McCrudden C, Boyle K, Dickson B, Harvey C, McNeilly K & Moffett L (2020) Economic and Social Rights in Northern Ireland: Models of Enforceability. Human Rights Consortium Northern Ireland. Belfast. http://www.humanrightsconsortium.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/ESR-in-NI-Models-of-Enforceability-Report.pdf
Economic, social and cultural rights (ESR) are those rights defined as such in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), the Council of Europe’s Social Rights Charter, the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, and other equivalent legal provisions. In this report, we outline five models for enforcement of economic and social rights (ESR). We use the term ‘model’ to describe these, not in the sense that they are ‘models of best practice’, but simply to indicate that there are various methods already developed which differ from each other in significant ways.
There is already extensive, if patchy, implementation of various economic and social rights in Northern Ireland law, even if these protections are not labelled as such. In this context, we need to take into account both common law and statutory provisions regarding rights in the housing, social security, education, employment, human rights, and equality contexts. All of these go some way towards meeting some aspects of internationally-protected ESR, but taken together they still fall short of protecting all internationally-protected ESR to the degree required to satisfy international obligations, as any of the recent reports on the state of ESR in Northern Ireland by the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights makes clear.
The existing protections do mean, however, that any new initiative is not starting from scratch, which has implications for how best to proceed. The models we discuss below should be regarded as additional to the construction of complementary mechanisms, in civil society particularly, to better enable existing rights that directly or indirectly protect ESR rights, to be implemented more effectively. In particular, it will be important to consider ways in which existing rights could be better mobilised to serve the goal of securing the effective protection of ESR.