Progress at the Front: The Draft Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
26 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2008
Date Written: September 27, 2008
The two-decade long campaign for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR) is nearing success. The drafting of the Optional Protocol has been completed, and the Human Rights Council approved the text on 18 June 2008. It is now hoped the draft OP-ICESCR will finally be adopted by the General Assembly in late 2008, heralding the beginning of a new era in relation to access to international remedies for violations of economic, social and cultural rights. The draft OP-ICESCR establishes a new quasi-judicial function for the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, allowing it to receive communications from individuals and groups of individuals alleging violations of any of the economic, social and cultural rights set forth in the ICESCR. It also establishes, inter alia, an inquiry procedure, provides for interim measures to be ordered, and establishes a trust fund for the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights. Some of the contents of its provisions and the procedures it establishes are unique in comparison with other treaty body complaints procedures, and others mirror closely existing provisions in similar protocols and conventions. This article overviews the draft OP-ICESCR, outlining its background and genesis, and detailing some of its most contentious provisions, including the scope of the OP-ICESCR, its locus standi and admissibility provisions, the criteria to be applied by the Committee in its review of the merits, and particularly debated issues such as how to take into account the need for international cooperation and assistance. The article then proposes some preliminary assessments regarding the potential success and impact of this important new mechanism.
Keywords: Optional Protocol, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Economic Social and Cultural Rights, socio-economic rights, UN human rights, human rights complaints procedures, human rights law and practice
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