Skip navigation links Sitemap | About us | FAQs

UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality


Part II. International Human Rights System. 4/11 previousTable of Contentsnext

3. The International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights


PART I. National Frameworks for the Protection of Rights of Persons with Disabilities
PART II. The International Human Rights System
1. Introduction to the International Human Rights System
1.1 Exhaustion of Local Remedies
1.2 Disability Rights at the International Level
2. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
2.1 Review of provisions
2.2 Reporting Procedure Under the ICCPR
2.3 Emergency procedure Under the ICCPR
2.4 Individual Communication Procedure
3. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
3.1 Review of provisions
3.2 1503 Procedure Under the ICESCR
4. The Convention on the Rights of the Child
4.1 Review of provisions
4.2 Reporting Procedure
4.3 Thematic Consideration of Issues
4.4 Missions
5. The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
5.1 Review of Provisions
5.2 Reporting Procedure
5.3 Exceptional Reporting Procedure
5.4 Complaint Procedure
6. The Convention Against Torture, and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment
6.1 Review of provisions
6.2 Reporting Procedure
6.3 Investigative procedure
6.4 Individual Complaints Procedure
7. The International Labour organization (ILO)
7.1 The Complaint Procedure
7.2 ILO Provision on the Rights of the Migrant Worker
8. Other International Norms and standards
9. Other International Mechanisms
10. Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
10.1 Persons with Disabilities and Armed Conflicts
10.2 Human Rights in Times of Emergency
10.3 Civilian Persons Hors de Combat
10.4 Special Protection for the Wounded and Sick
10.5 Victims of Land Mines and Armed Conflicts
PART III. The Regional Human Rights System
PART IV. Towards a Rights Based Perspective on Disability
PART V. Rights of Special Groups with Disabilities

3.1 Review of provisions

Article 6 of the ICESCR provides that States parties recognise "…the right to work, which includes the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work which he freely chooses or accepts…". Article 7 (a) refers to the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work which ensure, in particular, fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value without distinction of any kind and a decent living for workers and their families.

Article 10 (2) states that "…special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth." Such protection is important for the prevention of disabilities, as many disabilities occur as a result of problems associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

Article 11 (1) has special significance. "States Parties recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions."

Article 12 (1) concerns the "…right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health." In relation to disabled persons, this right may be violated when necessary measures are not taken to prevent malnutrition; when appropriate medical care and rehabilitation services are not provided for disabled persons; when immunisation campaigns to prevent diseases are not carried out; and when people live in overcrowded conditions not conducive to mental health.

Article 13 (1) provides that "States Parties recognise the right of everyone to education." This can be interpreted to mean that disabled persons must have effective access to education, which is appropriate to their abilities.

Article 15 (1) (a) recognises the "…right of everyone to take part in cultural life." This right is violated, for example, when access to facilities in which cultural activities take place is inappropriate, like for cinemas, theatres, libraries, sports stadiums, museums etc. or when disabled persons are excluded from participating in cultural life on account of prejudices.

3.2 1503 Procedure of the Economic and Social Council

The reporting procedure under the ICESCR is very similar to that of the ICCPR, but unlike the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights cannot receive complaints. States submit an initial report within two years of ratification and periodic reports every five years. NGOs can also submit reports on countries to be examined by the Committee. The Committee has taken the step also to examine the situations in countries that have not submitted reports to ensure their accountability. The Committee's Annual Report is forwarded to the Economic and Social Council.

The reason that no complaints procedure exists for this Covenant, is that the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights is progressive in nature, and therefore violations would be difficult to identify because of each country's different level of development. However, it is becoming increasingly accepted that violations to the ICCPR are possible. For example, its non-discrimination clause is of immediate application, and so is the fact that States must take measures for the implementation of the Covenant. This means that not taking any measures towards meeting their obligations, or taking discriminatory measures, or measures that are retrograde instead of progressive, would constitute violations of the Covenant. The theory of minimum core obligations also leads to the violation approach to economic, social and cultural rights. According to this theory, States are obliged to ensure minimum levels of each right, irrespective of their level of development (The Committee's General Comment 3 explains States' implementation obligations in detail). In fact, a UN working group has been working on an Optional Protocol instituting a complaints mechanism for the ICESCR.

Return to top

previousTable of Contentsnext

Home | Sitemap | About us | News | FAQs | Contact us

© United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development