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Economic and Social Rights (ESRs)

Economic and Social Rights (ESRs) address survival and development. They govern how people are able to live and work together in dignity and with opportunity, and deal with their right to basic necessities as a source for achieving freedom, justice, and peace.

ESRs are a broad category of human rights guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESC) of 1966 and other legally binding regional human and international rights treaties.

States, such as Jamaica, that are parties to the Covenant are obligated through their governments to work toward respecting (not violating these rights), protecting (ensuring that other people or bodies do not abuse these rights), and fulfilling (making these rights a reality) economic, social, and cultural rights of its citizens.

International law allows for the fact that making economic, social, and cultural rights, this does not mean they can do nothing – they have to take steps towards fulfilling them. As an initial step, they must prioritise “minimum core obligations” – minimum essential levels of each of the rights. Under the right to education for example, core obligations include the right to free primary education.

Governments must not discriminate in their laws, policies or practices and must prioritise the most vulnerable when allocating resources.

The ICESC is monitored by the United Nations (UN) Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 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.

Key Definitions

Social Rights

Deals with your entitlement to an agreed upon living standard. This includes, among other things, your right to prescribed qualities in: employment, education, health care, social security, housing, food, water, clothing and safe environmental conditions.

Economic Rights

Deals with your entitlement to access resources such as land, labour, and money, which are important factors in producing goods and services for sale.

Social Justice

Is a situation in which people receive fair treatment, a just share of and access to all the social benefits/resources within a country.

Economic Justice

Describes a situation in which socio-economic institutions are designed to enable people to earn a living, enter into contracts