UC Law Journal


Barbara Stark


By ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, a government "commits itself to its best efforts to secure for its citizens the basic standards of material existence." The United States is the only major industrialized democracy that has not yet ratified the Covenant. Two reasons have been advanced to explain our nonadherence. First, economic rights are foreign to domestic conceptions of rights. Second, the concerns addressed in the Covenant are primarily within the jurisdiction of the states.

In 1990, Professor Philip Alston urged those seeking ratification to develop "an entirely new strategy." Professor Stark believes that there has never been a better time to do so. Domestically, economic rights are a growing concern of the increasing numbers of poor Americans. Internationally, the United States is also becoming more involved in international organizations and more concerned about its credibility in the global community.

This Article outlines a "new strategy" which responds to these developments. It proposes that the United States ratify the Covenant and delegate implementation to the states. Professor Stark argues that conceptions of economic rights under the Covenant are fundamentally compatible with conceptions of such rights under state constitutions. Drawing on this relationship, she outlines a plan for the functional implementation of the Covenant. The Article concludes by considering the likely consequences of adoption and implementation, for both the United States and the international community.

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