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Economic, social and cultural rights : general obligations in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Abdi Jibril Ali (UGent)
(2020)
Author
Promoter
(UGent) and Lourdes Peroni
Organization
Abstract
Summary: Food, health care, housing and water are basic goods and services necessary to lead a dignified life. The main means of accessing basic goods and services are usually property ownership and work, save exceptional circumstances where individuals rely on the support of their fellow human being or institutions. Since the advent of the United Nations, access to basic goods and services has been recognised as economic, social and cultural rights guaranteed in international human rights treaties. State parties have undertaken the international obligations to give effect to these rights. The treaties were adopted within the framework of international organisations. The pioneer is the Council of Europe whose model of treaty-making has been replicated first by the United Nations and then by the Organisation of American States. The Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) was the late comer to the human rights project when it adopted the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), the main human rights treaty of the African Union. The African Charter applies to the Continent of Africa, where the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights is relatively low. This research examines the scope of general legal obligations undertaken by states in the African Charter, considering the progressive realisation obligation as the principal obligation corresponding to the recognistion of economic, social and cultural rights. The research distinguishes the progressive realisation obligation from its exceptions, the immediate obligations, which include minimum core obligations and non-discrimination/equality. It links the progressive realisation obligation to the limitations on economic, social and cultural rights and recognises the the importance of participation of individuals and groups in the implementation of their economic, social and cultural rights. To examine the general legal obligation of states in the African Charter, the research analyses text of the African Charter and findings of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court), which include cases, comments, declarations, guidelines, observations, opinions, principles, reports and resolutions. The research draws insights from the text of the Europian Social Charter (European Charter), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the American Convention on Human Rights (American Convention), and the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador), and from the practice the Eurpean Committee of Social Rights (European Committee), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Inter-American Commission), and Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court). The research finds that the recognition of economic, social and cultural rights in the African Charter envisages broader state obligations than in the European Charter, the ICESCR, and the Protocol of San Salvador. It also finds that the African Commission reduces the state obligations by interpreting economic, social and cultural rights in the African Charter in line with the ICESCR and the practice of the CESCR. The Commission imported the concept of progressive realisation without adapting the concept to the textual contexts of the Charter and introduced a general limitation clause into the Charter. It has interpreted economic, social and cultural rights in isolation, undermining the indivisibility of all rights in the African Charter. The Commission and the Court have overlooked the 314 individual right to participate in government of one’s country and the collective right to self-determination, reducing the state obligation to ensure participation of individuals and groups in the implementation of their economic, social and cultural rights only to the rights to property, health, and a general satisfactory environment. The research finds that the Commission’s interpretation of state obligations in the African Charter is sometimes narrower than the CESCR’s interpretation of state obligations in the ICESCR. In particular, the Commission identified fewer minimum core obligations compared to those identified by the CESCR as core obligations. While developing a general limitation clause under the Charter, the Commission and the Court expanded grounds for limiting the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights that are not incorporated in the ICESCR. The research concludes that the African Commission and the African Court have articulated a narrow conception of economic, social and cultural rights. It recommends that the Commission and the Court should avoid the interpretation that erodes substantive content of economic, social and cultural rights guaranteed in the African Charter. In particular, the research recommends the revision of the Principles and Guidelines on the Implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Nairobi Principles), which contains the major interpretation of the Commission.
Samenvatting: Voedsel, gezondheidszorg, huisvesting en water zijn basisgoederen en –diensten die noodzakelijk zijn om een menswaardig leven te kunnen leiden. Behoudens uitzonderlijke omstandigheden, waarin individuen op de steun van anderen of van de overheid moeten rekenen, kan men deze basisnoden vervullen door te werken, of door op een andere manier eigendommen te vergaren. Het fundamentele belang van toegang tot deze goederen en diensten, is wereldwijd erkend door de formulering van mensenrechten: economische, sociale (en culturele) rechten (ESC rechten) maken sinds de Universele Verklaring van de Mensenrechten (1948) deel uit van het arsenaal van universele mensenrechten. Staten die partij zijn bij internationale mensenrechtenverdragen in dit domein, hebben internationaalrechtelijke verplichtingen om deze rechten ten uitvoer te brengen. Behalve op het niveau van de Verenigde Naties, krijgen deze rechten en de bijhorende verplichtingen vorm in verdragen die worden afgesloten binnen regionale organisaties. In Europa is dat in de eerste plaats de Raad van Europa. Daarnaast is er op het Amerikaanse continent de Organisatie van Amerikaanse Staten. Dit proefschrift handelt over mensenrechtenbescherming op het Afrikaanse continent, binnen het kader van de Afrikaanse Unie. Het voornaamste mensenrechtenverdrag van de Afrikaanse Unie is het Afrikaans Handvest van de Rechten van Mensen en Volkeren. Dit onderzoek handelt over de interpretatie van de ESC rechten in het Handvest. Het zoomt met name in op de reikwijdte van de algemene statenverplichtingen onder dit verdrag. Het gaat daarbij in de eerste plaats om de verplichting van ‘progressieve verwezenlijking’ van ESC rechten. Vervolgens worden twee algemene verplichtingen onderzocht die gelden als uitzonderingen op het principe van progressieve verwezenlijking, omdat ze een onmiddellijk karakter hebben. Dit zijn de ‘minimale kernverplichtingen’ en het principe van gelijkheid/non-discriminatie. Daarna komen de beperkingsmodaliteiten van ESC rechten aan bod, en tenslotte het belang van de participatie van individuen en groepen bij de tenuitvoerlegging van ESC rechten. In dit onderzoek wordt de tekst van het Afrikaans Handvest geanalyseerd, samen met de bevindingen van de Afrikaanse Commissie voor de Rechten van Mensen en Volkeren, en het Afrikaans Hof voor de Rechten van Mensen en Volkeren. Deze bevindingen zijn vervat in diverse bronnen: (quasi-) gerechtelijke uitspraken, commentaren, verklaringen, richtlijnen, opinies, principes, rapporten en resoluties. Het onderzoek betrekt ook andere regionale systemen in de analyse, met name de interpretatie van het Europees Sociaal Handvest, het Internationaal Verdrag inzake Economische, Sociale en Culturele Rechten (IVESCR), het Amerikaans Verdrag van de Rechten van de Mens, en het toegevoegd Protocol bij het Amerikaans Verdrag van de Rechten van de Mens in het domein van Economische, Sociale en Culturele Rechten (Protocol van San Salvador). Daarbij komt ook de interpretatieve praktijk aan bod van het Europees Comité voor Sociale Rechten, het VN Comité inzake Economische, Sociale en Culturele Rechten (CESCR), de Inter-Amerikaanse Commissie voor de Rechten van de Mens, en het Inter-Amerikaanse Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens. Het onderzoek stelt vast de erkenning van ESC rechten in de tekst van het Afrikaans Handvest verdergaande overheidsverplichtingen omvat dan deze in het Europees Sociaal Handvest, het IVESCR en het Protocol van San Salvador. Het stelt ook vast dat de Afrikaanse Commissie deze overheidsverplichtingen reduceert door de ESC rechten in het Afrikaans Handvest te interpreteren in lijn met het IVESCR en de interpretatieve praktijk van de CESCR. De Afrikaanse Commissie voerde met name het concept van progressieve verwezenlijking in zonder dit aan te passen aan de tekstuele 316 context van het Handvest. Ze introduceerde bovendien een algemene beperkingsclausule in het Handvest. De Afrikaanse Commissie interpreteert ESC rechten in isolatie, waardoor ze tekort doet aan de ondeelbaarheid van alle mensenrechten in het Afrikaans Handvest. De Commissie en het Hof doen bovendien te weinig recht aan het individuele recht om deel te nemen aan het bestuur en aan het collectieve zelfbeschikkingsrecht. Hierdoor reduceren ze de overheidsverplichting om participatie van individuen en groepen te verzekeren in de tenuitvoerlegging van hun ESC rechten, tot amper drie rechten: het eigendomsrecht, het recht op gezondheid en het recht op een aanvaardbaar leefmilieu. Het onderzoek stelt vast de interpretatie door de Commissie van de overheidsverplichtingen in het Afrikaans Handvest soms enger is dan de interpretatie van de overheidsverplichtingen in het IVESCR door de CESCR. In het bijzonder heeft de Afrikaanse Commissie een kleiner aantal minimale kernverplichtingen geïdentificeerd in vergelijking met de CESCR. Bovendien hebben de Afrikaanse Commissie en het Afrikaanse Hof bij het ontwikkelen van een algemene beperkingsclausule onder het Handvest, de gronden voor de beperking van het genot van ESC rechten uitgebreid op een wijze die verder gaat dan de beperkingen in het IVESCR. Het onderzoek besluit dat de Afrikaanse Commissie en het Afrikaanse Hof een enge interpretatie van ESC rechten hebben uitgewerkt. Het formuleert de aanbeveling dat de Commissie en het Hof interpretaties zouden vermijden die de inhoudelijke bescherming van de ESC rechten in het Handvest eroderen. Meer specifiek beveelt het onderzoek een herziening aan van de ‘Nairobi Principles’ (Principles and Guidelines on the Implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights), die de krijtlijnen van de interpretatie van de Commissie in deze materie vastleggen.
Keywords
HRC, Human Rights Law, Dissertation, ESC-Rights

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Citation

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MLA
Ali, Abdi Jibril. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights : General Obligations in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Recht en Criminologie, 2020.
APA
Ali, A. J. (2020). Economic, social and cultural rights : general obligations in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Recht en Criminologie, Gent.
Chicago author-date
Ali, Abdi Jibril. 2020. “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights : General Obligations in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.” Gent: Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Recht en Criminologie.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Ali, Abdi Jibril. 2020. “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights : General Obligations in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.” Gent: Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Recht en Criminologie.
Vancouver
1.
Ali AJ. Economic, social and cultural rights : general obligations in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. [Gent]: Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Recht en Criminologie; 2020.
IEEE
[1]
A. J. Ali, “Economic, social and cultural rights : general obligations in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Recht en Criminologie, Gent, 2020.
@phdthesis{8675669,
  abstract     = {Summary:
Food, health care, housing and water are basic goods and services necessary to lead a dignified life. The main means of accessing basic goods and services are usually property ownership and work, save exceptional circumstances where individuals rely on the support of their fellow human being or institutions. Since the advent of the United Nations, access to basic goods and services has been recognised as economic, social and cultural rights guaranteed in international human rights treaties. State parties have undertaken the international obligations to give effect to these rights. The treaties were adopted within the framework of international organisations. The pioneer is the Council of Europe whose model of treaty-making has been replicated first by the United Nations and then by the Organisation of American States. The Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union) was the late comer to the human rights project when it adopted the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), the main human rights treaty of the African Union. The African Charter applies to the Continent of Africa, where the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights is relatively low.
This research examines the scope of general legal obligations undertaken by states in the African Charter, considering the progressive realisation obligation as the principal obligation corresponding to the recognistion of economic, social and cultural rights. The research distinguishes the progressive realisation obligation from its exceptions, the immediate obligations, which include minimum core obligations and non-discrimination/equality. It links the progressive realisation obligation to the limitations on economic, social and cultural rights and recognises the the importance of participation of individuals and groups in the implementation of their economic, social and cultural rights.
To examine the general legal obligation of states in the African Charter, the research analyses text of the African Charter and findings of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court), which include cases, comments, declarations, guidelines, observations, opinions, principles, reports and resolutions. The research draws insights from the text of the Europian Social Charter (European Charter), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the American Convention on Human Rights (American Convention), and the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Protocol of San Salvador), and from the practice the Eurpean Committee of Social Rights (European Committee), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Inter-American Commission), and Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court).
The research finds that the recognition of economic, social and cultural rights in the African Charter envisages broader state obligations than in the European Charter, the ICESCR, and the Protocol of San Salvador. It also finds that the African Commission reduces the state obligations by interpreting economic, social and cultural rights in the African Charter in line with the ICESCR and the practice of the CESCR. The Commission imported the concept of progressive realisation without adapting the concept to the textual contexts of the Charter and introduced a general limitation clause into the Charter. It has interpreted economic, social and cultural rights in isolation, undermining the indivisibility of all rights in the African Charter. The Commission and the Court have overlooked the
314
individual right to participate in government of one’s country and the collective right to self-determination, reducing the state obligation to ensure participation of individuals and groups in the implementation of their economic, social and cultural rights only to the rights to property, health, and a general satisfactory environment. The research finds that the Commission’s interpretation of state obligations in the African Charter is sometimes narrower than the CESCR’s interpretation of state obligations in the ICESCR. In particular, the Commission identified fewer minimum core obligations compared to those identified by the CESCR as core obligations. While developing a general limitation clause under the Charter, the Commission and the Court expanded grounds for limiting the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights that are not incorporated in the ICESCR.
The research concludes that the African Commission and the African Court have articulated a narrow conception of economic, social and cultural rights. It recommends that the Commission and the Court should avoid the interpretation that erodes substantive content of economic, social and cultural rights guaranteed in the African Charter. In particular, the research recommends the revision of the Principles and Guidelines on the Implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Nairobi Principles), which contains the major interpretation of the Commission.},
  author       = {Ali, Abdi Jibril},
  keywords     = {HRC,Human Rights Law,Dissertation,ESC-Rights},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {viii, 316},
  publisher    = {Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Recht en Criminologie},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {Economic, social and cultural rights : general obligations in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights},
  url          = {https://www.ugent.be/nl/agenda/doctoraten/20200923-RE22},
  year         = {2020},
}