COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has started developing a General Comment on Sustainable Development and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


1) Learn more about the General Comment on Sustainable Development and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The human rights treaty bodies publish their authoritative interpretation of the provisions of their respective human rights treaties, in the form of “general comments” or “general recommendations”. The aim of general comments is to help State parties better implement the rights enshrined in the treaties. Accordingly, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights publishes its authoritative interpretation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The General Comments of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights cover a wide range of subjects, ranging from the right of everyone to take part in cultural life, to business activities and economic, social and cultural rights, and from the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, to the right to just and favourable conditions of work. You can find all the general comments adopted by the Committee here.

Being developed in the 1970s, the concept of sustainable development is not explicitly referred in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was adopted in 1966. The significance of sustainable development for the international agenda was stamped by the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which also reaffirmed the right to development. It has been reinforced by subsequent conferences and is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In line with its mandate, including in the context of the examination of States parties’ reports, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has advised States on how to discharge the Covenant obligations while pursuing sustainable development.

At one of its sessions, the Committee decided to work on a General Comment to consolidate these observations and views. The elaboration of the General Comment is led by a drafting group composed of five members of the Committee.

The Committee’s drafting group has identified the following ten key themes to explore in its new General Comment, which are of overarching central concern and relevance in considering sustainable development and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights:

  1. Natural resources: Responsible governance and institutions, resource availability, equity in access and limitations in the use
  2. Environmental degradation and biodiversity loss
  3. Climate change, sustainable development, and economic, social and cultural rights
  4. Gender equality
  5. Leave no-one behind: Disadvantaged and marginalised groups and intersectionality
  6. Indigenous Peoples, Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas
  7. Private actors and sustainable development
  8. International co-operation, extra-territorial obligations and transboundary impacts
  9. Remedies and accountability
  10. The interrelationship between sustainable development and key concepts in the Covenant


2) Preparations for the development of the General Comment on Sustainable Development and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The drafting of the General Comment is still at its preparatory phase. Informal consultations were held with representatives from civil society organizations and academia in 2019 and 2020, which helped the Committee members to put out some key questions for its future General Comment.

Accordingly, the Committee’s drafting group has prepared an Issues Paper on Sustainable Development and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to serve as a discussion guide and background paper for the preparation of a new general comment.

In 2021 and 2022, five regional consultations are planned to take place, in order to elicit insights from academia, civil society, think tanks, practitioners and experts, focusing on local, national and regional actors and grassroots organizations. The regional consultations serve to facilitate contributions to the work of the drafting group and to discuss fundamental questions concerning sustainable development and economic, social and cultural rights.

So far, one regional consultation focusing on Africa took place on 3 September 2021, and another one focusing on Americas on 7 September 2021. Committee members listened to participants from academia, civil society, think tanks, practitioners and experts from Africa and Americas, who shared their experiences and insights. Three more regional consultations are planned to take place in 2022, covering Asia and Pacific, Europe, and Middle East and North Africa. The Committee members appreciate the role undertaken by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Dejusticia, and German Institute for Human Rights in organizing and supporting these regional consultations.

To ensure efficient and candid exchanges, the regional consultations are held under the Chatham House Rule. If you wish to participate in the regional consultations, you can find more information under Regional Consultations.

Three more regional consultations are planned to take place in 2022, for Asia and Pacific, Europe, and Middle East and North Africa. The Committee members appreciate the role undertaken by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Dejusticia, and German Institute for Human Rights in organizing and supporting these regional consultations. To ensure efficient and candid exchanges, the regional consultations are held under the Chatham House Rule. If you wish to participate in the regional consultations, you can find more information in due course, including on how to contact the organizers.

In April 2022, the Committee members are planning to meet with children from Africa, Asia and Pacific, Americas, Europe, and Middle East and North Africa, and listen to their views and opinions on sustainable development and economic, social and cultural rights. This will be the first time for the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to engage with children in such a setting. The Committee members appreciate the role undertaken by Child Rights Connect, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, German Institute for Human Rights and Nottingham University in organizing and supporting the Global Consultation with Children on Sustainable Development and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Following these consultations, the Committee is planning to hold a Day of General Discussion at a later stage. More information will be available in due course. You can learn more about the Committee’s general discussion days by clicking here.

The Committee will then prepare a zero draft of the General Comment. It will publish the zero draft on its website, and issue a call for written contributions to the draft general comment. By way of public consultation, the Committee will invite interested stakeholders, including States, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, academics, international and regional organizations and experts, to make a written contribution to the draft general comment. More information will follow in due course.



3) How can you take part in this process?

In 2021 and 2022, five online regional consultations are planned to take place, in order to elicit insights from academia, civil society, think tanks, practitioners and experts, focusing on local, national and regional actors and grassroots organizations. The regional consultations serve to facilitate contributions to the work of the drafting group and to discuss fundamental questions concerning sustainable development and economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee members appreciate the role undertaken by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Dejusticia, and German Institute for Human Rights in organizing and supporting these regional consultations.

The planning of the regional consultations:
- Africa, 3 September 2021
- Americas, 7 September 2021
- Europe, 8 February 2022
- Asia and the Pacific, date to be announced
- Middle East and North Africa, date to be announced

To ensure efficient and candid exchanges, the regional consultations are held under the Chatham House Rule. If you wish to participate in regional consultations, you can find more information in due course, including on how to contact the organizers.

For more information about the upcoming Consultation for European Region on Tuesday, 8 February 2022, please click here. You can also convey your request to participate in the consultation, using the same link. If you still have more questions you can contact the organizers, or send an email to ohchr-cescr-sd@un.org.

In April 2022, the Committee members are planning to meet with children from Africa, Asia and Pacific, Americas, Europe, and Middle East and North Africa, and listen to their views and opinions on sustainable development and economic, social and cultural rights. This will be the first time for the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to engage with children in such a setting. The Committee members appreciate the role undertaken by Child Rights Connect, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, German Institute for Human Rights and Nottingham University in organizing and supporting the Global Consultation with Children on Sustainable Development and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Following these consultations, the Committee is planning to hold a Day of General Discussion at a later stage. More information will be available in due course. You can learn more about the Committee’s general discussion days by clicking here.

In due course and following the consultations and the day of general discussion, the Committee will prepare a zero draft of the General Comment. It will publish the zero draft on its website, and issue a call for written contributions to the draft general comment. By way of public consultation, the Committee will invite interested stakeholders, including States, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, academics, international and regional organizations and experts, to make a written contribution to the draft general comment. More information will follow in due course.


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