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On December 10th, 2008, the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP or Optional Protocol). By adopting this long awaited instrument, the General Assembly has corrected historic imbalances, strongly reaffirmed the universality, indivisibility and inter-dependence of all human rights, but most importantly, has created the possibility for millions who suffer from social and economic rights' violations to find redress at the international level.

The Optional Protocol was opened for signature and ratification on 24 September 2009 during the 2009 Treaty Event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. As of November 1, 2012 the Protocol has been signed by 41 countries and ratified by 8. The updated list of States that sign and ratify/accede to the OP can be found in:


The NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR is lead by a Steering Coommittee, composed of the following organizations:

* ESCR-Net is in charge of coordinating the activity of the Coalition.

The Coalition has launched the Campaign JUSTICE NOW! RATIFY TO PROTECT ALL HUMAN RIGHTS, to ensure wide ratification and implementation of the OP. Victims of ESCR violations will be able to seek justice through the Optional Protocol once it enters into force, after 10 States have completed the legal procedures to be bound by the treaty. These legal procedures differ among countries but, in general, States must either ratify or accede to it. Ratification of a treaty requires domestic approval of the treaty after the state has signed it and agreed to its terms. So as a first step the Coalition is focusing efforts to ensure the prompt entry into force of this mechanism.

Once the Optional Protocol enters into force, it will allow women, children, migrants, Indigenous peoples and anyone whose economic, social and cultural rights have been violated to present a complaint before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations independent body of experts responsible for supervising State compliance with all the rights protected in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In addition to its relevance as mechanism of redress at the international level, the Optional Protocol has the potential to increase domestic compliance with ESCR obligations, press for the national adjudication of cases that involve the violation of ESCR and strengthen the work of local organizations on human rights and social justice issues. The Optional Protocol will also help develop the content of economic, social and cultural rights and related States' obligations, as well as give guidance to national and regional courts and human rights institutions around the world.

An important step for the OP Campaign was to ensure that a considerable number of States signed the Optional Protocol on September 24.  The signatures were a tangible demonstration of the international community's commitment to the indivisibility, universality and interdependence of all human rights and  set the stage and created momentum towards ratification or accession of States. The further signature from other States and ratification of the OP remain the priorities of the Campaign in order to ensure that the Optional Protocol not only enters into force, but is also widely accepted from the UN members States. 

In a time where humanity is facing financial, food and global warming crises, States more than ever need to take all necessary steps to ensure that the fundamental rights of their people are upheld and protected above any other priority. The Optional Protocol rescues the unified vision of all human rights for all people which served as the pillar for the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: a vision that recognizes that human beings require civil and political rights and freedoms as much as they require housing, education, health and other economic, social and cultural rights to live a life of dignity and freedom.

Support the Campaign

To learn more about the OP, its history and the rights that it protects, visit our Resource Page and become a member of the NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol. 

Join the Campaign for Ratification to support the protection of economic, social and cultural rights worldwide!

Read about the Coalition's proposed national level actions for organizations working nationally or with capacity to work within specific countries. 

Read the Full Text of the Optional Protocol here