Combining constitutional and international standards for social protection resource mobilization in Latvia
In 2000, twenty Latvian parliamentarians complained to Latvia’s Constitutional Court that certain employers within Latvia were not paying social insurance premiums into a fund for their employees, and that this was a breach of the human right to social security as per Latvia’s constitution as well as Articles 9 and 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; both of which oblige the State to ensure that premiums are paid by employers. The first significant decision of the Court was to hear the parliamentarians’ case. The Court then found that efficient mechanisms for delivering the right to social protection did not exist in Latvia, such that the State had merely been using its discretion in choosing the manner of social security implementation. The State’s failure to collect taxes (or premiums) from employers amounted to an improper utilization of all of the State’s resources in implementing social rights. Beyond the constitution, existing legal mechanisms in Latvia effectively allowed non-compliance by employers, to the detriment of employees.
This case is relevant to the discussion on linking social protection and human rights for the way it demonstrates the potential for Constitutional Courts to apply international and constitutional standards on economic, social and cultural rights and monitor the implementation of programmes designed to realize social security rights, particular the regulation of private actors.
Non-discrimination and equality are core elements of the international human rights normative framework. Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that every human being is entitled to all rights and freedoms “without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, […]