Other Universal Treaties

ESCR are found throughout the body of international human rights law. Apart from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, there are two major conventions which are important for the protection of ESCR: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition to spelling out specific ESCR rights as they relate to women and children, these conventions also establish UN human rights monitoring bodies capable of addressing ESCR issues.



The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors the progress of women's rights in those countries that are parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Members of CEDAW are obligated to submit reports every four years on the steps that they have taken to improve the condition of women in their territory. The Committee meets twice a year to review these reports and comments on them. Another important function of the Committee is to single out the problems that predominantly affect women, such as sexual harassment and domestic violence, and to make recommendations to members of CEDAW on how to tackle these issues.


In regard to ESC rights, CEDAW prohibits discrimination in the right to

Article 10 Education

Article 11 Employment

Article 12 Health

Article 13 Economic and Social Benefits


In addition, CEDAW reaffirms in Article 14 the equality rights of rural women to health care, education, economic opportunity, social security, land, housing, and water supply.


The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by member states. The Committee meets in Geneva and holds three sessions a year. States parties to CRC are required to submit reports on the situation of children in their territory every five years. The Committee reviews these reports and makes recommendations to state parties. The Committee holds annual thematic discussions on issues that affect children.

The ESC rights enshrined in the CRC are:

Article 7 Right to care

Article 6 Right to survival and development

Article 18 Right to state assistance

Article 20 Rights of children deprived of family environment to care

Article 24 Right to health and health services

Article 26 Right to social security

Article 27 Right to adequate standard of living

Article 28 Right to education

Article 31 Rights to leisure, play and culture

Article 32 Child labour

Other Conventions

Apart from ICESCR, CEDAW, and CRC, economic, social and cultural rights are also recognized in many other international conventions and declarations.


Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination (CERD)

CERD is a key convention in regards for those seeking to challenge racial discrimination in the respect of economic, social and cultural rights. As with CESCR, CEDAW and CRC, there is a UN enforcement mechanism, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which monitors adherence to the principles set forth in the convention. Additionally, people and communities who have been denied there ESCR on the basis of race or ethnicity may approach the committee with individual complaints, if their country has recognized the authority of the Committee to do so.


Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW)

All people, whether citizens of a country or not, are entitled to fundamental human rights, including basic economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee on the Protection of Migrant Workers monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Family. The Committee meets once a year and can accept individuals complaints under certain circumstance if the state in question has accepted the authority of the Committee to accept individual complaints concerning the state's jurisdiction.


International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions

The ILO, one of the world's longest existing multilateral organisations, was founded in 1919 as a part of the Treaty of Versailles which established the League of Nations. The ILO is a major source of international standards in regards to workers' rights. The conventions that set forth the obligations of the state members of the ILO are divided into four major areas: worker's freedom of association, the abolition of forced labour, equality rights at work, and the elimination of child labour:


Freedom of association

Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87)

Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98)


The abolition of forced labour

Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)

Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)



Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111)

Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100)


The elimination of child labour

Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138)

Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182)



In addition to covenants and conventions which have force as international law, member states of the United Nations have also ratified various declarations reflecting the aspirations of the international community in regards to the rights of all peoples. While these declarations are not legally binding, they do reflect the consensus of the international community, and can be considered part of the body of customary international law.


For a complete list of declarations relevant to ESCR, please consult the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Online Manual prepared by Felix Morka for Front Line.