What does the obligation to use the maximum of
available resources in article 2 mean?
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is the body that provides the most authoritative interpretation of
the meaning of article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The CESCR is charged with
overseeing implementation of the ICESCR. States that have ratified the ICESCR must, as part of their treaty obligations, report regularly
to the CESCR on steps they have taken to implement the treaty and on the status of the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural (ESC)
rights in the country.
The Committee makes comments and recommendations on each country report. These comments and recommendations often set out
the Committee’s best understanding of the meaning of specific treaty provisions. Occasionally, the Committee will also issue a “General
Comment” (GC) on a topic that has arisen repeatedly during its deliberations in order to provide greater clarity to governments and others
as to the meaning of specific rights and obligations in the ICESCR.
At various points in these recommendations and General Comments, the CESCR has made reference to the government obligation to use
the maximum of available resources to realize ESC rights, explaining where and how they believe a government has complied or failed
to comply with this obligation. From these various sources, it is possible to distil the Committee’s understanding of the obligation. This
booklet elaborates on those interpretations that have most direct bearing on governments’ budgets.
N.B. While this booklet focuses on the obligation to use the maximum of available resources (MAR), it is essential when addressing an
issue to consider the MAR obligation in conjunction with the other two obligations in article 2—progressive achievement of the realization
of ESC rights and non-discrimination. The meaning and implications of these two other obligations can only be properly understood, and
complied with, in conjunction with MAR—and vice versa.