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Giving Meaning to Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Edited by Isfahan Merali and Valerie Oosterveld

Publication Year: 2001

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, arguably the founding document of the human rights movement, fully embraces economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, within its text. However, for most of the fifty years since the Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the focus of the international community has been on civil and political rights. This focus has slowly shifted over the past two decades. Recent international human rights treaties—such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women—grant equal importance to protecting and advancing nonpolitical rights.

In this collection of essays, Isfahan Merali, Valerie Oosterveld, and a team of human rights scholars and activists call for the reintegration of economic, social, and cultural rights into the human rights agenda. The essays are divided into three sections. First the contributors examine traditional conceptualizations of human rights that made their categorization possible and suggest a more holistic rights framework that would dissolve such boundaries. In the second section they discuss how an integrated approach actually produces a more meaningful analysis of individual economic, social, and cultural rights. Finally, the contributors consider how these rights can be monitored and enforced, identifying ways international human rights agencies, NGOs, and states can promote them in the twenty-first century.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-4

A shift in the conceptualization of international human rights has begun: the international community appears to be more open today to advancing a holistic rights framework than it has ever been in the past. While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948,1 encompasses economic, social, and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights ...

Part I. Conceptualizing Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: Dissolving Categories

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1. Toward the Institutional Integration of the Core Human Rights Treaties

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pp. 7-38

By its nature as a pronouncement of high normative principles, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) did not address the hard questions related to the creation of institutions to begin the process of bridging the gap between statement of ideals and practical realization. However, starting with the grand bifurcation that produced the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and ...

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2. From Division to Integration: Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights as Basic Human Rights

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pp. 39-51

More than fifty years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized that an individual requires certain civil, political, economic, and social freedoms in order to ‘‘live life well.’’ The Universal Declaration did not attach relative values to the rights that it recognized—each right was identified as an essential ingredient of dignified personhood.1 However ...

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3. Defending Women’s Economic and Social Rights: Some Thoughts on Indivisibility and a New Standard of Equality

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pp. 52-67

Even as the post-Cold War era is marked by a heightened emphasis on human rights,1 the international human rights regime is being downsized as governments divest themselves of the responsibility to provide social services and ensure adequate living and working standards.2 At the same time as the increasingly powerful international financial institutions are overseeing a transfer of social policy issues from the United Nations to states, governments are under pressure from the same institutions ...

Part II. Current Themes: Applying Cross-Cutting Analysis

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4. Human Rights Mean Business: Broadening the Canadian Approach to Business and Human Rights

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pp. 71-94

At the turn of the new century, as at the beginning of the last, the world’s nations are a disparate series of economies varying enormously in their characteristics. Speaking generally, in the north, countries have passed through an industrial revolution, through a period of progressive and incremental improvements in standards of living and through several centuries of gradual, if imperfect, diffusion of wealth ...

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5. Feminism After the State: The Rise of the Market and the Future of Women’s Rights

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pp. 95-108

The rise of the market and eclipse of the state has become one of the defining conditions of contemporary social change. The settled expectation that the state could be prevailed upon to secure greater equality and welfare for its citizens is eroding, swept away by new desire to promote the efficiency and productivity of markets. The result has been a fundamental alteration to the language and terms in which political reform must now be pursued ...

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6. Advancing Safe Motherhood Through Human Rights

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pp. 109-123

Every year worldwide, an estimated 585,000 women die of complications of pregnancy and childbirth,1 a rate of 1,600 maternal deaths each day. At least seven million women who survive childbirth suffer serious health problems, and a further fifty million women suffer adverse health consequences after childbirth.2 The overwhelming majority of these deaths and complications occur in developing countries ...

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7. Canada’s New Child Support Guidelines: Do They Fulfill Canada’s International Law Obligations to Children?

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pp. 124-136

In May 1997, after years of study, Canada altered its method of calculating child support by adopting child support guidelines for claims brought under the Divorce Act, 1985.1 The adoption of the guidelines was fueled in part by a concern that the existing method of calculating child support had been generating low awards ...

Part III. Giving Meaning: Protection and Justiciability of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

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8. Implementing Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: The Role of National Human Rights Institutions

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pp. 139-159

The implementation of economic, social, and cultural rights has been historically a problematic area in international human rights law theory and practice. Among other problems, the history of neglect of these rights has meant that the means to prevent and remedy violations remain underdeveloped. Equally frustrating is the fact that institutions and programs that should be expected to contribute to the realization of economic ...

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9. Bringing Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights Home: Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem and Israel

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pp. 160-179

Within the practice of human rights, historically, civil and political rights have been privileged over economic, social, and cultural rights,1 with the Cold War capitalist, liberal states having promoted the former and socialist states having promoted the latter. Paradoxically, the end of the Cold War and the dismantling of socialist structures, policies and ideologies has coincided with a new emphasis on economic, social, and cultural rights ...

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10. The Maya Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Indigenous Land and Resource Rights and the Conflict over Logging and Oil in Southern Belize

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pp. 180-211

In many parts of the world, lands that are rich in natural resources continue to be inhabited by peoples whose origins in the lands predate those of the states that engulf them. In such areas, efforts on the part of states and transnational corporations to develop the natural resources frequently come into conflict with the indigenous inhabitants and their claims to the lands and resources in question. This genre of conflict has implications ...


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pp. 213-262

List of Contributors

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pp. 263-265


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pp. 274-285

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pp. 279-

This book was inspired by a conference celebrating the tenth anniversary of the International Human Rights Programme at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. The ∞ΩΩ∫ conference, entitled ‘‘Linking the Domestic and the International: Human Rights into the ≤∞st Century,’’ brought together a diverse group of international scholars, advocates, and activists to generate valuable reflection on a number of pressing international human rights issues. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812205695
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812236019

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2001

Series Title: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights