One of the trends in the twentieth century international law-making is the proliferation of legal norms that recognise economic and social rights. Among the landmark developments in this process was the enactment of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. This Convention grants universal rights to every child and has been ratified by virtually all states including the developing countries. This raises the issue as to whether and how the economic and social rights of children can be implemented in the developing world. One approach to this issue is to explore how the concept of international cooperation in the protection of economic and social rights has been applied to determine and assign external obligations to states parties to the UN Charter.
This study examines the scope of obligations and responsibility for the fulfilment of children’s social and economic rights under international law. It argues that in addition to the domestic/vertical obligations of states parties to regimes of human rights law, international law on the protection and promotion of the social and economic rights of children as recently interpreted and applied by states parties entrenches binding external/diagonal obligations of states to support global fulfilment of these rights. Besides recognising their external diagonal obligations, states have adopted legal instruments assigning duties to non-state actors to contribute to the universal fulfilment of children’s social and economic rights. The present study interrogates these developments and explores how the emerging jurisprudence on states’ extra-territorial obligations regarding children’s social and economic rights and the responsibilities of non-state actors can be further mainstreamed in the legal discourse on international protection of economic and social rights.