ CESCR Draft General Comment 19, paragraph 7.
  34. ^ CESCR Draft General Comment 19, paragraph 37.
  35. ^ ICESCR, Article 10.1.
  36. ^ a b "Fact Sheet No.16 (Rev.1), The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights". UN OHCHR. July 1991. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  37. ^ ICESCR, Article 10.3.
  38. ^ ICESCR, Article 11.1.
  39. ^ "CESCR General Comment 12: The right to adequate food". UN Economic and Social Council. 12 May 1999. pp. paragraph 8. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  40. ^ CESCR General Comment 12, paragraph 13.
  41. ^ 'ICESCR, Article 11, 2 (b)
  42. ^ "CESCR General Comment 15: The right to water". UN Economic and Social Council. 20 January 2003. pp. paragraph 3. Retrieved 13 July 2008.
  43. ^ a b "CESCR General Comment 4: The right to adequate housing". UN OHCHR. 13 December 1991. paragraph 7. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  44. ^ "CESCR General Comment 7: The right to adequate housing: forced evictions". UN OHCHR. 20 May 1997. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  45. ^ Dr Stephen James, "A Forgotten Right? The Right to Clothing in International Law" Archived 12 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  46. ^ ICESCR, Article 12.1
  47. ^ "CESCR General Comment 14: The right to the highest attainable standard of health". UN Economic and Social Council. 11 August 2000. pp. paragraph 9. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  48. ^ CESCR General Comment 14, paragraphs 11–12.
  49. ^ CESCR General Comment 14, paragraph 7.
  50. ^ CESCR General Comment 14, paragraph 34.
  51. ^ CESCR General Comment 14, paragraph 35.
  52. ^ Human Rights and the Environment Archived 6 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  53. ^ "CESCR General Comment 13: The right to education". UN Economic and Social Council. 8 December 1999. pp. paragraph 1. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  54. ^ ICESCR, Article 13.3
  55. ^ CESCR General Comment 13, paragraph 28.
  56. ^ CESCR General Comment 13, paragraph 38.
  57. ^ CESCR General Comment 13, paragraph 41.
  58. ^ ICESCR, Article 14.
  59. ^ "CESCR General Comment 17: The right of everyone to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author" (PDF). UN Economic and Social Council. 12 January 2006. paragraph 12. Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  60. ^ CESCR General Comment 17, paragraph 16.
  61. ^ ICESCR, Article 15.3
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External links

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