Tracking the Historical Evolution of States’ Compliance with their Economic and Social Rights Obligations of Result – Insights from the Historical SERF Index
Countries that ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ICESCR, commit to utilise the ‘maximum of [their] available resources with a view to achieving progressively the full realization’ (art 2) of the economic and social rights enumerated in the Covenant. The Social and Economic Rights Fulfillment Index, SERF Index developed by Randolph, Fukuda-Parr and Lawson-Remer (Fukuda-Parr et al 2009, Randolph et al 2010) utilises a unique methodology that benchmarks a country’s level of obligation by rigorously mapping what is feasible to achieve using best practice for countries with different resource capacities. This paper adapts the SERF Index to track countries’ progress over the past several decades in meeting this commitment. The analysis shows there has been an overall improvement in the extent to which countries are fulfilling their economic and social rights commitments, albeit with setbacks for many countries. This paper then addresses the question of whether countries face a trade-off between fulfilling economic and social rights today and stimulating per capita income growth and accordingly, their capacity to fulfil economic and social rights in the future. Our results show that there is considerable compatibility between fulfilling economic and social rights and promoting economic growth.Keywords: Human Rights, Economic and Social Rights, Progressive Realisation, Economic Growth, Economic Development, Human Capabilities.