International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights covers human rights in the economic, social and cultural spheres. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966. Switzerland acceded to the Convention on 18 June 1992.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) guarantees economic, social and cultural human rights. Together with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), it enacts in a binding framework the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

The ICESCR includes inter alia the following human rights:

  • Economic
    Right to work, just and favourable conditions, right to strike, protection of property

  • Social
    Right to social security, right of families, mothers (before and after childbirth) and children to special protection and assistance, right to an adequate standard of living, right to health

  • Cultural
    Right to education and right to take part in cultural life

The ICESCR obliges states parties to undertake steps using the maximum of their available resources and by all appropriate means to realise economic, social and cultural human rights (principle of progressive realisation).

The ICESCR was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966 and came into force on 3 January 1976. Switzerland ratified the Covenant on 18 June 1992, and it came into force on 18 September that year.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Review mechanism

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is the body that reviews states parties' compliance with their obligations regarding economic, social and cultural rights. Approximately every five years, each state party must submit a country report informing the Committee of the measures adopted to implement the economic, social and cultural rights (see Art. 16 and 17 ICESCR).

Switzerland submitted its first report to the Committee in 1998 and the second and third in 2008. In November 2010, the Committee published its recommendations in response to Switzerland's combined second and third report. The fourth report is currently being drafted.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) is responsible for Switzerland's country reports on the fulfilment of its obligations under the ICESCR.

Information on the ICESCR and Switzerland's country reports (de, fr, it)

 UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Optional protocol

On 10 December 2008, the UN General Assembly adopted an optional protocol to the ICESCR regarding an individual complaints mechanism. This protocol, which came into force on 5 May 2013, allows the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to consider complaints from individuals to the effect that a state which has ratified the optional protocol has violated their rights under the ICESCR.

Switzerland has not yet ratified the optional protocol.

Optional protocol of 10 December 2008: individual complaints mechanism