16. Are states obliged to provide social services free of charge to the poor and extremely poor?

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Are states obliged to provide social services free of charge to the poor?

Yes, some services are to be provided free of charge:

The human right to education obliges the state parties to provide free basic education for all (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 13 paragraph 2a);

 

However, the human rights to health and water do not oblige a state to provide services free of charge to the extremely poor. But when determining the fees for health services and drinking water, human rights laws requires that these are affordable for all sections of the population.  While there is a wide array of policy choices on how to do so, it is the state’s duty to ensure that everyone has access to these basic services. 

Overall, the human rights-based approach implies that poorer households may not be burdened with disproportionately higher costs for basic services.