Key concepts on ESCRs - Can each of us claim economic, social and cultural rights?
Yes. Economic, social and cultural rights, like other human rights, are the birth right of every human being. A child excluded from primary school because of school fees, a woman paid less than her male colleague for the same work, a person in a wheelchair unable to enter a theatre because there is no ramp, a pregnant woman refused entry to a hospital to give birth because she is unable to pay, an artist whose work is publicly altered, distorted or mutilated, a man refused emergency medical care on account of his migrant status, a woman forcibly evicted from her home, a man left to starve when food stocks lie unused—these are all examples of individuals denied their economic, social and cultural rights. Nonetheless, economic, social and cultural rights are sometimes wrongly interpreted as being only collective in nature. While these rights can affect many people and may have a collective dimension, they are also individual rights. For example, forced evictions often concern whole communities, yet individuals suffer from the denial of their right to adequate housing. The confusion about the individual or collective nature derives in part from the fact that redressing economic, social and cultural rights often requires a collective public effort through the provision of resources and the development of rights-based policies. To prevent children being denied primary education because they are unable to pay school fees, a State would need to set up a system to ensure free primary education for all children. Again, however, this feature does not prevent individual children from claiming the right to education. There are some important exceptions to the individual nature of economic, social and cultural rights. Importantly, certain rights, such as the rights of trade unions to establish national federations and to function freely, are essentially collective.
For more information, see the Fact Sheet No. 33.- Arabic | English | French | Russian | Spanish