Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

By Patrick Thornberry | Go to book overview

7

The Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights

General

The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) does not contain a specific article on indigenous groups or - unlike the ICCPR 1 - on minorities. 2 None the less, concern about the conditions of indigenous life has exercised the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the ESC Committee) on many occasions and will doubtless continue to do so. The Covenant is structured as a programmatic or promotional human rights treaty. 3 The basic obligation for the States' parties is set out in Article 2.1 whereby each party `undertakes to take steps . . . to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights' recognised in the Covenant. Not all the obligations in the ICESCR are subject to resource constraints. Thus, the parties `undertake to guarantee' 4 the non-discriminatory application of the rights in the Covenant, 5 and `undertake to ensure' the equal rights of men and women in the enjoyment of Covenant rights. 6 The ESC Committee has endeavoured to provide a cutting edge to the rights guarantees in order to avoid the indefinite postponement of their delivery. It has underlined that the obligation to `take

____________________
1
Its `twin sibling' - P. Alston, `The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights', in Manual on Human Rights Reporting (Geneva, United Nations, 1997), pp. 65-169 at p. 65.
2
At 1 December 2000, the Covenant had been ratified or acceded to by 144 States: E/C.12/2000/21, para. 1.
3
For wide-ranging background, see Select Bibliography of Published Material Relating to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, E/C.12/1989/L.3/Rev.3, 3 October 2000.
4
Article 2.2.
5
`In other words, if the resources are available to enable any degree of enjoyment of a given right, then it must be under circumstances which do not discriminate' (Alston, `International Covenant', in Manual, p. 65).
6
Article 3.

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