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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that social and economic conditions and opportunities are essential for human dignity, freedom to develop as a person, and ultimately “social security” in the broad sense of social justice. This study examines the text, context, and origins of article 22 which establish an entitlement to indispensable economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights. By using legal rights to define socially just conduct that secures human dignity, article 22 reorients philosophical approaches to the conception and processes of social justice. The individual, the … read morecommunity and the State are collaboratively engaged in the realization of ESC rights, through national effort and international cooperation. ESC rights must be implemented as a whole, not selectively; this approach serves a functional purpose as well since, in operation, the rights are largely dependent on each other. The study analyzes the current tendency to fragment the pursuit of ESC rights into selective and uncoordinated initiatives, and calls for adjustments in theory and practice relating to the responsibility and conduct of States, international organizations, the business sector, and other private actors.
The legal principles embedded in article 22 connect human rights and development in an integral linkage that is reshaping modern development cooperation, from the Millennium Development Goals and policies of international financial institutions to cooperation between States. Development success is being redefined in terms of reducing inequality and assisting the most vulnerable and marginalized. Efforts to ensure participation, transparency and accountability are integral to the outcome. Nonetheless, democratic processes are no guarantee that ESC rights will be taken seriously, nor do they necessarily lead to full elimination of economic and social inequality. Judicial enforcement and solidarity among private actors, and greater attention to the synergies in realizing ESC rights in operation are all important to make the entitlement a reality for all.
The approach to human rights in article 22 acts as a compass in the pursuit of social justice. The course to realizing ESC rights reaches beyond mere assets and material comforts to be received and enjoyed, and surpasses quantitative assessments of equality and non-discrimination, critical as these are. Rather, progress toward social justice through ESC rights is measured by assessing whether the opportunities, resources and freedoms that people have, and their resulting interactions with society, are sufficient for their full and free development as human beings. Article 22 of the Declaration affirms the vision of a just society in which human dignity and free development of the personality are secured with ESC rights that grant the opportunity for well-being to everyone.