The United States’ Failure to Ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Must the Poor Be Always with Us?
Stetson University College of Law
The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Minority Issues, Vol. 13, No. 2, p. 231, Winter 2010
Stetson University College of Law Research Paper No. 2011-04
The United States remains one of only half a dozen U.N. member states that have yet to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The treaty was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, but no steps toward ratification have ever been taken. Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and the poor in this country continues to grow, and is among the highest of any democracy on earth. The United States is historically suspicious of even recognizing economic, social and cultural rights as “rights” that might be amenable to any method of enforcement. As a result, the poor in this country continue to grow poorer, while the rich get richer. This article proposes that this gap between the rich and the poor is neither inevitable nor acceptable in a nation of such abundant resources. This article proposes that the ICESCR’s ultimate goals should be accepted as basic human rights norms in this country, and that the treaty should be ratified. If ratified, and if implementing legislation is enacted, the ICESCR will be an effective tool to ensure that the economic, social and cultural rights of all citizens of the U.S. are domestically enforceable, bringing an end to the notion that the poor must, in fact, always be with us.
Keywords: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, United Nations, ICESCR, economic rights, social rights, cultural rights
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K33
Date posted: April 4, 2011