2005 Statement of the NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under Item 10 of the Commission on Human Rights
As the High Commissioner noted, an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR will bring justice to victims of violations of their rights to housing, health, culture, education, food, social security, work, and other rights articulated under the Covenant and when their own national systems of justice have failed them. No other mechanism at the international level provides for the breadth of coverage on economic, social and cultural rights issues.
An Optional Protocol to the ICSCR will give real meaning to economic, social and cultural rights. It will implement the commitment made by governments in the World Conference on Human Rights Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action that that “all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated” and will give effect to the call for a continued examination of optional protocols to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”.
Mister Chairperson, the mandate of the Working Group is to consider options for an Optional Protocol. Let us, as the Coalition, be clear. To our mind, the option of no Optional Protocol is not an option. It perpetuates a historic hierarchy of rights, wrought in a different political age. It fosters an inequality of review procedures within the human-rights monitoring mechanisms. It ignores the broad-ranging implementation of economic, social and cultural rights in all regions of the world. And it denies the growing, and global, jurisprudence on economic, social and cultural rights, which has derived in large part from the increasingly comprehensive domestic mechanisms to address economic, social and cultural rights. And it ignores the needs of our shared constituents, those who suffer violations of their economic, social and cultural rights. Their need for access to justice is the imperative which drives these discussions and our participation in this process, both here in
The NGO Coalition is of the view that an OP to the ICESCR should incorporate the following two elements as its broad framework.
· One, an OP to the ICESCR should provide for individual and collective communications;
· Two, it should incorporate an Inquiries mechanism, as per the CEDAW OP and procedures under the CAT.
Negotiations on the OP to ICESCR will provide a forum to address, inter alia, issues of:
· standing, which should extend to NGOs;
· admissibility, which should ensure that all rights contained in the ICESCR are susceptible to the provisions of the OP;
· responses to provisions in the Covenant on international cooperation;
· interim measures and emergency procedures; and
· effective remedies and follow-up mechanisms.
We support the view of some delegates that these issues are best resolved through the process of negotiation, rather than prior to the process of negotiating a draft OP.
We thank you for the opportunity to address the Commission, and look forward to the adoption by consensus of the report of the Open-Ended Working Group, and to the work of the third session of said group.