was originally intended that one treaty, rather than two,
would give legal force to the 1948 Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. The Cold War prevented this.
The West stressed the importance
of civil and political rights like the right to choose
a government, freedom of expression, conscience and belief.
The Communist bloc gave priority to economic, social and
cultural rights, such as the right to work, housing and
access to health care.
It took almost twenty years before a compromise was reached.
Two Covenants were drafted and adopted in 1966.
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
When Governments become parties to these treaties,
they are required to comply with certain obligations and conditions,
such as reporting back to the UN.
In the post-Cold War world the perceived conflict
between civil and political rights on the one hand and economic
and social rights on the other has diminished.
For example, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of action
which resulted from the World Conference on Human Rights in
Vienna in 1993 emphasizes that 'all human rights are universal,
indivisible and interdependent and inter-related'.
Role of Committees
When governments become parties to human rights treaties such
as the ICESCR and the ICCPR, they are required to comply with
certain conditions. All of the treaties have a committee which
oversees the implementation of the rights outlined within them.
These committees meet annually and require
each state, once it has ratified a convention, to submit an
initial report on the measures it has adopted which give effect
to the rights recognised in its respective covenant. Depending
on the committee, each state must report every four to five
years on the progress made in the enjoyment of rights in their
Some of the committees also consider communications
received from individuals who claim that their rights, as outlined
in the treaty, have been violated without domestic redress.
The ICCPR is overseen by the Human Rights Committee.
Under the Optional Protocol, The Human Rights Committee also
considers complaints received from individuals who argue that
their rights have been violated and domestic remedy is not available.
The ICESCR is monitored by the Committee on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.