International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
ICESCR is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1966. The UK ratified (agreed to follow) ICESCR in 1976.
By ratifying ICESCR, the UK agrees to ensure the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to:
- fair and just conditions of work
- an adequate standard of living
- the highest attainable standard of health
- social security
How the treaty is monitored
The implementation of ICESCR is monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Around every five years the Committee reviews how well each state is putting into practice the rights in ICESCR. Find out more about previous review cycles.
There are six stages in the treaty cycle. Civil society organisations can engage throughout this process. The UN’s website has more information on how to participate.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) treaty cycle
The ICESCR review cycle is currently at stage 1: stakeholders report on progress.
Please note that some of the timings given below are estimates, particularly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which prompted the UN to cancel a number of Geneva sessions. The below will be updated when the UN publishes further information on the timetable for the UK’s review.
1. Stakeholders report on progress
- UK state report (published May 2022).
- Stakeholders should plan to submit their reports 10 weeks before the UN draws up its List of Issues (see stage 2 below). Based on current estimates, stakeholder reports are due in December 2022.
2. UN publishes list of issues
- Based on the current timetable, the UN is expected to adopt its List of Issues at a Pre-Sessional Working Group in March 2023 at the earliest.
3. Stakeholders respond to list of issues
- The UK will be expected to submit its state report within one year of the List of Issues being published, which we estimate will be in March 2024 at the earliest.
- Other stakeholders who want to respond to the List of Issues should plan to submit their reports by March 2024 at the earliest.
4. UN examines the government
- Based on the current timetable, we estimate that the UN review will take place in 2024.
5. UN publishes recommendations
- Based on the current timetable, we estimate that the UN will publish its recommendations to the UK in 2024.
- The UN published its last recommendations to the UK (June 2016).
6. Government implements recommendations
ICESCR has one Optional Protocol. This is an additional treaty that allows people to complain directly to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights if they believe their rights have been violated. It can only be used when all domestic channels have been exhausted. It has not been ratified by the UK.
The Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights has issued a number of General Comments on ICESCR. These provide further detail on how it should be interpreted, covering issues such as the rights to education, work and social security.