Economic, social and cultural rights strengthened
The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a new legal instrument to strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was adopted at the council’s session on Wednesday 18 June. The Optional Protocol will provide the opportunity for individuals seeking a remedy for violations of economic, social and cultural rights to have their complaints adjudicated by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights. It would be used to help in such cases as the exclusion of Romani children from education in many European countries, to the violation of housing rights in a number of African countries. Amnesty International welcomed the Optional Protocol as an “historic moment in the quest for ensuring access to justice for victims of human rights violations. “Violations of economic, social and cultural rights, including rights to adequate housing, food, water and sanitation, as well as the rights to health and education, are felt most frequently and most severely by marginalised groups and people living in poverty.” With the adoption of the Optional Protocol, the United Nations has taken a significant step towards achieving the promise of the UDHR to give greater effect to the right to a remedy for violations of economic, social and cultural rights. While welcoming the development, Amnesty International said “the Optional Protocol could, and should, have been a stronger instrument, which built more closely on the experience of existing communications’ mechanisms. The organization called the agreed text “an honourable compromise that should serve as a catalyst for the development of effective remedies for violations of economic, social and cultural rights” Amnesty International also called on the all members of the UN to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the UDHR with the adoption of the Optional Protocol, in its current form, by the General Assembly on the 10 December 2008.