Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Justiciable at the International Level: The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR)—a New Mechanism for Justice—Enters into Force on 5 May 2013

Representing years of civil society advocacy and progressive leadership among States within the UN, the OP-ICESCR places all human rights on equal footing.

"Almost 40 years afterthe equivalent Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights came into force we have finally achieved parity between the two treatiesand given true meaning to the principle of indivisibility and interrelatednessof all rights that found expression in the Universal Declaration of HumanRights", said the NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR spokesperson.

The Optional Protocol establishes a complaint mechanism atthe international level for people whose economic, social and cultural rights (as defined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) have been violated and who have not obtained justice in their own country.

The Optional Protocol will strengthen the ability of peopleto claim their economic, social and cultural rights not only at the UN but alsoat the regional and national level by encouraging the development of effective remedies.

Similarly, the OP-ICESCR will clarify States’ obligationswith regard to these human rights, contributing to the adoption of positive policy measures and access to justice at the national level.

Ten countries have now ratified the Optional Protocol, meaning that residents of those countries also have access to justice at theinternational level. If national courts fail to protect against violations oftheir economic, social and cultural rights, people will be able to raise theircase with the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

We congratulate these first ten countries that have ratifiedthe Optional Protocol, demonstrating their commitment to the realization of all human rights. We call on all other states to follow this positive example. For human rights to be truly achieved, ensuring a life of dignity for all, everyone whose human rights are violated must have access to an effective remedy.

To celebrate this historic moment, members of the NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR are developing diverse events around the world. For those in New York, we invite you to join us on May 10, at 1pm, at the UN Headquarters, in Conference Room B, for an event jointly organized by the NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR, ESCR-Net and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Please find invitation here: http://op-icescr.escr-net.org/

Background Information:

The Protocol was adopted by the UN General Assembly by consensus on December 10, 2008, and was opened for ratification on September 24, 2009. Forty–two countries have signed the Protocol, indicating their intention to ratify, but ratification is necessary to make the Protocol legally binding on each State.

Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mongolia, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Uruguay have ratified the Optional Protocol. The 32 other countries who have signed the Optional Protocol and need to ratify it are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Congo, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Finland, France, Gabon, Ghana,Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives,Mali, Montenegro, Netherlands, Paraguay, Senegal, Slovenia, Solomon Islands,Timor-Leste, Togo, Ukraine and Venezuela.

Around the world, 160 countries are party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The ICESCR provides the main legal framework for theprotection and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, which include the rights to work, health, education, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, social security, and the right to take part in cultural life, amongst others. All States that are parties to the ICESCR are obliged under international law to respect, protect and fulfill these rights for all, without discrimination.

The NGO Coalition for the OptionalProtocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is made up of more than 300 civil society groups globally. It has been campaigning for the last eight years for the Protocol and is calling on all governments worldwide to ratify it. The NGO Coalition for the Optional Protocol is coordinated by a Steering Committee formed by the following organizations:

Amnesty International(AI)
Community Law Center
Food First International Action Network (FIAN)
Inter-American Platform for Human Rights, Democracy and Development (PIDHDD)
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net)
International Women Rights Action Watch-Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP)
Social Rights Advocacy Centre (SRAC)

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