A Draft for an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR Has Been Approved by Consensus!

In early April 2008, a draft for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP) was adopted by consensus by the UN Working Group on the OP (please see document below) and it was sent for consideration of the Human Rights Council. This represents an important step towards a more effective protection of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) within the United Nations (UN). Once the OP is adopted by the UN General Assembly and ratified by States, individuals and groups of individuals will be able to present communications on ESCR violations before the UN Committee on ESCR: needless to say that individual communications have become one of the main international tools for the protection of human rights.


The approval of a draft by the UN Working Group is the result of several years of hard work and discussion not only at the UN, but also within civil society. In the last four years, the UN Working Group on the OP held five sessions and facilitated negotiations among States and between States and civil society organizations on a variety of issues. Besides many parallel conferences, meetings and discussions took place.


The approved draft of the Optional Protocol is not as strong as it could have been. It includes unprecedented language on admissibility and it does not hold a completely comprehensive approach towards the protection of ESCR. It portrays, however, a significant step in guaranteeing that victims of violations against ESCR can have access to justice.


We still have some challenges ahead. As the draft of the OP will be discussed before the Human Rights Council and as it is still to be adopted both by the Council and by the UN General Assembly, civil society organizations and supporting governments hold now a key role in assuring that the final text of the OP further protects victims of ESCR violations. Special support should be given to the most comprehensive approach possible.  


For a more detailed overview of the draft approved by the UN Working Group, please read the document released in April 2008 by the OP Coalition (in English, French and Spanish). Please see documents below.

Working Group(s):