Rethinking Economic and Social Rights: The Recognition, Institutionalization, and Accountability Framework

United Nations, General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, A/HRC/32/31 (28 April 2016)

NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 17-48

23 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2017

See all articles by Philip Alston

Philip Alston

New York University School of Law

Date Written: November 29, 2017

Abstract

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council the author argues that while much has been achieved in relation to economic and social human rights (ESR) in recent years, at both the international and domestic levels, the reality is that these rights remain largely invisible in the law and institutions of the great majority of States. For example: many of the States whose Constitutions recognize ESR have not translated that recognition into a human rights-based legislative framework; the increasingly widespread constitutional acceptance of ESR justiciability contrasts with the resistance of many of the relevant courts to acting on these rights; many of the States that enjoy the world’s highest living standards have specifically rejected proposals to recognize ESR in legislative or constitutional form; most National Human Rights Institutions neglect ESR; and national ESR accountability mechanisms are rare. As a result, most discussions of ESR continue to slide into broad discussions of development or welfare initiatives, which might or might not be consonant with treating ESR as human rights.

In order to breathe new life into ESR promotional efforts, the report proposes the adoption of the RIA framework (Recognition, Institutionalization and Accountability). This focuses primarily not on issues such as redistribution or justiciability but rather on putting in place the necessary foundations upon which subsequent efforts can be based. It involves: (i) ensuring (legislative) recognition of the rights; (ii) creating institutional support for their promotion; and (iii) exploring innovative accountability mechanisms for their implementation.

Suggested Citation

Alston, Philip, Rethinking Economic and Social Rights: The Recognition, Institutionalization, and Accountability Framework (November 29, 2017). United Nations, General Assembly, Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, A/HRC/32/31 (28 April 2016); NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 17-48. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3079932

Philip Alston (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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