Responsibility of the State


States have the legal obligation to protect and promote human rights, including the right to social security, and ensure that people can realize their rights without discrimination. The overall responsibility of the State includes ensuring the due provision of benefits according to clear and transparent eligibility criteria and entitlements, and the proper administration of the institutions and services. Where benefits and services are not provided directly by public institutions, the effective enforcement of the legislative frameworks is particularly important for the provision of benefits and services.


Photo credit: “Rue de people” by Robert Cudmore (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).

Expert Commentaries

Incorporating a Rights-based Perspective into the Administrative Activities of Government Programmes

As the role of social protection in social development is increasingly emphasized, there is a need to ensure that social protection programmes are not only efficiently managed but express core values such as rights which have played a vital role in shaping social development practice over the years. However, given the pressures to deliver services […]

Securing a Dignified Old Age for All

Access to adequate social protection in old age remains a luxury [...]

The Role that Civil Society can Play in Ensuring Accountability in Social Protection Programmes

Civil society and accountability in social protection programmes The experience of the last 20 years suggests there are four obstacles to ensuring accountability in social protection programmes. The first obstacle has to do with social protection’s contested status: is it a right or only a service or a favour? Despite international legislation about social protection […]


Adequacy of Benefits

From a rights-based perspective, the level of benefits provided must be adequate. According to the CESCR’s General Comment 19 (para 22), “Benefits, whether in cash or in kind, must be adequate in amount and duration in order that everyone may realize his or her rights to family protection and assistance, an adequate standard of living […]

Standards of Accessibility, Adaptability and Acceptability

The principle of equality and non-discrimination requires States to ensure that social protection programmes meet the standards of accessibility, adaptability, acceptability and adequacy for all rights holders. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has recommended these standards through several General Comments including 13, 14 and 19. Accessibility means making the social protection […]

Legal Instruments

Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102)

A reference for the development of social security systems, Convention No. 102 is the flagship of the up-to-date social security Conventions since it is deemed to embody the internationally accepted definition of the very principle of social security.  Convention No. 102 is unique for both its conceptual formulation of social security, and the guidance it provides for […]

Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)

Recommendation No. 202 is the first international instrument to offer guidance to countries to close social security gaps and progressively achieve universal protection through the establishment and maintenance of comprehensive social security systems. To this aim, the Recommendation calls for (1) the implementation, as a priority, of social protection floors (SPF) as a fundamental element […]

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

Article 9 recognizes the right of everyone to social security. Article 10(2) recognizes the right of working mothers “to adequate social security benefits”. Article 10(3) requires States parties to undertake special measures of protection and assistance for children and young persons.   Link to instrument

Legal Cases

Austerity measures that contravene Conventions by reducing social protection and increasing poverty

In its general report of 2009, the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) observed that the global financial crisis was posing a real threat to the financial viability and sustainable development of social security systems and undermining the application of ILO social security standards. The CEACR reminded governments that, under […]


Qualitative research and analyses of the economic impacts of cash transfer programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa

Support for (CT) programmes has been growing in sub-Saharan Africa over the last ten years. Since late 2004, the African Union has provided encouragement to countries to develop their own social policy frameworks, with a Plan of Action supported by governments that commits member states to expanding and empowering social protection programmes. Individual governments are […]

The OPERA Framework (Assessing compliance with the obligation to fulfill economic, social and cultural rights)

To increase accountability for failures to fulfill economic, social and cultural rights (ESC rights), it is necessary to uncover the shortcomings in a state’s social and economic policies that lead to large scale deprivations. This serves to expose as a preventable injustice what may otherwise be seen as an inevitable consequence of under-development. Holding institutions […]

Regional Perspective: Linking Social Protection and Human Rights

What responsibilities exist at the regional level to provide rights-based social protection? The Organization of American States’ Alexandra Barrantes talks about the importance of shifting the focus to people as rights-holders rather than beneficiaries; the role of legal frameworks (such as the San Salvador Protocol) in creating comprehensive social protection systems, and the challenges and […]

Good Governance Guidelines for Social Security Institutions

The good governance guidelines seek to provide ISSA member organizations with guiding principles and practical guidelines on good governance. The guidelines begin by defining, for the first time, what ISSA means by “good governance”. The governance framework that underpins the guidelines aims to give the user an overview of the range of internal governance issues […]

Report on austerity measures and economic and social rights

The present report, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 48/141, considers the impact of austerity measures on economic, social and cultural rights, in particular on the right to work and the right to social security, with a specific focus on women, migrants and older persons. It also lays out the criteria States should apply when […]

Social protection and an enabling environment for the right to adequate food

This Thematic Study takes a retrospective glance at social protection related developments over a span of a decade from 2004 to 2014. It starts off mentioning the historical shift in development policymaking in the early 2000s from a narrow focus on risks to a wider focus on rights. This shift created the context within which […]

Human rights-based approach to recovery from the global economic and financial crises (A/HRC/17/34)

In the present report, the United Nations Independent Expert on human rights and extreme poverty sets out the parameters of a human rights-based approach to recovery from the global economic and financial crises, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. She urges States to see recovery from the crises as an […]

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