Press Release | 03-05-2013
Global Governance Monitoring and Accountability Justiciability

New Complaint Mechanism on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Enters into Force

3 May 2013, Heidelberg/Geneva - FIAN International celebrates the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR) which will take place on 5 May 2013.

Under the Protocol, victims of violations of economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to food, health, and housing, who are unable to seek relief within their own country, can seek redress at the international level by filing a complaint with the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 

In 1966 a similar mechanism was adopted for civil and political rights. With the entry into force of the OP-ICESCR, a long-term gap in human rights protection under the international system has been closed, with the international community of states affirming that economic, social and cultural rights are equally as enforceable as, for example, the freedom of expression or the right to a fair trial. 

Three months ago, Uruguay provided the crucial tenth ratification of the Protocol. The ten Sates parties to date are Argentina, Spain, Ecuador, Mongolia, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina; Slovakia, El Salvador, Portugal and Uruguay.

“The OP-ICESCR establishes a vital tool for people, in particular for those living in poverty, to seek realization of all human rights and to hold their governments accountable for violations of ESCR,” said Flavio Valente, Secretary General of FIAN International.

FIAN International first began lobbying for elaboration and ratification of the protocol in 1993, during the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights. For the past eight years, FIAN has worked together with a coalition of more than 300 civil society groups as part of the Steering Committee which coordinates the NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR, calling on all governments worldwide to ratify it.  

The OP is intended to complement and not replace national systems, which remain the key space for victims to seek justice. However, the decisions made by the Committee under this new mechanism are likely to influence national and regional courts around the world.Therefore, governments ratifying the OP-ICESCR should ensure that there are national mechanisms in place, such as courts and human rights commissions with the mandate and capacity to enforce economic, social and cultural rights.

“In addition to its value as a mechanism of redress for victims, the OP-ICESCR is a new international reference tool that will allow advances to be made in economic, social and cultural rights in many areas,” explained Flavio Valente. 

FIAN International invites all governments who have not yet ratified the OP-ICESCR to do so and calls on civil society organizations worldwide to intensify campaigns for the ratification of the OP-ICESCR. 

For more information:

Click here for the OP fact sheet

Visit the website of the NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR

Click here to watch FIAN's Secretary General and FIAN's Human Rights Director speak about the ratification's impact.

Click here for more information about the civil society event in New York celebrating the ratification.

Photo: 22nd Session of UN Human Rights Council - (Source: UN Photo Agency)