Faculty of Law

Postgraduate - Unit

This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2013 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

print version

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

To find units available for enrolment in the current year, you must make sure you use the indexes and browse unit tool in the current edition of the Handbook.

FacultyFaculty of Law
OfferedNot offered in 2013



This course provides an overview of economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights, both in international human rights law and in a comparative law. It will examine both the theoretical debates raised by the emergence of ESC rights, and the practical issues confronting monitoring bodies and advocates. The course is divided in three parts. First, it will explore the origins of ESC rights and how they have been approached by competing theories about the relationships between the State and the market. Second, it will discuss the status of ESC rights and corresponding State obligations. The right to adequate food shall serve as the main illustration, but other rights, such as the right to education and the right to housing, shall also be discussed. The existence of obligations across boundaries regarding ESC rights (eg duties owed by rich States to the people of poor States) will also be discussed. Third, it will examine the monitoring of ESC rights, both at national level and through regional or international courts of quasi-judicial bodies. Particular attention will be paid to the question of the justiciability of ESC rights, and to the various theories that have been forward to assess the content of the obligation of "progressive realization" of ESC rights, and the role of indicators and benchmarks in such an assessment.


On completion of this subject students should understand and be able to critically analyse, research and apply the following knowledge:

  • the theories, history, politics and practice of ESC rights as part of international human rights law;
  • the role of domestic courts and other national actors in monitoring ESC rights at the State level;
  • the tools that regional organisations and the United Nations have developed to monitor ESC rights;
  • the role ESC rights play in the debates concerning the North-South divide and the duties of international development and cooperation of the rich States towards the poorer States;
  • the role of benchmarks and indicators in monitoring progress in the fulfillment of ESC rights;
  • be able to identify or find the relevant principles, laws and precedents and apply them to resolve issues relating to economic, social or cultural rights;
  • further develop legal research, writing, and legal argument skills in the area of economic, social or cultural rights; and
  • further develop oral articulation of legal argument during class discussions.


One or two presentations during the course (preparation of a case or of a doctrinal study, depending on numbers) and class participation: 20%
One essay (6,000 words): 80%

Chief examiner(s)

Contact hours

24 contact hours per semester (either intensive, semi-intensive or semester long, depending on the Faculty resources, timetabling and requirements)