Campaign to Ratify ICESCR


Support our campaign to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)!


Breaking News! 12.10. 2012  Cabinet approved that South Africa accede to United Nations International Covenant on Economic and Cultural Rights. The recommendation will be tabled in Parliament for ratification in line with Section 231 (2) of the South African Constitution. The Covenant is a key international treaty which seeks to encourage State Parties to address challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty, which are critical to the strategic goals of governments. Read more...

What is the ICESCR and what rights does it protect?

Why South  Africa should ratify the ICESCR now?

Text of the ICESCR

16 years ago, Nelson Mandela signed this international United Nations agreement, which commits its signatories to working towards the rights to social security, food, housing, health, education, work and an adequate standard of living. But despite his signature, South Africa remains one of the few countries in the world that has yet to ratify the ICESCR.

On 21 September 2010, the 160 countries that are parties to the Covenant will begin signing the newly adopted Optional Protocol to the ICESCR which gives individuals and groups the opportunity to get justice for violations of their socio-economic rights at an international level. This Protocol provides an important platform to expose abuses that are often linked to poverty, discrimination and neglect, and that victims frequently endure in silence and helplessness. However, South Africa can’t sign this Protocol until it has ratified the ICESCR.

Ratification is consistent with the President Zuma's statement at the United Nations in 2000 when he argued that the “ratification and implementation of international human rights instruments,” along with the “mechanisms to monitor the implementation and protection of such rights,” are a key component of the global human rights agenda.

The ICESCR Campaign has shown that the majority of the rights and obligations of the ICESCR are already guaranteed by our own Constitution, as well as other international instruments to which South Africa is a party, such as the African Charter. This means that failure to ratify is due to lack of political will not policy concerns. Compare ICESCR to South Africa's Constitution

Civil society organisations in South Africa – including Black Sash; National Welfare Social Service and Development Forum; Community Law Centre and People’s Health Movement South Africa – are calling on our government to protect all our human rights by ratifying the Covenant NOW!


Organisations that have pledged their support for our campaign:

  • SECTION 27
  • RAPCAN
  • SANGOCO Western Cape (on behalf of the Western Cape Provincial 'Right to Health' task team)  
  • Centre for Applied Legal Studies, University of the Witwatersrand
  • Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria
  • Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Khayelitsha
  • Community Development Resource Association (CDRA)
  • Foundation for Human Rights
  • Global Water Foundation
  • Johannesburg Child Welfare Society
  • National Council of Women of South Africa
  • Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund
  • PASSOP (People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty)
  • SAFIHRO(South African First Indigenous and Human Rights Organization)
  • South African Council of Churches
  • The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
  • Treatment Action Campaign
  • Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre
  • Unity for Tertiary Refugee Students (UTRS)
  • University of Cape Town School of Public Health
  • Woman National Coalition
  • Amnesty International South Africa 
  • Planact