Appendix H:
Chiangmai Statement on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


Statement by Participants of the International Workshop on National-Level Activism on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights July 1996
Chiangmai, Thailand

  1. The struggle for human rights has always been a struggle for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Under international law, in our work and in our lives these rights are indivisible, inter-related and interdependent. The division of rights included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into two separate international covenants has generated confusion and divisiveness that has been seriously detrimental to the protection and promotion of all rights. It is essential that this false dichotomy, which was a creature of the Cold War, come to an end.

  2. It has taken the international community several decades to reach its current understanding of the nature and content of internationally-recognized civil and political rights. The meaning and content of economic, social and cultural rights are less-developed, not because they are inherently more complex or difficult to understand and define, but because the human rights movement and governments have until now neglected most of these rights, devoting little time and attention to understanding and protecting them.

  3. Violations of economic, social and cultural rights are worldwide and massive, and are occurring in every society, affluent and developing. Examples of current and incipient violations include planned demolitions and forced evictions of millions in Nigeria and the Philippines as well as welfare cuts in Canada and the United States, which will further deprive millions of their economic, social and cultural rights. It is imperative that these violations be addressed more effectively than they have been in the past, and treated with the same sense of urgency as the international community has devoted to violations of civil and political rights. Governments and other responsible parties must be held fully accountable.

  4. The International Monetary Fund, multilateral development banks and other intergovernmental institutions as well as corporations and other non-state actors have a responsibility to protect and promote all rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, and must be held accountable for their role in violating these rights. International legal mechanisms must be developed to regulate the activities of these parties as they affect human rights. The "Chiangmai Statement on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights" was conceived by participants at the International Workshop on National-Level Activism in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to articulate shared guiding principles for work on ESC rights, and human rights generally.

  5. Agencies and NGOs responsible for development assistance should work within a rights framework.

  6. Groups such as women, indigenous and tribal peoples, children, HIV/AIDS carriers, people with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians, poor people, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, occupied populations, migrant workers, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to violations of social, economic and cultural rights. We must expand traditional notions of equality and non-discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of income and social position to ensure that these groups enjoy all of their human rights.

  7. As with all rights, economic, social and cultural rights cannot be fully understood, protected and realized without the informed, full and genuine participation of affected communities.

  8. Economic, social and cultural rights are fully justiciable, as are all human rights, and should be made enforceable within national, regional and international systems of law. The fact that some components of economic, social and cultural rights are subject to progressive realization does not detract from their justiciability.

  9. As with all rights, an integrated approach to claiming and enforcing economic, social and cultural rights is essential -- one that incorporates education, mobilization, self-help, legal and political advocacy, budget and resource analysis, definition of standards, research and monitoring. Effective compliance with economic, social and cultural rights will require improvements in all of these areas at the local, national, regional and international levels.

  10. Improved collaboration, cooperation and sharing of information, experiences and insights by human rights organizations with each other and with other organizations, including trade unions, women's groups, children's groups, environmental, and social justice organizations, is imperative for effective protection of human rights.

  11. To date 133 governments have ratified the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Of particular note has been the failure of the governments of the United States, China and Indonesia to ratify the Covenant. The international community should strive for universal ratification by the year 2001, the 25th anniversary of the Covenant's entry into force. At the same time international enforcement and monitoring procedures must be substantially improved and strengthened, and include the creation of an individual and group complaint procedure. Also essential is increased ratification of other conventions affecting economic, social and cultural rights, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.