Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Context

The details
Essex Law School
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
20 October 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

LLM M2M012 Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
LLM M2M024 Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Module description

This module builds on the foundational introduction to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) provided in module International Human Rights Law: Law and Practice.

Other related modules that may of interest to students of ESCR are: Human Rights and Women, Human Rights Centre Clinic, Protection of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights and Development, Investment, Trade and Human Rights, Business and Human Rights and Human Rights, Social Justice and Social Change.

Module aims

ESCR includes the right to work, rights at work, the right to health, the right to an adequate standard of living (including housing, water, clothing and food), the right to education, the right to social security and the right to culture.

Using international human rights principles and standards as the starting point, the module puts ESCR in context. Notwithstanding the importance of the judicial enforceability of these rights, the module goes beyond justiciability and looks at international and national challenges and opportunities to advance progressively in the fulfilment of ESCR.

The contextualisation of ESCR begins with an intersectional approach to tackle multiple and overlapping forms of discrimination and disadvantage (Seminar 1). The module presents ESCR as part of the social determinants of health outcomes and health inequalities (Seminar 2). Taking ESCR seriously means understanding access to culture and scientific progress as a matter of human rights, and to see cultural diversity as an enriching ingredient for society (Seminar 3).

The following four seminars explore burning challenges for ESCR in light of some of the multiple crises of our times: the financial crisis, the crisis of the welfare state, global warming, Covid-19… These sessions unpack the relationship between work and human rights (Seminar 4), the role of taxation in the sustenance of the State (Seminar 5), the trend towards the privatisation of social services and the responsibilities of public authorities (Seminar 6), and the impact of austerity in public finance on the availability of resources to satisfy ESCR (Seminar 7).

Seminar 8 looks at the unequal power relation between core and periphery in international political economy, and the critically important role of international financial institutions in relation to ESCR globally.

Finally, Seminar 9 examines the international human rights mechanisms available to advance ESCR and to hold States to account when they fail to respect, protect and fulfil these rights.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the seminar series, students will have developed a critical understanding of:

1. States` obligations under international human rights law to promote and protect ESCR at the level of policy.
2. The importance of the intersectional approach to equality and non-discrimination when monitoring ESCR.
3. The challenges posed by contemporary crises in relation to work, welfare state, public finance, privatisation, and international trade and investment.
4. Some methods to assess progress and retrogression in the satisfaction of ESCR.
5. International mechanisms to monitor compliance with international law on ESCR and to hold States accountable.

Module information

Indicative course outline

1. Intersectionality, equality and ESCR.
2. Social determinants of health.
3. Cultural rights. Dr Marina Lostal.
4. Right to work and rights at work.
5. Public finance, taxation and welfare state.
6. Privatisation and private delivery of social services.
7. Austerity and non-retrogression: Principles and monitoring.
8. International trade, investment and ESCR.
9. ESCR and international human rights mechanisms.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be taught via weekly 2-hour seminars. The module teaching team will upload all relevant teaching materials on Moodle. You will find reading lists, the textbook, weekly handouts or PPS notes on Moodle. The materials in question are designed both to help you navigate the material to be covered in the seminars and to equip you to analyse the required readings. You will be expected to have completed the required readings in advance of your seminars.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay (LW930 Economic Social and Cultural Rights)    100% 

Additional coursework information

This module will be assessed by way of a 5,000-word essay.

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Ms Judith Bueno De Mesquita, email: jrbuen@essex.ac.uk.
Law Education Office, pgtlawqueries@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Titilayo Adebola
University of Aberdeen
Lecturer in Law
Available via Moodle
Of 12 hours, 12 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Essex Law School

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