Legally Enforceable Human Rights

People’s agreed entitlements to economic security can be protected by having legally enforceable human rights that apply to everyone.

The law can be used to enforce any of a wide range of rights, as indicated in those Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which have a legal aspect (Appendix 1, articles 2-20).  Even publicly-funded socio-economic rights, such as education, healthcare, pensions and welfare benefits, can be enforced by law; the Economic, Social & Cultural Rights (ESCR) Caselaw Database offers several examples of countries where this has been introduced.

It is a contentious use of the law, because it takes away government flexibility on the national budget – although other judicial decisions also have financial consequences.  Most countries allow the government of the day to set socio-economic rights in accordance with economic and political pressures (6.7.1).  Budgets also have to be approved by the legislature in America, but this is mostly done on an annual basis so they don’t have the enduring nature of most legislation (5.1.2).

When socio-economic rights are embodied in enduring legislation, or are enshrined in the Constitution, they can be enforced through judicial reviews, legal injunctions, or the use of human rights as a basis for civil actions.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/5472.htm.