State Obligations under the ICESCR

The ICESCR is an international legal instrument. When States ratify it, they become a "State party" to it. Through ratification, States accept the solemn responsibility to apply each of the obligations embodied in the ICESCR and to ensure the compatibility of their national laws with their international duties, in a spirit of good faith. States become accountable to the international community, to other States, which have ratified the treaty, and to their own citizens and others resident in their country.

Economic, social and cultural rights imply three different types of obligations for States:

·     The obligation to respect requires States to refrain from interfering with the enjoyment of such rights.

·     The obligation to protect requires States to prevent violations of these rights by third parties.

·     The obligation to fulfil requires States to take appropriate legislative, administrative, budgetary, judicial measure towards the full realisation of the economic, social and cultural rights.

Failure to perform any of these three obligations constitutes a violation of such rights.

Article 2 of ICESCR states: "Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take steps, individually and through international assistance and co-operation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures."

All States have to meet a minimum core obligation to ensure the satisfaction of minimum essential levels of each right. Such minimum core obligations apply irrespective of the availability of resources of the State concerned. Progressive realisation of the rights means that States have to meet their obligations to “use all appropriate means” to the maximum of their available resources. However, not all rights under the Convention require progressive realisation. The adoption of legislation ensuring the principle of non-discrimination and the monitoring of the realisation of the rights are obligations of immediate effect.