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The protection of economic and social rights

The protection of economic and social rights: a particular challenge?

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUN human rights treaty bodies
Subtitle of host publicationlaw and legitimacy
EditorsHelen Keller, Geir Ulfstein
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Print)9781107006546
StatePublished - 2012

Publication series

NameStudies on human rights conventions
PublisherCambridge University Press


Traditionally the law of human rights is divided into two parts: the protection of political and civil rights on the one hand, and the guarantee of economic and social rights on the other. But these two bodies of law are intrinsically interrealted in several human rights treaties and political documents, as well as in practice. This classical division of human rights poses a distinct question in terms of legitimacy. The argument is well-known that the realisation of social and economic rights requires considerable economic resources, unlike the implementation of civil and political rights. Therefore, they are seemingly not capable of being enforced by courts, because their implementation would require making a choice between policy goals - a matter that is seen to fall within the purview of the political branches of government, rather than the courts.
Robin Churchill and Urfan Khaliq look at how the human rights treaty bodies that have economic and social rights within their remit have addressed the question of their nature and whether these bodies have faced unique challenges supervising the implementation of these rights. Provisions that seek to protect specific economic and social rights are potentially present in all eight of the core UN human rights treaties. However, the chapter focuses - for various reasons - on five treaty bodies: the HRC, as well as the ICESCR, CRC, CEDAW and CERD Committees. The authors reveal a significant plurality of perspectives and practices that stem from the work of these five treaty bodies. A main conclusion from the practice of the ICESCR Committee and the HRC is, however, the artificiality of a clear distinction between civil and political rights on the one hand, and economic and social rights on the other.

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