Statement by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) on Options Regarding an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights



January 2005



Madam Chair,


Having followed the discussions in this working-group over the last two weeks, my organisation, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), is very pleased to see that throughout the debates and the various interventions of delegations, a clear preferred option emerged, the one of having an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


We very much welcome the fact that many delegations are supporting an Optional Protocol and have showed their preference for the development of a complaint mechanism, at the international level, on economic, social and cultural rights.


While many issues still need to be addressed, including the form this Optional Protocol will take, as well as the various elements and modalities of such an Optional Protocol, COHRE shares the view expressed by a majority of delegations during this working-group that “not having an Optional Protocol” is not an option.


The concrete nature of the discussions has highlighted that significant progress can be made and that concrete options for an Optional Protocol can be identified. Many different proposals have been put on the table and debated regarding the shape that a future Optional Protocol would take, along with its elements and modalities. Yesterday morning session, looking at the questions of the admissibility criteria, standing and other modalities of an Optional Protocol, has also highlighted that these issues can be discussed in a debate around options, without entering into a negotiation or a drafting of a text.


As such, COHRE believes that the third meeting of the working-group should aim to discuss specific elements and modalities that have been presented by delegations, NGOs and experts over the last two weeks. These include, among others, the following issues: the subject-matter of a communication (or the type of violations covered by the Optional Protocol), the question of jurisdiction, the exhaustion of domestic remedies, the question of standing, interim measures, as well as remedies and redress for the victims.


This approach would allow to concretely looking at issues such as an “a la carte approach”, a comprehensive approach, or international cooperation. Time has come to move towards very concrete discussions, looking at the various procedural options available. COHRE believes that in case this working-group continues to debate around broad issues, in the abstract, it would not only fail to achieve its mandate, but would also fall short of presenting very concrete elements and modalities for the Commission to decide, in 2006, to give to this working group a mandate to draft an Optional Protocol.


It will not come as a surprise, Madam Chair, that COHRE is of the view that what we have referred to as a comprehensive approach should be use as a starting points in the identification of specific elements and modalities of an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.


As we have reiterated several time throughout this working-group, we believe that a future Optional Protocol should include, among others:

(1)   all rights;

(2)   the three levels of obligations (respect, protect and fulfil);

(3)   all elements of the rights;

(4)   an inquiry and communication procedure;

(5)   an emergency procedure; and

(6)   a follow-up procedures.


The capacity of individuals and groups, as well as their representatives, to lodge a complaint should be recognised, while no reservations under the Optional protocol should be allowed.


Thank you Madam Chair