The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
in Indigenous peoples and human rights
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The Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) does not contain a specific article on indigenous groups or on minorities. None the less, concern about the conditions of indigenous life has exercised the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on many occasions and will doubtless continue to do so. The Covenant is structured as a programmatic or promotional human rights treaty. The basic obligation for the States' parties is set out in Article 2.1 whereby each party ‘undertakes to take steps...to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights’ recognised in the Covenant. The Covenant highlights the bleak truth about the existence of many indigenous groups under modern conditions: that the peoples live lives of poverty, deprived of subsistence, education, health, land and culture. At first sight, the focus of the Covenant appears highly ‘economistic’, focusing on the valued goods of contemporary life and measuring comparative deprivation. However, the emphasis on intangibles such as culture suggests that the Covenant is a more complex whole.

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