Equality and Human Rights Commission Urges UK Government to Give Legal Effect to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

In 1976, the United Kingdom ratified the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) agreeing to ensure the enjoyment of basic rights such as food, housing, healthcare, and an adequate standards of living. However, as of 2023, the Covenant lacks legal enforceability in the UK.

The UK’s performance in realising economic, social and cultural rights is currently being reviewed by the UN’s ICESCR Committee. As part of this review process, civil society organisations and National Human Rights Institutions have been submitting reports on the Scottish and UK Government’s performance. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, as the National Human Rights Institution for England and Wales, has published its report, which contains recommendations for the UK and Welsh Governments.

The recommendations cover a wide variety of areas impacted by the Covenant, including conditions at work, poverty, housing and social care. However, some recommendations are overarching, and if implemented would ensure that all the rights in the Covenant are respected and protected in the UK. The report recommends that the UK Government should give legal effect to the Covenant, and the 6 other human rights treaties which the UK has ratified, in domestic law.

Without legal effect, it is very difficult for people in the UK to legally claim the rights granted to them by the Covenant. If the rights were brought into domestic law, this process would be much easier, and could be done in UK courts. The report acknowledges that the Scottish Government has committed to this process- called ‘incorporation’- and recommends that the UK Government follow in its footsteps.

Click here to read the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report

Click here to learn more about ICESCR and the UK’s ongoing review

Click here to read the Consortium’s report to the ICESCR Committee

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