Opening Statement by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE)
Open-Ended Working-Group to consider options regarding the elaboration of an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
As the UN Representative of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), which belongs to the NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol, I am attending this important session of the Working Group to call for the drafting of an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Following this Working Group, the Commission on Human Rights (or the new Council) will decide whether or not to start drafting such an instrument. We all know that if such a decision is not taken, there is no point of continuing discussing options. In other words, this would mean that there won’t be an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the near future. Such an outcome would have a huge impact for the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights throughout the world. It would also send a very bad signal, implying that those rights are, in fact, not rights, but mere aspirations or political goals, regardless of the various statements issued by the international community on the nature, importance, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights.
But worse than that, such an outcome would simply fail to reflect developments that are taking place at the national and regional levels, where the full spectrum of economic, social and cultural rights have been adjudicated. In many different countries and legal systems, Courts have considered and enforced economic, social and cultural rights, thus clarifying their content and related States’ obligations. As a result, we have, today, a very rich jurisprudence on the right to health, the right to housing, the right to food, the right to work or the right to social security –to cite a few- covering all levels of States’ obligations.
An Optional Protocol would build upon these important developments, reinforce them and create a very fruitful exchange between national, regional and international jurisprudence. As it happened in the context of complaints mechanisms for civil and political rights, such an instrument would give us a very clear understanding of economic, social and cultural rights. This comprehension already exists, thought the work of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and national and regional case law, but it will be consolidated by a complaint procedure at the international level.
An Optional Protocol would also provide guidance to governments on the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights, encouraging them to adopt specific policies, legislations or other measures to fulfil their obligations. And it would, of course, provide individuals and groups with access to an international remedy if their case could not be solved at the national level.
For all these reasons, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions believes that it is time to move forward and give to this Working Group a mandate to draft an Optional Protocol. In doing so, we think that this drafting mandate should be a broad one, not to pre-empt any future negotiation on such instrument.
The current discussions on the reform of the Un treaty bodies, rather than deferring the drafting of an Optional Protocol, calls for it. If a single treaty body is to be established, we will have to make sure that
We look forward to actively participate in these two weeks debates and share our experience around
I thank you very much Madam Chair.