Sri Lanka

Bridging the Divide on Socioeconomic Rights in Sri Lanka

Mar 23, 2017
The constitutional status of economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights has been the subject of intense debate among scholars and practitioners in Sri Lanka. This debate is featured in ongoing discussions on constitutional reform. The question of whether to make ESC rights ‘justiciable’ under the new constitution now vexes Sri Lanka’s constitution-makers.  
This article is the first of a two-part series that confronts the question of constitutionalising ESC rights in Sri Lanka. It presents a case for constitutionally recognising the obligations of the state with respect to ESC rights, and discusses the people’s aspirations for such rights as reflected in the findings of the Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform (PRC).  
The state’s obligation to make ESC rights justiciable
ESC rights and civil and political rights are largely ‘indivisible’ and ‘interdependent’. For example, the right to education (which falls into the category of ESC rights) equips individuals with the ability to exercise their freedom of expression (which is a civil and political right). The freedom of expression in turn enables advocacy for the right to education. Yet the state’s obligations concerning ESC rights are more complex than those relating to civil and political rights, as ESC rights often require scarce resources for their fulfilment. For example, the right to education involves allocating resources towards building schools and training teachers, while the freedom of expression may not necessarily involve such costs.  
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Daily Mirror, March 23, 2017

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