INTL254 Introduction to International Human Rights
Professor Nadya Nedelsky
reaction essays prepared by students HM, CH, AP
Response to ICESCR

Chapter four is an explanation of the issues surrounding economic, social, and cultural rights as exemplified by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It begins with a discussion of the controversy over the status of economic, social, and cultural rights in relation to civil in political rights, outlining two extremist camps. On one side, there is the opinion that economic and social rights are superior to civil and political rights, based upon the fact that civil and political needs will not be met if basic needs are neglected. On the other side is the opinion that economic and social issues constitute goals and aspirations rather than rights, and are therefore less important than civil and political rights. A more moderate opinion, and the one that the book seems to embrace, is that the two spheres of rights are interdependent, and “can neither logically or practically separated into the two distinct groups (247). Justification for the separation of the two types of rights was based upon the belief that civil and political rights necessitated legal implementation while social, economic, and cultural rights require “programme” implementation in the form of periodic reports.

• Question: Do you feel that that separation of the two covenants has actually resulted in more efficient enforcement, or has the separation been detrimental to the enforcement of economic, social, and cultural rights?

The next section of the chapter addresses the content of the Covenant and several weaknesses in the system that makes States ambivalent about committing. In essence, developing countries feel that they do not have the resources to commit to ICESCR standards, while developed countries do not want to take on responsibility either for themselves or for developing countries

• Question: Should the onus be on developed states to help undeveloped states meet these requirements? What supports this idea and what doesn’t?

The rest of the chapter focuses on the interplay in-between the idea of welfare the relationship between positive and negative rights. David Beetham argues that economic and social rights are valid rights because they meet his three criteria of being fundamental, universal, and definable. David Kelly uses by using the welfare example in the US to show how economic and social rights can be addressed on an international level. The connection between welfare in the United States and a system of international economic and social human rights is made by stating that the laws and institutions needed to enforce both systems are positive in nature. In essence, he attempts to prove that positive freedoms are actually a sacrifice of freedom on the part of individuals and the state. Finally, welfare and economic/social rights are discussed in terms of state and individual obligation, with rationales from philosophic, religious, and international law standpoints.

• Do you feel that economic and social rights require a sacrifice of freedom, or are they an obligation of freedom?
• Can looking at the example (on a domestic level) of welfare states really extend to the international scene?
• Is it legally valid to use philosophic and religious arguments in favor of ‘charity’ obligations?
• What repercussions could result from perceiving the enforcement of economic and social rights as a form of charity?



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