What are economic, social and cultural rights?

Human rights have the potential to help us achieve social justice and they encourage us to rethink systemically the way we design and implement public policy.

Access to adequate housing, education, health, food, decent work, social security, an adequate standard of living and participation in cultural life are globally recognised as human rights. 

The UK has signed up to a number of relevant international treaties, the most important being the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. However, these rights have not been incorporated into national laws and policies.

International human rights law imposes certain obligations on public authorities. Among other things, they must respect the minimum core content of economic, social and cultural rights in all circumstances, they must protect everyone from possible wrongdoing by third parties, they cannot discriminate on any of the prohibited grounds, and they must pay particular attention to most vulnerable groups.

Authorities have to advance progressively the level of enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights over time, with the corresponding expectation of non-regression, namely, the requirement to avoid step backwards. Governments have to adopt all necessary policies to protect and fulfil economic, social and cultural rights, including through progressive taxation and judicial enforceability.

About this project

Many policies and laws protecting economic, social and cultural rights in the UK come from the EU. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, some of our rights could be at risk. There has never been a stronger need and indeed an opportunity to incorporate international human rights law if and when EU Law no longer applies.‌

ARTICLE 22 is a collaborative project set up by the Institute of Health and Society that will engage with academics, members of society and policy makers to examine the law and policy changes we need to secure economic, social and cultural rights in the UK.‌