Optional Protocol to ICESCR enters into force

The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR) entered into force on 10 May 2013, three months after its tenth ratification. OP-ICESCR establishes three important mechanisms for bringing violations of economic, social and cultural rights before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, namely an individual complaints mechanism (like that contained in the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR), an inter-state complaint mechanism and an inquiry procedure.

The Optional Protocol, which was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 2008 and opened for signature on 24 September 2009, has to date been signed by 42 states and ratified by, in chronological order, Ecuador, Mongolia, Spain, El Salvador, Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovakia, Portugal and Uruguay.

In July 2009, the Centre made a submission strongly urging the Australian Government to be part of the first group of states to ratify OP-ICESCR. Disappointingly, the Government has so far declined to sign, let alone ratify, the Optional Protocol. In doing so, it continues to pass up the opportunity to present Australia as a international leader in the field of human rights and to strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights which, as identified during the National Human Rights Consultation in 2009, matter most to Australians.