- Commentary to the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
On 28 September 2011, at a gathering convened by Maastricht University and the International Commission of Jurists, a group of experts in international law and human rights adopted the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations of States in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The experts came from universities and organizations located in all regions of the world and included current and former members of international human rights treaty bodies, regional human rights bodies, and former and current Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council. [End Page 1084]
Based on legal research conducted over a period of more than a decade, the undersigned experts adopted the following principles:
The human rights of individuals, groups and peoples are affected by and dependent on the extraterritorial acts and omissions of States. The advent of economic globalization in particular, has meant that States and other global actors exert considerable influence on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights across the world.
Despite decades of growing global wealth, poverty remains pervasive and socioeconomic and gender inequalities endure across the world. Moreover, individuals and communities face the continuing deprivation and denial of access to essential lands, resources, goods and services by State and non-State actors alike.
Countless individuals are subsequently unable to enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to work and decent working conditions, social security and care, an adequate standard of living, food, housing, water, sanitation, health, education and participation in cultural life.
States have recognized that everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which human rights can be fully realized and have undertaken to pursue joint and separate action to achieve universal respect for, and observance of, human rights for all.
In the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, all States affirmed the importance of an international order based on the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, peace, democracy, justice, equality, rule of law, pluralism, development, better standards of living and solidarity. In pursuit of these objectives, States reaffirmed in the Millennium Declaration their collective responsibility to uphold these principles at the global level.
States have repeatedly committed themselves to realizing the economic, social and cultural rights of everyone. This solemn commitment is captured in the Charter of the United Nations, and is found in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and numerous international treaties, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as well as in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and many regional human rights instruments. [End Page 1085]
These commitments include the obligation to realize progressively economic, social and cultural rights given the maximum resources available to States, when acting individually and through international assistance and cooperation, and to guarantee these rights without discrimination on the basis of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other prohibited grounds in international law.
Drawn from international law, these principles aim to clarify the content of extraterritorial State obligations to realize economic, social and cultural rights with a view to advancing and giving full effect to the object of the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights.
These Principles complement and build on the Limburg Principles on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1986) and on the Maastricht Guidelines on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1997).1