Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

A woman walks past one of several Haitian ministries demolished by the January 12 earthquake. Mass devastation of infrastructure and housing led to a severe crisis in access to adequate food, water, and shelter, much of which persists today.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes rights to food, housing and education alongside rights to liberty, freedom of expression, and equal protection of the law. However, the “civil and political rights” have often been favored while the “economic, social and cultural rights” have been neglected.

CHRGJ aims to correct this imbalance by analyzing problems of implementation at the national level, examining the roles played by institutional actors within the international community, and fostering dialogue between the development and human rights communities.

The Center, in conjunction with its Global Justice Clinic, has undertaken a number of activities to achieve these priorities, which have included using cutting edge methodologies to assess—and advocate for—the fulfillment of the rights to water and food, as well as some of the following the following:

  • Conducting a major study on rights accountability of transnational corporations and international organizations, which resulted in an edited volume, Non-State Actors and Human Rights;
  • Being involved in efforts to promote the realization of the United Nations-endorsed Millennium Development Goals. In 2002 the Center’s Faculty Director and Chair, Philip Alston, was appointed by the late Sergio Vieira de Mello as Special Adviser to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and his representative on the Millennium Project Task Force on Poverty and Economic Development, chaired by Prof. Jeffrey Sachs. To contribute to this process, the Center organized a workshop on “Human Rights and Development: Towards Mutual Reinforcement.”
  • Highlighting labor rights and the rights of migrants as core human rights issues. Center activities have emphasized the intersection of labor rights and women’s rights by focusing on migrant domestic workers.
  • Promoting a move beyond abstract discussions about the concept of economic and social rights to study of the ways in which specific rights can be given effect at the national level.
  • I identifying how the failure to fulfill economic and social rights can increase the risk of other violations, such as gender-based violence.

For more, please visit the following project pages:


A mix of donated and makeshift tents at the Champs de Mars IDP camp in Haiti, one of four camps where the Global Justice Clinic’s survey on GBV and ECSR was administered in 2011.