- Dr. Khine Khine Win
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR is one of the core International Human Rights Treaties. In December 1966, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the historic convention namely ICESCR and in force form January 1976. ICESCR is part of the International Bill of Human Rights along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ICCPR.
The ICESCR defines a broad set of rights related to the economic, social, and cultural elements of life and it includes the rights to decent work, an adequate standard of living, housing, food, water and sanitation, social security, health, and education. Indeed it recognizes the rights of all people to self determination, pursue their economic, social and cultural goals, and manage and dispose of their own resources. Thus ICESCR always stand as essential as the freedom of expression or the right to a fair trial for ensuring human dignity.
Like other human rights, economic, social and cultural rights are the birth right of every human being. A child excluded from primary school because of school fees, a woman paid less than her male colleague for the same work, a person in a wheel chair unable to enter a theatre because there is no ramp, a man refused emergency medical care on account of his migrant status, an artist whose work is publicly distorted, these all are examples of individuals denied their economic, social and cultural rights.
Myanmar signed the ICESCR in July 2015. Two years and three months later on 6 October 2017, Myanmar ratified the ICESCR according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Myanmar. What a great news to us as ratification the ICESCR means State guarantee its citizens the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights without discrimination and to ensure the equal right of man and woman to the enjoyment of these rights. State must prohibit discrimination in, for instance health care, education and workplace.
There are a number of clear benefits to the wider human rights movement if States ratify the core treaties. According to the UN data, a total of 164 countries have already ratified the ICESCR. Myanmar now became the State Party of ICESCR and this is the fourth International human rights treaty ratified by Myanmar out of nine International Human Rights Treaties. What I believe is that the most important benefit of ratification human rights treaty is the actual improvement in the human rights of individuals and groups in the ratifying State. Greater realization of human rights has the potential to empower the disadvantaged and marginalized, and contribute to a more just, inclusive and fair society. Ultimately, a State with a strong commitment to human rights is likely to be a State that is well-governed, secure and stable. Let me proudly say, ICESCR ratification is a mile stone for us, for our country.
In order to assume all monitoring functions of the implementations of ICESCR, there is committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights. It is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors the implementation of ICESCR. All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially within two years of accepting the Covenant and thereafter every five years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”.
Actually, State has the primary role to respect, protect and fulfill of human rights of its citizens, other various actor including NHRIs, CSOs also have important role to realizing the economic, social and cultural rights. In addition, different State organs (the legislature, the executive and the judiciary) also play the role on human rights including economic, social and cultural rights. They all need to work together to implement the ICESCR.
As we noted, human rights are crucial to development and economic, social and cultural rights are fundamental to development. Nowadays, many Nations in the world have been implementing the 2030 agenda for sustainable development goals with different strategies and plans. The SDGs provide an appropriate framework for advocating and implementing economic, social and cultural rights within an overall approach to sustainable development which enhances economic prosperity, promotes social equity and facilitates the expression of cultural identity. Implementing SDGs successfully means implementing the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights of people, no doubt. We want development without discrimination.
In conclusion, I myself happily welcome Myanmar ratification of the ICESCR being the citizen of Myanmar as economic, social and cultural rights address the livelihood of all Myanmar people and it provide guidance to government on interpretations of rights enshrined in the ICESCR articles. It is really great news to us.