Saturday, December 15, 2012

How Well Do Countries Fulfill Economic and Social Rights?

The UN Human Rights Council will hold its 14th Universal Periodic Review this month to evaluate human rights practices in fourteen member states from across the globe.

Countries are bound under international law to respect, protect, and fulfill the economic and social rights of their citizens, yet efforts to hold states accountable for meeting these human rights obligations have long been frustrated. At least part of this challenge is one of objective evaluation and measurement. States are legally obligated to commit the “maximum available resources” to progressively fulfill the economic and social rights (ESRs) of their citizens. This “progressive realization” formulation has long complicated efforts to monitor countries’ fulfillment of rights obligations, since without an evidence-based model for assessing performance it allows states to escape from their human rights obligations by claiming inadequate resources. Often socioeconomic indicators like the Human Development Index (HDI) are used to understand how economic and social rights are being fulfilled. While HDI indicators can provide useful information about the welfare of citizens, these indicators fail to reveal the how well states are doing in light of available resources.

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