Dr Jessie Hohmann
Faculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney
This paper seeks to understand the forgotten right to continuous improvement of living conditions in ICESCR Article 11(1). What might such a right mean? How should it be understood? And how could it be translated into actual social change? In a world where inequality is growing, and we are confronted by our unsustainable impacts on the planet, the right to the continuous improvement of living conditions can seem both naively and dangerously rapacious. At the same time, considering and seeking to embed this right into human rights in a way that responds meaningfully to these problems offers a potential break from a never-ending economic growth model to more sustainable ideas of what it means to be human.
In this paper, we suggest that by recovering this ignored right into the canon of human rights, we can re-consider questions of the history, current interpretations and critical understandings of human rights, and their (utopian) futures. At a time when the global economic, social and political order appears increasingly unstable many are questioning the continuing relevance of the post WWII settlement, including its commitments to human rights, the equality of states, and the financial ordering of the world through regimes of rights, finance and trade. In this context, we need radical new ways of thinking about old problems, institutions and arrangements that are both practical and imaginative. We ask what a right to continuous improvement of living conditions might offer in this respect.
Dr Hohmann joined UTS Faculty of Law as Associate Professor in 2019. She is an internationally recognised expert on the right to housing in international law. Her research also engages with the material culture, objects and materiality of international law, and with Indigenous Peoples and international law. Her 2013 monograph ‘The Right to Housing: Law, Concepts, Possibilities’ (Hart) was shortlisted for the Society of Legal Scholars Peter Birks’ Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship. She is also the editor of Hohmann & Joyce (eds) ‘International Law’s Objects’ (OUP 2018) and Hohmann & Weller (eds) ‘The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: A Commentary’ (OUP 2018).