Meeting on the OP-ICESCR in Nepal-January 2014

On January 14, 2014, 40 human rights activists and governmental officials gathered in Kathmandu, Nepal, to discuss the ratification of the OP-ICESCR and its role in advancing the protection of ESCR within the country. The event was organized by the NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR, ESCR-Net and Pro Public, in collaboration with FIAN-Nepal and the National Human Rights Commission.   

Participants discussed the three mechanisms of protection created by the OP-ICESCR: the communication procedure, the inquiry procedure and inter-state communications.

Ana Maria Suarez Franco, Permanent Representative of FIAN at the UN and member of the OP Coalition, outlined arguments in support of ratifying the Optional Protocol, in general and with specific to Nepal. While recognizing that ESCR are already enshrined in the Nepali legal framework, including its interim constitution, she pointed out that there is a need to reinforce a commitment to respect, protect and fulfill ESCR by making available remedies at the international level. She noted that Nepal has already ratified most of the international communication procedures; ratifying the OP-ICESCR is an important next step in demonstrating Nepal’s commitment to meet its human rights obligations. Furthermore, she made explicit that the national level remains the main forum for tackling violations of ESCR.  The OP-ICESCR provides an international mechanism for individuals or groups of individuals to bring complaints regarding violations of ESCR, but only after domestic remedies are exhausted.

Daniela Ikawa, ESCR-Net Program Officer and member of the OP Coalition, stressed the potential of Nepal to provide leadership at multiple levels via ratification of the OP-ICESCR. From the national perspective, the ratification could consolidate Nepal’s commitment to ESCR at a moment when Nepal is actively discussing its new Constitution. From a regional perspective, Nepal could join forces with Mongolia (the only Asian country so far to have ratified the OP-ICESCR) in leading the ratification process in Asia. Such a leading role is especially relevant in the region, as there is no Asian system of human rights protection currently available. Finally, from a global perspective, Nepal could provide an important contribution by reaffirming that human rights are indivisible and ultimately by contributing to the further definition of ESCR. The Nepalese Supreme Court has developed progressive jurisprudence on ESCR, linking such rights to concrete public policies in a number of areas, from the right to work to the right to health. Such jurisprudence is still innovative in the world and could add great value to the strengthening of ESCR more broadly.

After the event, members of the OP Coalition were received by the Law Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office. A dialogue among the OP Coalition, the Nepalese Coalition for the OP and the government should continue in the following months.

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