The Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR 1966)
The Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was adopted in 1966, but only entered into force 10 years later. It commits states parties to promote and protect a wide range of economic, social and cultural rights, including rights relating to work in just and favourable conditions, to social protection, to an adequate standard of living, to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, to education and to enjoyment of the benefits of cultural freedom and scientific progress. It obliges states parties to respect and ensure that all individuals subject to their jurisdiction enjoy all the rights included in the ICESCR, without discrimination.
ICESCR provides a framework for creating gender sensitive indicators for measuring government accountability for commitments adopted under the ICESCR (link to the committee), and the extent to which women’s full participation is reflected in decision making in the legal, political, economic, social, and familial spheres. Article 3 of the ICESCR promotes equal rights to men and women.
1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to education. They agree that education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity, and shall strengthen the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. They further agree that education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic or religious groups, and further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
2. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that, with a view to achieving the full realization of this right:
(a) Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all;
(b) Secondary education in its different forms, including technical and vocational secondary education, shall be made generally available and accessible to all by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;
(c) Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education;
(d) Fundamental education shall be encouraged or intensified as far as possible for those persons who have not received or completed the whole period of their primary education;
(e) The development of a system of schools at all levels shall be actively pursued, an adequate fellowship system shall be established, and the material conditions of teaching staff shall be continuously improved.
3. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
4. No part of this article shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principles set forth in paragraph I of this article and to the requirement that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.
Each State Party to the present Covenant which, at the time of becoming a Party, has not been able to secure in its metropolitan territory or other territories under its jurisdiction compulsory primary education, free of charge, undertakes, within two years, to work out and adopt a detailed plan of action for the progressive implementation, within a reasonable number of years, to be fixed in the plan, of the principle of compulsory education free of charge for all.
‘The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.’
See General Comments, which further explains the articles of ICESCR:
For example, paragraph 32 of General Comment 13, on article 13 ICESCR, allows for the ‘adoption of temporary special measures intended to bring about de facto equality for men and women and for disadvantaged groups… so long as such measures do not lead to the maintenance of unequal or separate standards for different groups and provided they are not continued after the objectives which they were taken have been achieved’.
See also Optional Protocol of ICESCR