The ICESCR is an international agreement that protects economic, social and cultural rights, upon which South Africa’s Bill of Rights was modelled. The ICESCR, together with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, constitutes the International Bill of Rights. (See also: What is the ICESCR and what rights does it protect?)
16 years ago, Nelson Mandela signed this international United Nations agreement, which commits its signatories to working towards the rights to social security, food, housing, health, education, work and an adequate standard of living. But despite his signature, until 2015, South Africa remained one of the few countries in the world that had yet to ratify the ICESCR. This was particularly surprising, given that the ICESCR was used as the model for South Africa’s Bill of Rights. See: http://www.blacksash.org.za/files/icescrcomparisonchart.pdf
On 21 September 2010, the 160 countries that are parties to the Covenant began signing the newly adopted Optional Protocol to the ICESCR. This gives individuals and groups the opportunity to get justice for violations of their socio-economic rights at an international level. This Protocol provides an important platform to expose abuses that are often linked to poverty, discrimination and neglect. However, South Africa couldn’t sign this Protocol until it had ratified the ICESCR.
Civil society organisations in South Africa – including Black Sash, National Welfare Social Service and Development Forum; Community Law Centre and People’s Health Movement South Africa and many others called on the government to protect all South African’s human rights by ratifying the Covenant urgently. Numerous letters were sent to parliament, the president and the speaker of the national assembly between June 2007 and December 2010, imploring them to ratify the ICESCR.
On 10 October 2012, Cabinet finally approved the ratification of the ICESCR. The Cabinet statement described how the ICESCR is a “key international treaty which seeks to encourage State Parties to address challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty, which are critical to the strategic goals of governments.”
In November 2013, National Assembly’s approved the ratification and it was effected on January 12, 2015, finally coming into force on 12 April 2015.
However, it should be noted that the Campaign was disappointed that the government has decided to enter a declaration stating that it is unable to agree to immediately implement the right to free primary education for all, but has instead agreed only to the progressive realisation of this right ‘as provided for within the framework of its National Education Policy and available resources.’
Legacy article: Why South Africa should ratify the ICESCR now? -http://www.blacksash.org.za/files/whyratifyicescr.pdf
Text of the ICESCR -http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/pdf/cescr.pdf
Letters sent to Government during the course of the campaign(condensed behind one header link):Read letter sent to Speaker of National Assembly on 6 September 2010
Link to list of organisations s listed on website now> ORGANISATIONS THAT HAVE PLEDGED THEIR SUPPORT FOR OUR CAMPAIGN: