Update: 29.09.2015

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

16 December 1966 (entry into force 03 January 1976).

Text of Treaty

German / French / Italian / English

The Covenant enshrines fundamental economic, social and cultural rights.


164 contracting states (as at 29 September 2015; current count)


The ICESCR encompasses the economic, social and cultural human rights.

Obligation of Contracting States

The contracting states are obliged to implement all documented economic, social and cultural rights by exhausting all possible resources. This does not mean that the individual guarantees listed in the Covenant must be fulfilled immediately. Rather, the contracting states are subject to a progressive implementation obligation. This means that they must, individually and in international co-operation, take appropriate steps to achieve a gradual implementation of the rights listed in Covenant I. However, all guarantees resulting from minimum and realization obligations that do not require the use of state resources (omission obligations) are to be fulfilled immediately.

Monitoring Processes

The compliance of all contracting states with the duties of Covenant I are monitored within the framework of a reporting system: A responsibility rest of the states to give account of designed measures, achieved improvements and difficulties in the domestic implementation of guarantees (Art. 16, 17). The first report is released two years after entry into force and further reports follow if necessary. In practice, a report is released approximately every five years. 

General Comments 

In 1989 the Committee began issuing General Comments.

Optional Protocol of 2008: Individual Complaint Process

Text: English / French

On 10 December 2008 an Optional Protocol was adopted. In order to enforce the rights of the ICESCR, it provides for an individual complaint process. On 24 September 2009 it was presented for signing. It entered into force on 5 May 2013. Presently, 21 states have ratified the Protocol; 45 states have signed it (as at 29 September 2015, current count).

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