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The future of economic and social rights is unlikely to resemble its past. Neglected within the human rights movement, avoided by courts, and subsumed within a conception of development in which economic growth was considered a necessary (and, by some, sufficient) condition for rights fulfillment, economic and social rights enjoyed an uncertain status in international human rights law and in the public laws of most countries. Yet today, under conditions of immense poverty, insecurity, and social distress, the rights to education, health care, housing, social security, food, water, and sanitation are increasingly at the top of the human rights agenda. Economic and social rights are now present in most of the world’s constitutions, most of the main human rights covenants, and are often given an explicit justiciable status. At the same time, as different legal traditions and regions embrace this shift, their highly integrated economies face a profound reckoning with economic justice. The future cannot be predicted; but neither can it be ignored. This paper, introducing the book’s 21 chapters, incorporates a detailed examination of constitutions, courts and international mechanisms of accountability. These signal a transformation in debates about human rights, democracy, law and development.


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6 Sep 2022
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  • Subject
    • Human Rights Law

    • International Law

    • Jurisprudence

  • Journal title
    • The Future of Economic and Social Rights, Katharine G. Young, ed., Cambridge University Press

  • Date submitted

    6 September 2022