Published January, 1976

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 993 U.N.T.S. 3 (1976)

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the “ICESCR”) represents one-third of what is informally referred to as the “International Bill of Rights.” The other two thirds consist of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The ICESCR outlines universal economic, social and cultural rights; particularly relevant to HIV/AIDS issues are: the right to the highest attainable standard of health (Article 12); the right to education (Article 13); the right to work (Article 7); the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications (Article 15); the right to social security (Article 9); the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing, and housing (Article 11); and the right to participate in cultural life (Article 15). 

As a convention, the ICESCR is binding on all parties that ratify it; those who sign but do not ratify it are obligated not to act contrary to the purpose of the convention under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention. Like the ICCPR, parties to the ICESCR are obligated to make periodic reports on their compliance with the convention to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee also prepares “General Comments” interpreting the ICESCR and exchanges general views on the rights of the ICESCR.
However, unlike the ICCPR, the ICESCR has no optional protocol that would allow victims of violations of ICESCR to present complaints before the Committee on ESCR against a state that has ratified the convention and violates its obligations; however, in April 2008, a UN working group approved a draft of such an optional protocol, and sent it to the UN Human Rights.
The United States has signed, but not ratified, the ICESCR.