International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966. Entry into force on 3 January 1976, in accordance with article 27. With regard to migrant workers: see articles 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.
Status of ratification, reservations and declarations
The implementation of the ICESCR by its States parties is carried out by The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), established under the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Resolution 1985/17 of 28 May 1985.
CESCR migrant focus is on working conditions. It considers that non-nationals should enjoy economic, social and cultural rights (i.e. minimum wage, health and maternal benefits, pension benefits, unemployment benefits and safe working conditions) on an equal footing with nationals. For further information on the topic see The UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies and Migrants Workers: a Samizdat.
Main CESCR’s General Comments concerning migrants:
- CESCR General Comment N. 14 (2000), the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health (art. 12 of the ICESCR). It states: “States are under the obligation to respect the right to health by, inter alia, refraining from denying or limiting equal access for all persons, including prisoners or detainees, minorities, asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, to preventive, curative and palliative health services.”
- CESCR General Comment N. 16 (2005), The equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights (art. 3 of the ICESCR) reads: “The principle of non- discrimination is the corollary of the principle of equality. Subject to […] temporary special measures, it prohibits differential treatment of a person or group of persons based on his/her or their particular status or situation, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political and other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status, such as age, ethnicity, disability, marital, refugee or migrant status.”
- CESCR General Comment N. 18 (2005), the Right to Work (art. 6 of the ICESCR) affirms that “The principle of non discrimination as set out in Article 2.2 of the Covenant (…) should apply in relation to employment opportunities for migrant workers and their families. In this regard the Committee underlines the need for national plans of action to be devised to respect and promote such principles by all appropriate measures, legislative or otherwise” and that “States parties are under the obligation to respect the right to work by, inter alia, prohibiting forced or compulsory labour and refraining from denying or limiting equal access to decent work for all persons, especially disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, including prisoners or detainees, members of minorities and migrant workers”.
- CESCR General Comment N. 19 (2007), The right to social security (art. 9 of the ICESCR), after having asserted migrants’ right to have physical access to the social security services, prohibits discrimination declaring that “Where non-nationals, including migrant workers, have contributed to a social security scheme, they should be able to benefit from that contribution or retrieve their contributions if they leave the country” and that “States parties should ensure that the right to social security is given due attention in international agreements and, to that end, should consider the development of further legal instruments. The Committee notes the importance of establishing reciprocal bilateral and multilateral international agreements or other instruments for coordinating or harmonizing contributory social security schemes for migrant workers”.
- CESCR General Comment N. 20 (2009), Non-Discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 2 of the ICESCR), insists on the principle of non-discrimination in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights clarifying once more that “The Covenant rights apply to everyone including non-nationals, such as refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless persons, migrant workers and victims of international trafficking, regardless of legal status and documentation”.
Documents and links:
- Fact Sheet No.16 (Rev.1), The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- NGO participation in the activities of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net)