International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) refers to a convention that was adopted and subsequently opened for ratification, signature and accession by a resolution of the General Assembly of 16th December 1966. This convention requires the member parties to do their best in providing social, economic and cultural rights to people including their rights to health, labor rights, rights to education and rights to adequate and standard living conditions.
This convention is part of International Bill of Human Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The aim of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is to focus on various areas including the following:
- Ethnic minorities’ representation in the public life
- Equal career opportunities and pay
- Employment opportunities and welfare reforms
- Employment and disabled persons
- Women and violence
- Social exclusion and poverty
- Access to affordable and adequate housing
Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This committee has 18 experts and they meet twice in Geneva every year in the months of November and May for a period of three weeks. During the meeting, working groups have one pre-sessional week for preparing the lists of questions and issues that will be discussed in the following session.
Many countries do not have laws that protect or recognize economic, social and cultural rights. This implies that when such rights are violated, the individuals do not have hope of stopping or correcting the problem. In countries where these rights are not protected by domestic laws, this convention offers procedures and mechanisms for ensuring their protection and enforcement.
Members who are parties to the United Nations agreed on a new protocol in 2008. This protocol allows individuals who feel that their government fails to deliver their rights as stipulated in this convention to forward their grievances to the United Nations. This optional protocol to International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights enables groups and individuals to seek justice when their social, economic and cultural rights are violated in their countries.
This is very important because although laws of many countries have the right to a fair trial as well as freedom or protection against torture, they do not recognize social or cultural rights of their citizens in a similar way. This has led to violation of social, economic and cultural rights of the citizens without proper legal actions being taken.
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