Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
MANDATE OF THE WORKING GROUP ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
The Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is one of the special mechanisms overseen by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Working Group was created in 2004 during the Commission’s 36th Ordinary Session. See, e.g., ACommHPR, Resolution 73, Resolution on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa, 7 December 2004. When the Commission adopted the resolution creating the Working Group, it simultaneously adopted the Pretoria Declaration on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa. See id. The Working Group’s purpose is to develop guidelines that promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights throughout the African Union (AU) Member States.
COMPOSITION AND WORKING METHODS
The Commission appoints the Working Group’s Chairperson and members either by a consensus or by a vote. See ACommHPR, Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 2010, Rule 23(2). The mandate of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has been renewed by the Commission several times, typically every two years. See, e.g., ACommHPR, Resolution 124, Resolution on the Appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa, 28 November 2007. The members have been Commissioners or representatives from institutions that focus on economic, social and cultural rights. See, e.g., ACommHPR, Resolution 193, Resolution on the Renewal of the Mandate of the Working Group on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in Africa, 5 November 2011. As of October 2014, each individual appointed as Chairperson has been a Commissioner, and all the Commissioners who belonged to the Working Group were simultaneously serving on the African Commission.
The Working Group undertakes a number of duties, including providing Member States with guidance on their obligations concerning economic, social and cultural rights, studying relevant human rights conditions or situations, and conducting visits to Member States.
Guidance on Member State Obligations
The Working Group has drafted and adopted the Principles and Guidelines on the Implementation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Nairobi Principles). In drafting the Nairobi Principles, the Working Group collaborated with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, along with multiple African and international civil society organizations. See, e.g., Mohamed Béchir Khalfallah, Report of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Since Its Establishment, Intersession Activity Report, 52nd Ordinary Session (2012).
The Working Group also drafted and adopted the State Party Reporting Guidelines for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Tunis Reporting Guidelines). These Guidelines help Member States prepare their periodic reports to the Commission, encouraging them to comprehensively address the measures taken to implement economic, social and cultural rights. See, e.g., id.
The Commission also passed a resolution mandating the Working Group to further define State obligations regarding the right to health. To this end, the Working Group is responsible for developing guidelines that monitor and assess the accessibility of medicine. See ACommHPR, Resolution 141, Resolution on Access to Health and Needed Medicines in Africa, 24 November 2008.
The Working Group undertakes country visits to Member States, with their consent. During these visits, which are also known as missions, the Working Group engages with government officials and discusses what measures have been taken to protect economic, social and cultural rights. The Chairperson encourages the State to prepare their periodic reports to the Commission in accordance with the Tunis Reporting Guidelines and to consider the Nairobi Principles when implementing policies that affect economic, social and cultural rights. See, e.g., Mohamed Béchir Khalfallah, Report of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Since Its Establishment, Intersession Activity Report, 52nd Ordinary Session (2012).
According to Rule 60 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, after the completion of a mission, the Working Group has a duty to publish a Mission Report. However, as of October 2014, the Working Group had not posted any accessible Mission Reports on its website. Mission Reports contain general recommendations to the State, and often include specific recommendations to the international community and civil society, among others.
The Working Group is responsible for seeking and receiving information from individuals, governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions, and other stakeholders concerning cases or situations that involve economic, social and cultural rights.
Along with information gathered from such actors and during missions, the Working Group disseminates and obtains information through promotional activities, such as workshops, seminars, and expert meetings. The Working Group often coordinates these activities with other relevant Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups under the Commission or the United Nations. See, e.g., Mohamed Béchir Khalfallah, November 2013 – April 2014 by Honourable Commissioner Mohamed Béchir Khalfallah, Intersession Activity Report, 55th Ordinary Session (2014).
On the basis of information received, the Working Group may raise awareness of an issue in its reports, press releases, or other activities.
The Working Group submits Intersession Activity Reports to the Commission each year, which outline the activities the Working Group has undertaken. The Commission also prepares an annual Activity Report that it submits to the African Union Assembly, which includes information gathered from the Working Group, summarizing positive developments and areas of concern regarding human rights in Africa.
The Working Group may be contacted by:
Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
31 Bijilo Annex Layout, Kombo North District
Western Region P.O. Box 673 Banjul
The Working Group does not accept individual complaints or requests for provisional measures. Such communications must be addressed to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. For additional information, see the Commission’s Guidelines for the Submission of Communications or IJRC’s resources on the African human rights system.