The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) was adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution in 1966, following almost 20 years of drafting debates. It finally gained the force of law a decade later, entering into force on 3 January 1976. Israel has ratified the Covenant in 1991. The Covenant contains some of the most significant international legal provisions establishing economic, social and cultural rights, including rights relating to work in just and favorable conditions, to social protection, to an adequate standard of living, to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, to education and to enjoyment of the benefits of cultural freedom and scientific progress.

Compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Covenant and the level of implementation of the rights and duties in question is monitored by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). The Committee is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Covenant. The Committee was established under the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in to carry out the monitoring functions in Part IV of the Covenant. All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially within two years of accepting the Covenant and thereafter every five years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”.

The Committee works on the basis of many sources of information, including reports submitted by States parties and information from United Nations specialized agencies. It also receives information from non-governmental and community-based organizations working in States which have ratified the Covenant. Upon completion by the Committee of its analysis of reports and the appearance by States parties, the Committee concludes its consideration of States parties’ reports by issuing “concluding observations”, which constitute the decision of the Committee regarding the status of the Covenant in a given State party. Concluding observations are divided into five sections: (a) introduction; (b) positive aspects; (c) factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Covenant; (d) principal subjects of concern; (e) suggestions and recommendations.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, published its concluding observations in December 2011, calling Israel to stop forthwith house demolitions, forced eviction and residency revocation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem. After considering the state report by Israel on compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the ICAHD parallel report the Committee recommended Israel reviews and reforms its policies, to align with recommendations made by ICAHD and partner human rights and peace organizations.

United Nations Economic and Social Council E/C.12/ISR/CO/3 Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

  • The Committee is concerned about the revocation of residency permits of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, which results in the loss, among other things, of their right to social security, including access to social services.
  • The Committee calls upon the State party to put a stop to the revocation of residency permits of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. The Committee urges the State party not to hinder the enjoyment of their right to social security, including access to social services.
  • The Committee is deeply concerned about home demolitions and forced evictions in the West Bank, in particular Area C, as well as in East Jerusalem, by Israeli authorities, military personnel and settlers.
  • The Committee urges the State party to stop forthwith home demolitions as reprisals and ensure that evictions in Area C are in conformity with the duty (a) to explore all possible alternatives prior to evictions; (b) to consult with the affected persons; and (c) to provide effective remedies to those affected by forced evictions carried out by the State party’s military.
  • The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that the development of special outline plans and closed military zones are preceded by consultations with affected Palestinian communities. The Committee also recommends that the State party review and reform its housing policy and the issuance of construction permits in East Jerusalem, in order to prevent demolitions and forced evictions and ensure the legality of construction in those areas.
  • The Committee is concerned that Palestinians living in the OPT do not have access to sufficient and safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. It is also concerned about the continuing destruction of the water infrastructure in Gaza and in the West Bank, including in the Jordan Valley, under military and settler operations since 1967.
  • The Committee urges the State party to take measures to ensure the availability of sufficient and safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for Palestinians living in the OPT, including through the facilitation of the entry of necessary materials to rebuild the water and sanitation systems in Gaza. The Committee urges the State party to take urgent steps to facilitate the restoration of the water infrastructure of the West Bank including in the Jordan Valley, affected by the destruction of the local civilians’ wells, roof water tanks, and other water and irrigation facilities under military and settler operations since 1967.