The core function of the Economic Social and Cultural Rights department is to enhance the respect, protection, and realization of economic, social and cultural rights for all Kenyans. It addresses systemic human rights violation such as poverty and marginalization and seeks to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs in the country. The department seeks to promote rights of all vulnerable groups and other minorities and marginalized communities in the country.
The department’s work is aimed at achieving the following specific outcomes:
Greater respect and enforcement of human rights standards by state agencies
Greater respect and adherence to laws and human rights standards by non state agencies
Enhanced inclusion and participation of vulnerable groups to claim their rights.
Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Vulnerable Groups
The department works closely with the Ministry of State for Special Programmes and the Protection Working Group on Internally Displaced Persons to address concerns affecting IDPs and to develop an IDP Policy and Law for Kenya. Intervention on the issue of internal displacement was informed by the fact that many IDPs who were victims of Post Election Violence are yet to be resettled despite the fact that IDP resettlement was a number 2 priority in the Agenda 4 items. The issue of internal displacement in all its manifestations has also not been comprehensively appreciated in the country where the legal and policy framework for protecting IDPs is weak.
Besides IDPs, the department also seeks to profile the rights of Minority and Indigenous people’s rights as well as those of Domestic workers.
Enhancing Compliance with Human Rights among Business Entities
Business enterprises play an integral role in the realization of economic and social rights. They also wield immense power to influence policies and practices by governments .Their activities also have the potential to have negative impacts on human rights. Human Rights discourse has therefore in the recent past begun to analyse the duty of transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises to respect human rights.
The department has and continues to be involved in the development and dissemination of business and human rights frameworks such as the UN Guiding principles - the ‘Protect, Respect, Remedy’ Framework. This framework clarifies the roles and responsibilities of governments and business in relation to human rights which are underpinned in three pillars – the state duty to protect; the corporate responsibility to respect and access to remedial mechanisms for victims of corporate related human rights violations.
Since 2005, the department has sought to enhance engagement with cultural institutions to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights particularly for vulnerable groups such as widows and orphans. It has sought to enhance dialogue between traditional elders, civil society, community organizations and state actors.
Enhancing awareness on ECOSOC rights in the new Constitution
Following the recognition of economic, social and cultural rights in the 2010 constitution, the department has been involved in efforts to enhance awareness of this development among duty bearers and the citizens.