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The Cold War brought about the existence of two different treaties

143 countries had ratified the Economic Covenant and 147 countries had ratified the Political Covenant by 11 Mar 2001.

Other Treaties:


Racial Discrimination




Regional Courts

UN Human Rights Commission

International Criminal Court

Vienna Declaration



International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Human Rights Committee

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

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The International Covenants


It 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.

Check what your country has ratified

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 Rights (ICESCR)
  • 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 country.

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.

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