OP ICESCR Campaign

Join the OP-ICESCR Campaign!

Background on the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

As economic, social and cultural rights activists, we know that when people are denied human rights, they should have access legal structures capable of providing redress. The problem is that many of our governments resist the idea that economic, social and cultural rights are human rights; that they are justiciable (that they can be adjudicated or claimed through a domestic judicial process).

Presently, at the United Nations, our governments are discussing whether they will support the creation of an international legal mechanism dedicated to address violations of economic, social and cultural rights, an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR). The Optional Protocol would not establish new substantive rights, it would provide a mechanism for establishing remedies and redress for ESCR rights violations that, until now, have never been recognised.

It is about time. Violations of civil and political rights have been considered by the Human Rights Committee since 1976. Getting an Optional Protocol is about getting the recognition that economic, social and cultural rights are as much a part of the human rights system as civil and political and non-discrimination rights. Furthermore, an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR could help promote rights in an inter-dependent and comprehensive manner.

Why an OP to the ICESCR is needed

In the last thirteen years, the justiciability of ESCR has been recognised at the national, regional and international levels. In this connection, at minimum, the OP-ICESCR will establish an individual complaints mechanism that would:

1) Strengthen processes of claiming ESCR at the international level: by allowing men and women whose rights have been denied at the national level to have their claims reviewed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

2) Contribute to the further realisation of these rights at the national level: by promoting the adequate mechanisms for redress and remedies for violations of ESCR domestically.

The OP-ICESCR will bring the UN human rights system up to date with developments in regional and domestic human rights. It would also build upon positive precedent established by other treaty systems. Regionally, Europe, the Americas and Africa have all recognised individual and collective complaints mechanisms for social and economic rights. The European Social Charter has a group complaints procedure that came into force in 1999. An Optional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights was adopted in 1998, establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights which will have the power to enforce all the rights in the African Charter, including economic and social rights. Recently the Organization of American States adopted the San Salvador Protocol to the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights to provide a complaint mechanism for certain social and economic rights.

Who We Are

Although some of us have already been working together in an ad-hoc manner towards the promotion of an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR, after meeting held during the ESCR-NET Conference, we are proposing to establish a Coalition for the OP-ICESCR. We hope to be able to establish a structure that will enable us to work together towards a common goal and vision.

The Coalition will be a network of national, regional and international Non-Government Organisations and interested individuals, working together to support the development the OP-ICESCR. We will work in partnership with each other to mobilise resources and expertise, to share information, and to advocate in strategic sites for the expeditious development of an effective OP-ICESCR.

The current members of the Coalition include: FIAN, ICJ, IWRAW-Asia Pacific, COHRE, OMCT, Migrant Watch, CERA, Social Rights Advocacy Centre, APWLD, Amnesty International, the Inter-American Platform for Human Rights, Observatorio DESC and others.

Long Term Vision

To ensure that economic, social and cultural rights are legally recognised as claimable human rights, on the same level as civil and political rights. The Optional Protocol should contain, at a minimum, the following elements:

- A communications procedure allowing the CESCR to receive complaints by or on behalf of individuals, groups of individuals and groups;

- An inquiry procedure that enables the CESCR to investigate violations of ESCR in States that ratify the OP-ICESCR;

- Inclusion of the full range of economic, social and cultural rights enumerated in the ICESCR;

- Inclusion of all levels of obligations (respect, protect and fulfil) of economic, social and cultural rights enumerated in the ICESCR; and

- There should be no reservations allowed to any part of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR.


Please note that at the moment, a small group of us is coordinating the Coalition on the volunteer basis. For this reason and until we are able to raise funds to hire coordinators for the Coalition, we may not be able to respond to your requests for assistance and inquiries immediately.

We are asking you to please take the time to fill the information requested below and send it to <op_icescr_group@yahoo.com>. We need your response in order to add you to the listserv of the Coalition and add your contacts to the list of organisations joining this initiative.


Contact Information:

Joining the Coalition as:
[ ] individual
[ ] organisation

Interested in information on:
[ ] how to participate in the open-ended working group and interventions at the UN level;
[ ] national level advocacy for the promotion of the OP-ICESCR

I would like to actively participate in the working group on:
[ ] Resources
[ ] Outreach
[ ] Activating your own network on this issue
[ ] Advocacy Tools
[ ] Media Strategy
[ ] National Advocacy Campaigns