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ISBN: 9780199640300

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The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Commentary, Cases, and Materials

Ben Saul, David Kinley, Jaqueline Mowbray


Economic, social and cultural rights are finally coming of age. This book brings together all essential documents, materials, and case law relating to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) - one of the most important human rights instruments in international law - and its Optional Protocol. This book presents extracts from primary materials alongside critical commentary and analysis, placing the documents in their wider context and situating economic, social, and cultural rights within the broader human rights framework.

There is increasing interest internationally, regionally, and in domestic legal systems in the protection of economic, social, and cultural rights. The Optional Protocol of 2008 allows for individual communications to be made to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights after its entry into force in 2013. At the regional level, socio-economic rights are well embedded in human rights systems in Europe, Africa and the Americas. At the national level, constitutions and courts have increasingly regarded socio-economic rights as justiciable, narrowing the traditional divide with civil and political rights. 

This book contextualises these developments in the context of the ICESCR. It provides detailed analysis of the ICESCR structured around its articles, drawing on national as well as international case law and materials, and containing all of the key primary materials in its extensive appendices. This book is indispensible for the judiciary, human rights practitioners, government legal advisers and agencies, national human rights institutions, international organisations, regional human rights bodies, NGOs and human rights activists, academics, and students alike.

  • Provides a comprehensive analysis of the articles of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • Examines each right in the Covenant by reference to its drafting, and the interpretation of economic and social rights by UN bodies (including the ILO), regional organisations, and key national legal systems
  • Collects the essential jurisprudence for national reporting under the ICESCR and individual complaints under the new Optional Protocol

1: Introduction
2: Article 1: The right of self-determination
Article 25: The right to freely utilize natural resources
3: Article 2(1): The principle of progressive realisation
4: Article 2(2): Non-discrimination
5: Article 2(3): Developing state exception
6: Article 3: Equality
7: Article 4: General limitations clause
Article 5: Prohibition of abuse of rights
Article 24: No prejudice to the United Nations
8: Article 6: The right to work
9: Article 7: Just and favourable conditions of work
10: Article 8: Trade union-related rights
11: Article 9: The right to social security
12: Article 10: Rights of families, mothers and children
13: Article 11: The right to an adequate standard of living
14: Article 12: The right to health
15: Article 13: The right to education
Article 14: Primary education
16: Article 15: Cultural Rights

Ben Saul is Professor of International Law and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Sydney. Ben has expertise on global counter-terrorism law, human rights, the law of armed conflict, and international criminal law. He has published 10 books, 75 scholarly articles, and hundreds of other publications and presentations, and his research has been used in national and international courts. Ben has taught law at Oxford, the Hague Academy of International Law and in China, India, Nepal and Cambodia, and has been a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. Ben practises as a barrister in international and national courts, has advised various United Nations bodies and foreign governments, has delivered foreign aid projects, and often appears in the media. He has a doctorate in law from Oxford and honours degrees in Arts and Law from Sydney.

Professor David Kinley holds the Chair in Human Rights Law at University of Sydney, and is the Law Faculty's Associate-Dean (International). He is also an Academic Panel member of Doughty Street Chambers in London. He has previously held positions at Cambridge University, The Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, Washington College of Law, American University, and most recently was the founding Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University (2000-2005). He was a Senior Fulbright Scholar in 2004, based in Washington DC, and Herbert Smith Visiting Fellow at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge during the first half of 2008. He has written and edited eight books and more than 80 articles, book chapters, reports, and papers.

Jacqueline Mowbray is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Sydney. She also teaches on the European Regional Master's Degree in Democracy and Human Rights in South-East Europe, based in Sarajevo. She is a graduate of the Universities of Queensland (BA/LLB (Hons)), Melbourne (LLM) and Cambridge (LLM (Hons), PhD).

"The publication of this volume marks something of a coming of age for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.... scholarly contributions are crucial for the development of a coherent, systematic, and persuasive jurisprudence relating to economic, social and cultural rights. This volume performs a formidable service by providing such an insightful synthesis of the most important elements of this emerging jurisprudence. It also helps to expose the relative paucity in the literature of engaged but critical analyses of this jurisprudence, and thus highlights the need for the next generation of scholars to engage in a more robust and challenging way with the materials brought together in this volume." - Philip Alston, New York University

"This book will quickly become an essential companion to anyone interested in this field. It offers a comprehensive and nuanced account of the rights set out in the Covenant, explaining their historical and jurisprudential context and how they have been and might be deployed. It unpacks the concept of 'progressive realisation' of economic, social and cultural rights. The book transcends the rather static debates between supporters and critics of the Covenant by focussing on how its rights have been protected in practice and the authors emphasise the limits of a narrow legal approach in this area. This is a book packed with important information and sophisticated analyses and it will change the way that the Covenant is understood." - Hilary Charlesworth, Australian National University

Read a sample from The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:

Chapter 1: Introduction