One of the most ambitious legacies of the 20th century was the universal commitment to ensure freedom from want as a human right. How far have we progressed; to what extent are countries across the world living up to this commitment? This book charts new territory in examining the extent to which countries meet their obligations to progressively realize social and economic rights - the rights to education, food, health, housing, work and social security. States have long escaped accountability for these commitments by claiming inadequate resources. The authors develop an innovative evidence based index, the Social & Economic Rights Fulfillment (SERF) Index and Achievement Possibilities Frontier methodology, making possible for the first time apples-to-apples comparisons of performance across very differently situated countries and over time. The book provides an overall global picture of progress, regress and disparities amongst and within countries and explores the factors influencing performance - including whether treaty and legal commitments, gender equity, democracy/autocracy, and economic growth, explain good performance - revealing surprising results.
The data provide empirical evidence to resolve some long standing controversies over the principle of 'progressive realization'. The book concludes by observing how the SERF Index can be used in evidence based social science research, policy making and accountability procedures to advance social and economic rights. By defying the boundaries of traditional research disciplines, this work fundamentally advances our knowledge about the status of and factors promoting social and economic rights fulfillment at the dawn of the 21st century.