Many of the world’s most widespread and persistent economic, social and cultural rights violations are systemic. Preventable maternal death or chronic child malnutrition, for example, are rarely attributable to individual acts of deliberate cruelty by clearly identifiable perpetrators. Indeed they more often result from a government’s failures to take adequate legislative, budgetary, and administrative measures; in other words, from failures to fulfil these rights.
In order to hold governments to account for their obligation to fulfil economic, social and cultural rights, advocates and activists need practical tools to monitor their conduct, evaluating it against multifaceted principles such as ‘progressive realization’, ‘minimum core obligations’, ‘maximum available resources’ and ‘non-discrimination’.
CESR has developed a simple, yet comprehensive four-step framework to analyze various aspects of the obligation to fulfill economic and social rights. Adopting the acronym OPERA, the framework incorporates different measures for specific human rights principles and standards, by framing them around four levels of analysis: Outcomes, Policy Efforts, Resources and Assessment.
A guiding lens for CESR's national enforcement work, the OPERA framework allows an assessment that triangulates outcomes, policies and resources to provide a much fuller picture of what a state is doing to promote the realization of specific rights. Importantly, it traces economic and social deprivations and disparities back to the actions or omissions of the state, to make the case that they constitute an injustice and a violation of human rights. The OPERA framework has been applied in contexts as diverse as monitoring reproductive health policy in Kenya and Macedonia, austerity measures in Ireland and Spain, and disaster relief in New Zealand.
CESR has also developed a series of case studies and supporting resources to help activists in their efforts to deploy the transformative power of human rights for social justice.