Tracking the Historical Evolution of States' Compliance with their Economics and Social Rights Obligations of Result: Insights from the Historical SERF Index
The International Covenant for Economic Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR, commits states to progressively realize the economic and social rights enumerated in the Covenant. This poses a challenge to measurement. It is not enough to assess the extent to which rights are enjoyed in a country or whether rights enjoyment has increased over time. Evaluating the extent to which a State is compliant with its obligations of result at any given time requires that one assess the level of rights enjoyment relative to the extent of the state's obligation at that time. In as much as a state is obligated to fulfill economic and social rights to the maximum of available resources, the level of a state's obligation depends on its resource capacity, and this changes over time. Thus, the principle of progressive realization poses two challenges to gauging the extent to which countries are compliant with their obligations of result under the Covenant. First, a country's level of obligation must be benchmarked at the initial time period of concern and second, the country's level of obligation must be benchmarked as its resource capacity evolves over time. A key insight of the 2010 Human Development Report is the tremendous improvement over the past thirty some years in the enjoyment of critical economic and social rights. But the resource capacity of most countries has increased as will implying their capacity to improve rights enjoyment has expanded. Here we adapt the SERF Index methodology (Fukuda-Parr et al. 2009, Randolph et al. 2010) to examine whether country’s fulfillment of their economic and social rights obligations of results have improved or deteriorated over the past four decades. That is, we consider whether the enjoyment of economic and social rights has increased in relation to the capacity to expand rights enjoyment.
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