Quick Read: Minimum Core Obligations

Our Legal Policy Development Officer Luis Felipe Yanes looks at ‘minimum core obligations’, the baseline economic, social and cultural rights (ESC) that help people live a life free from fear and want.

In a recent report to the United Nations (UN), the Commission expressed concern about some serious human rights issues in Scotland, including high levels of food insecurity and homelessness.

We also gave evidence to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, expressing concern that the rising cost of living is putting human rights at risk in Scotland.

What is most concerning is that Scotland might not be meeting some of its most basic obligations under international human rights law, relating to ESC rights. Minimum core obligations are those that countries need to comply with at all times and in all circumstances. For example, ensuring everyone has access to essential food and basic shelter.

In Scotland, a lack of available data makes it difficult to work out if the government and local authorities are actually complying with minimum core obligations.

However,  on access to essential food, the publicly available information indicates that during the last few years food insecurity levels were at 9 per cent*. These figures are higher for younger adults (13 per cent) and even more so for single parents (21 per cent). This in the context of sharply rising costs, as food price inflation was calculated at 16.2 per cent in October 2022.

On to access to basic shelter, information published by the Scottish Government demonstrates that local authorities are not always providing basic, temporary shelter, despite being legally required to do so.  Between April and September 2022, there were at least 300 occasions where a household requested temporary accommodation and it was not offered.

While it is important to recognise that public resources are limited, government and local authorities should make sure that they are complying with minimum core obligations as a matter of priority. To protect the most disadvantaged people and ensure a dignified life for all in Scotland, the most basic obligations of economic, social and cultural rights need to be met urgently, today.

Find out more

Read our short briefing on minimum core obligations as defined by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, on our website.

Watch our Policy Officer Luis Felipe Yanes and Research Officer Dr Ali Hosie give evidence on minimum core obligations to the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee at the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Health Survey 2019 - volume 1: main report - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)