UN Human Rights Instruments

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

  • Article 22 guarantees the right to social security.
  • Article 25 recognizes the right of everyone to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and of his family, including … medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), 1966

  • 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.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979

  • Article 11(1)(e) obligates States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment, and to ensure equal rights between men and women, in particular … the right to social security, particularly in cases of retirement, unemployment, sickness, invalidity and old age and other incapacity to work, as well as the right to paid leave.
  •  Article 11(2)(b) requires States parties to adopt appropriate measures to introduce social benefits during maternity leave.
  • Article 14(2) recognizes the duty of States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas and, in particular, to ensure to such women … the right to benefit directly from social security programmes.

Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

  • Article 26 recognizes for every child the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance.
  • In addition, Article 27(1) recognizes the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
  • Under Article 27(2) and (3), States parties must, in accordance with national conditions and within their means, take appropriate measures to assist parents to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965

  • Article 5(e) (iv) recognizes the duty of States parties to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in the enjoyment, among others, of the right to social security and social services.

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families, 1990

  • Article 27 provides that with respect to social security, all migrant workers and members of their families shall enjoy in the State of employment the same treatment granted to nationals in so far as they fulfil the requirements provided for by the applicable legislation of that State and the applicable bilateral and multilateral treaties. The competent authorities of the State of origin and the State of employment can at any time establish the necessary arrangements to determine the modalities of application of this norm. Where the applicable legislation does not allow migrant workers and members of their families a benefit, the States concerned shall examine the possibility of reimbursing interested persons the amount of contributions made by them with respect to that benefit on the basis of the treatment granted to nationals who are in similar circumstances.
  • Article 54 provides that migrant workers who are documented or in a regular situation shall enjoy equality of treatment with nationals of the State of employment in respect of, inter alia, unemployment benefits.

Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006

  • Article 28 provides that the States parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to social protection and to the enjoyment of that right without discrimination on the basis of disability, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right.

Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951 and Convention relating to the Status of stateless Persons, 1954

Article 24 of both instruments stipulates:

  • “The Contracting States shall accord to refugees [stateless persons] lawfully staying in their territory the same treatment as is accorded to nationals in respect of the following matters: …(b) Social security (legal provisions in respect of employment injury, occupational diseases, maternity, sickness, disability, old age, death, unemployment, family responsibilities, and any other contingency which, according to national laws or regulations, is covered by a social security scheme), subject to the following limitations: There may be appropriate arrangements for the maintenance of acquired rights and rights in course of acquisition; National laws or regulations of the country of residence may prescribe special arrangements concerning benefits or portions of benefits which are payable wholly out of public funds, and concerning allowances paid to persons who do not fulfil the contribution conditions prescribed for the award of a normal pension. The right to compensation for the death of a refugee [stateless person] resulting from employment injury or from occupational disease shall not be affected by the fact that the residence of the beneficiary is outside the territory of the Contracting State. The Contracting States shall extend to refugees [stateless persons] the benefit of agreements concluded between them, or which may be concluded between them in the future, concerning the maintenance of acquired rights and rights in the process of acquisition in regard to social security, subject only to the conditions which apply to nationals of the States signatory to the agreements in question.”

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007

  • Article 21(1) states that: “Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.”