Optional Protocol to the ICESCR

ESCR-Net also serves as the Coordinator of the NGO Coalition Campaign for the OP-ICESCR, while taking up related work through the Working Group on Adjudication:


Millions of people around the world suffer violations of their economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), including abuses of the rights to adequate housing, food, water, sanitation, health, work and education. The United Nations created a new international mechanism: the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR), which will enable victims of ESCR violations, who are unable to find remedies within their own country, to seek justice at the international level.

The International NGO Coalition led NGO efforts towards the drafting and subsequent adoption of the Optional Protocol and now focuses on the ratification and implementation process of this treaty. The Coalition brings together individuals and organizations from around the world who support the entry into force and effectiveness of the OP-ICESCR.


  • Secure the entry into force of the OP with a large and regionally diverse number of ratifications/accessions.
  • Ensure the effective functioning of the OP-ICESCR by: advocating for the adoption of effective rules of procedure, encouraging the election of committee members with a strong ESCR background, supporting the harmonization of national-level systems with the OP-ICESCR and working with the CESCR and national-level authorities to build awareness and ensure progressive implementation of the treaty.
  • Provide litigation support to ensure appropriate cases reach the CESCR to set a positive precedent.
  • Increase awareness of the OP-ICESCR and strengthen the capacity of organizations to use this instrument as an important tool to advance ESCR work at the national level.
  • Expand and strengthen the network of organizations working on the Optional Protocol, the ICESCR and ESCR-related issues.
  • Facilitate the involvement of national-level organizations on the presentation of strategic cases before the CESCR and the implementation of decisions.


An international covenant that creates a complaints mechanism for victims of States’ violations of the International Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The OP-ICESCR will reinforce States’ compliance with ESCR-related obligations, supporting access to legal remedies in cases of violations and strengthening the activities of organizations working on issues related to human rights and social justice. It will empower claimants to help develop the content of obligations applied to their diverse situations.

Complaints under the OP-ICESCR can relate to ALL ESCR, including: the right to equality and non-discrimination, the right to work, labor rights, the right to social security, the right to protection and assistance to family, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to adequate clothing, the right to food, the right to adequate housing, the right to water, the right to sanitation, the right to the highest level of mental and physical health possible, the right to culture and access to scientific progress benefits. Individuals or groups of individuals, who allege to be victims of violations of the ICESCR and who have not found effective remedies within their own country, can file a complaint. In addition, third persons may file complaints on behalf of these individuals or groups of individuals with their consent.

Third persons may file complaints on behalf of presumed victims, without their consent, but must justify acting on their behalf.


As of 5 February 2013, 42 countries have signed and 10 have ratified the OP-ICESCR, which will bring it into force on 5 May 2013.  Ratifying countries include: Ecuador, Mongolia, Spain, El Salvador, Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovakia, Portugal and Uruguay.



NGO Coalition for the OP-ICESCR coordinated by ESCR-Net


  • Support the signing and/or ratification process in your country.
  • Determine if your government plans to ratify or accede to the OP-ICESCR. What are the challenges, opportunities, anticipated obstacles and timing of this process? If your government does not plan to ratify it, what are the reasons?
  • Organize discussions that support the signing or ratification of the OP-ICESCR between national authorities and civil society organizations.
  •  Lobby national level authorities within your country (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, relevant bodies within the Executive Power and Congress or Parliament) to push for the signature and ratification of or accession to the OP-ICESCR.
  • Lobby your country’s representatives during relevant meetings of intergovernmental bodies like the sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council or the Organization of American States General Assembly.
  • Ensure that your country raises the issue of ratification of the OP-ICESCR during the Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) of other countries and work to ensure that it is raised as an issue in your own country’s UPR.
  • Join the NGO Coalition and support accountability for ESCR violations. If you want to be part of the Coalition and receive further information about the Campaign, fill in the membership form available at: http://www.escr-net.org or contact us at: op-coalition@escr-net.org.