The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), make up the International Bill of Human Rights. In accordance with the Universal Declaration, the Covenants recognize that “... the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can be achieved only if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.”
The Covenant entered into force in 1976 and by May 2012 it had been ratified by 160 countries.
All peoples have the right of self-determination, including the right to determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Each State Party undertakes to take steps to the maximum of its available resources to achieve progressively the full realization of the rights in this treaty. Everyone is entitled to the same rights without discrimination of any kind.
The States undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all rights in this treaty.
Limitations may be placed on these rights only if compatible with the nature of these rights and solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society.
No person, group or government has the right to destroy any of these rights.
Everyone has the right to work, including the right to gain one’s living at work that is freely chosen and accepted.
Everyone has the right to just conditions of work; fair wages ensuring a decent living for himself and his family; equal pay for equal work; safe and healthy working conditions; equal opportunity for everyone to be promoted; rest and leisure.
Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions, the right to strike.
Everyone has the right to social security, including social insurance.
Protection and assistance should be accorded to the family. Marriage must be entered into with the free consent of both spouses. Special protection should be provided to mothers. Special measures should be taken on behalf of children, without discrimination. Children and youth should be protected from economic exploitation. Their employment in dangerous or harmful work should be prohibited. There should be age limits below which child labor should be prohibited.
Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing. Everyone has the right to be free from hunger.
Everyone has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
Everyone has the right to education. Primary education should be compulsory and free to all.
Those States where compulsory, free primary education is not available to all should work out a plan to provide such education.
Everyone has the right to take part in cultural life; enjoy the benefits of scientific progress.
The covenant is monitored by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Source: The Minnesota Human Rights Resource Center, based on UN Centre on Human Rights, The International Bill of Rights, Fact Sheet #2.