The Optional Protocol (OP) to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is a (ICESCR) “communications or complaints procedure under the ICESCR to promote, protect, and vindicate the economic, social and cultural rights of individuals and communities.”
The conception of the draft of the OP was inspired by the principles of universality, interrelatedness, and indivisibility of human rights embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or (ICCPR), ICESCR as well as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993.
The OP would introduce three new mechanisms, by which, the Committee on ESCR (CESCR) can monitor a State Party’s compliance to the ICESCR:
(a) Complaint procedure wherein an individual or groups of individuals claim violations of the rights of the Covenant,
(b) Inquiry procedure wherein the Committee receives reliable information of grave or systematic violations by a State Party, and
(c) Inter-state complaint mechanism wherein a State Party considers that another State Party is not fulfilling its obligations under the treaty.
The advantage of having an OP to the ICESCR is that it would be useful for the most marginalized and poor groups, for the socially disadvantaged sectors and for the vulnerable communities such as indigenous people as well as small farmers, fisherfolks and members from the informal sector. This agreement mandates that the governments on their own and in cooperation with each other should work towards the achievement of an adequate standard of living, including housing, food, clothing, sanitation and water for all.
The Philippines ratified the ICESCR in 1974 and thereby freely accepted its obligations to respect, to protect and to progressively fulfill these rights of the Filipino people. The OP-ICESR would strengthen the realization of ESC rights globally by proceeding with cases of violations and establishing jurisprudence. It would neither impose additional obligations to the government nor be used to discredit or put the country into a bad light as there are strict procedures and conditions before a complaint could be accepted at the United Nations.
The ratification of the Optional Protocol will provide an impetus for the establishment and strengthening of existing local redress mechanisms for violations of these rights, assist monitoring and documentation of ECS rights and fast-track the mainstreaming of a rights-based approach (RBA) to governance.
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