Human rights – what do I need to know?


International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 (ICESCR)



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International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 (ICESCR)


Australia ratified the ICESCR in 1976.

The Covenant protects a range of economic, social and cultural rights including:



States are required to take steps to achieve the ‘progressive realisation’ of the rights in the ICESCR. For example, it is assumed that where States have inadequate resources to ensure that free education is provided to all school children, they will take concrete steps to work towards achieving this goal.

The ICESCR does not form part of Australia’s domestic law.

However, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner has specific statutory functions related to protecting and promoting the human rights of Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders. In the performance of these functions the Social Justice Commissioner must have regard to a number of international declarations and conventions, including the ICESCR.

On 10 December 2008, an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which would allow individuals to complain to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly.



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