There is momentum in support of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR
The question of adopting an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR, providing for a system of individual and group complaints, has been under consideration by the international community for years. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a body of independent experts in charge of monitoring the compliance of the obligations established by the ICESCR (the Committee), and strongly supported by civil society groups, initiated discussions on the adoption of an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR in 1990. However, from the outset, opposition was strong and as the process continues, required more participation from national level NGOs. Finally, in 2006, a mandate was granted to the "Open-ended Working Group on an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights" (OEWG) to draft the Optional Protocol. One of the challenges was to ensure that the international community acknowledged the urgency and the importance of creating strong and comprehensive mechanisms for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights; one that covered ALL the rights protected by the ICESCR and provided an effective venue for victims of ESCR violations to find justice within the UN System.
The majority of UN human rights treaties have optional protocols that enable specific human rights Committees to receive individual complaint mechanisms and, in some instances, conduct investigations:
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) has two optional protocols, the first which enables individual complaints to be brought to the Human Rights Committee, while the second deals with the death penalty;
The Convention against Torture (CAT) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) have articles enabling individual communications. In fact, CAT also has an inquiries procedure that enables its Committee to investigate gross and systematic violations of rights under that convention;
In recent years, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) came into force and it establishes an individual complaints and an inquiry procedure.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes the ability of individuals to bring complaints to a special committee of human rights experts.
The Optional Protocol to the ICESCR places the ICESCR at the same level of other international human rights instruments and strengthens efforts to hold States accountable for violations of economic, social and cultural rights. That is why it is important to actively engage with States in order to gain more support for entry into force of the Optional Protocol.
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