Poverty and inequality are so pervasive and widespread that they can seem like an inevitable tragedy. Sometimes this failure is glaring, particularly where deprivation results from abusive or negligent actions or omissions by officials such as evicting people arbitrarily (a breach of the duty to respect rights) or doing nothing when parents prevent girls from going to school (a breach of the duty to protect). More often, however, poverty and inequality result from a failure to create the conditions in which people can access their rights. In such cases, the responsibility to fulfill economic and social rights can be more difficult to pin down.

"Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take steps, individually and through international assistance and co-operation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures." --International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 2(1).
Effective monitoring is essential for making human rights meaningful and for ensuring accountability when laws and policies create, perpetuate or exacerbate deprivations of economic and social rights. However, establishing that such policy failures amount to a violation of the obligation to fulfill economic and social rights can be challenging. The rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are subject to "progressive realization," according to a state’s "maximum available resources." The conditionality of this language, combined with complexity of public policy, make it difficult to trace patterns of preventable rights deprivations back to policy failures.

For this reason, NGOs and other advocates need practical tools and publications on how to monitor the realization of and demand accountability for denials and violations of economic and social rights. CESR has been at the forefront of efforts to forge new ground in measuring and monitoring compliance to states' obligations to fulfill economic and social rights. We believe that human rights monitoring can serve as a powerful advocacy tool for social justice. For this reason, we work to provide civil society organizations, NGOs, national human rights institutions and other advocates with practical and accessible resources and publications on how to utilize multidisciplinary tools to better monitor the realization of economic, social and cultural and demand accountability for denials and violations of these rights.

CESR has developed a simple and comprehensive four-step framework for analyzing various aspects of the obligation to fulfill economic and social rights. More information about the OPERA framework - which stands for Outcomes, Policy Efforts, Resources and Assessment - can be accessed here. A series of discussion papers addressing monitoring issues are meanwhile listed below.

We also coordinate the ESCR-Net Working Group on Monitoring Methods, a community of, by and for human rights activists and practitioners that is committed to harnessing innovative tools and techniques to monitor the actions of governments and other actors from a human rights perspective. On the group’s website, members can connect to find resources, exchange ideas, build knowledge, share good practices and discuss critical issues around monitoring economic, social and cultural rights. 

CESR's simple and comprehensive four-step framework for analyzing various aspects of the obligation to fulfill economic and social rights.

DatNav: new guide to navigate digital data in human rights research

Resource: DatNav is a new guide, produced with the collaboration of CESR, designed to help you navigate and integrate digital data into your human rights work.
The Measure of Progress: how human rights should inform the SDG indicators
Briefing: As the dust settles on the UN Sustainable Development Summit, a new CESR briefing explores how human rights should inform the selection of SDG indicators that are currently being debated.
Defending Dignity: APF-CESR manual for NHRIs on economic and social rights monitoring

Monitoring manual: CESR and the Asia-Pacific Forum present a new manual designed to strengthen the role of National Human Rights Institutions in monitoring ESC rights.
New online resource to promote effective monitoring
April 8th, 2014
New resource: CESR has led the development of a new website to support progress in overcoming the unique challenges that arise in monitoring economic and social rights.
Rights monitoring: reporting back from New Horizons
March 26th, 2013
Seminar report: CESR has produced a new report that brings together the insights and experience of over 40 leading human rights defenders from all corners of the globe in monitoring ESC rights.
Seminar report: ‘New Horizons in Economic and Social Rights Monitoring’
March 12th, 2013
Seminar report: A new CESR publication brings together the expertise of over 40 leading figures in confronting the challenges of economic and social rights monitoring.
Measuring Economic and Social Rights to Hold Governments Accountable
December 1st, 2009
In the OECD Journal on Development "Measuring Human Rights and Democratic Governance" CESR presents a framework for measuring economic and social rights.
A new frontier in economic and social rights advocacy?
June 5th, 2009
Developing rigorous monitoring tools has been an uphill battle for those working on advancing economic and social rights. CESR offers a contribution to that ongoing work with this new publication.
How can we use quantitative methods to monitor government compliance with their ESC rights obligations?
January 16th, 2009
Edward Anderson, from the University of East Anglia examines how quantitative methods could be incorporated to assess governments' compliance with their human rights obligations.
How can we measure and monitor non-discrimination?
January 16th, 2009
This discussion paper examines the tools used by social scientists to measure inequalities between different population groups to see how this can be applied in human rights work to hold governments accountable to the principle of non-discrimination.