Four knowledge products aiming to provide a better understanding of "minimum core" obligations of socio-economic rights, and in particular of the right to health and the right to education. These are the final outputs of a grant from the Nordic Trust Fund managed by a team within the Legal Vice Presidency, as part of its support to the Education and Health Global Practices of the World Bank. In the two years of grant implementation, the team commissioned these knowledge products from leading experts and organized a roundtable discussion to present the finding for this research.
Minimum Core and the Right to Education
Minimum core is a concept introduced by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“Committee”) with the aim of ensuring “the satisfaction of, at the very least, minimum essential levels of each of the rights is incumbent upon every State party.” The minimum core concept aims to set a quantitative and qualitative floor of socio-economic and cultural rights that must be immediately realized by the state as a matter of top priority. The promise of the minimum core approach is “to give the notion of progressive realization a clearer direction and to evaluate the steps states have taken towards the progressive realization of particular rights”. Yet, the Committee itself has been inconsistent in defining the content and scope of the “minimum core” concept for different rights. Although the original definition—focused on minimum essential levels—seems narrowly constructed, in more recent General Comments, the Committee has given the “minimum core” a far more expansive interpretation.Further complicating the query is the fact thatstates rarely use “minimum core” terminology in State Reports to the Committee. Where national courts have referred to the “minimum core” concept—a rare reference—their interpretation has not always been consistent with that of the Committee. In academic literature, too, disagreements remain about the content, scope and even utility of the “minimum core” concept. Without taking a position on which interpretation of the “minimum core” is normatively desirable, this paper aims to provide a descriptive account of how different actors define the content and scope of “minimum core” of the right to education.The paper begins by providing a summary of academic engagement with the concept of “minimum core”, highlighting different features of the concept that have been identified in the literature. In Part two, the paper examines how the concept of “minimum core” is featured in the international legal framework. In Part three, the paper considers whether, and if so how, the concept of “minimum core” features in national laws and jurisprudence by sampling a few states. In Part four, the paper discusses the use of indicators and other quantitative measures in relation to the content of “minimum core”. The paper concludes by suggesting how development banks might use the concept of “minimum core” to guide their work.
The Minimum Core Obligations of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights : The Rights to Health and Education
Economic, social, and cultural rights (ESCR), such as the right to education and the right to health, comprise one of the two principal pillars of the United Nation (UN) human rights framework - the other pillar of which is constituted of civil and political rights (CPR); together with the UDHR, these two groups of rights comprise the international bill of rights. ESCR also overlap substantially with development activities, in that they share significant subject matter coverage. Put differently, development activities now occupy many areas governed by ESCR. ESCR are also central to conflicts over resource allocation which increasingly arise in both developed and developing countries as a result of crises stemming from climate change, violent conflict, and war and displacement. In such resource, constrained contexts, ESCR, and minimum core doctrine (MCD) in particular, provide a potential means to prioritize resource allocation through the identification of minimum core obligations (MCOs).
The Minimum Core of the Human Right to Health
This Report offers a critical interpretation of the idea of ‘minimum core obligations’ associated with the right to health in international, regional and domestic law and practice. Two important methodological complexities affecting this project need to be highlighted from the very outset. First, it cannot be assumed that all uses of expressions such as ‘the human right to health’, ‘the right to health’, or ‘minimum core obligations’ bear the same meaning. Second, in seeking to identify the role played by the idea of minimum core obligations in the law and practice relating to the right to health in various jurisdictions, we must distinguish the concept of such obligations from the use of the words ‘minimum core obligations’. The structure of this report is as follows. In Part II the idea of minimum core obligations corresponding to the right to health is examined as it manifests itself in international law and practice. Parts II and III consider how the same doctrine manifests itself in the context of regional legal orders (II) and state law and practice (III). Given the enormous volume of material potentially relevant here, these latter two parts are necessarily highly selective, with a focus on some of the most fertile cases for grasping the bearing on the minimum core doctrine on the right to health. Finally, in Part IV, the potential role of the minimum core obligations with respect to the right to health are highlighted with respect to development, focusing in particular on their bearing on the Sustainable Development Goals, priority-setting more generally, and the use of indicators.
Minimum Core Obligations : Human Rights in the Here and Now
The doctrine of the ‘minimum core’ (MCD) has in recent decades achieved prominence within international human rights law (IHRL) and practice. This enhanced profile is largely attributable to the activities of the United Nation’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (henceforth, ‘the Committee’). As this origin indicates, the MCD has been articulated in relation to the sub-set of human rights, usually denominated as ‘economic, social and cultural rights’, that are set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (henceforth, ‘the Covenant’). In addition, some regional and domestic legal regimes, notably in Africa and South America, have recognized some version of the MCD in relation to constitutional or legal rights. However, this report will almost exclusively concentrate on the nature and value of the MCD as it has developed within international law and practice. This Report proceeds in the following manner: (i) introduction; (ii) In section 2, an account is offered of the formative point of IHRL in general; (iii) In section 3, the concept of minimum core obligations of human rights is explored, i.e. what it is that marks out such obligations among other human rights standards; (iv) Section 4 contends that the main gist of the MCD is given by interpretation; (v) In section 5, it is argued that interpretation (a), standing alone, offers the best account of the MCD; (vi) Section 6 addresses the difficult question of how to determine the content of such obligations; (vii) Section 7 responds to two major challenges confronting the MCD; and (viii) Finally, Section 8 briefly examines how indicators and benchmarks are statistical tools that can help monitor and enhance compliance with minimum core obligations.