GENEVA – “The decisive action of the General Assembly today makes it clear that economic, social and cultural rights, including the rights to adequate housing, food, health, education and work, are not a matter of charity, but rather rights that can be claimed by all without discrimination of any kind,” say a group of United Nations Human Rights Experts.*
The 36 UN Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts welcome the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which enables those suffering from violations of their economic, social and cultural rights to seek remedies and to hold those responsible to account for their actions – as is already the case for other human rights.
The combination of the petitions mechanism, the inquiry procedure and the possibility of interim measures will contribute to a body of jurisprudence around these rights, thereby helping States to ensure their implementation. “Allowing individuals and groups of individuals to submit complaints on alleged violations to the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights represents a promising tool for all victims of violations of these rights to speak out and be heard,” underlined the group.
The Experts express their sincere hope that views adopted by the Committee under the Optional Protocol procedures will be used by the human rights community to assist States in taking concrete steps to realize the rights of all and to reach out to the most marginalized and disadvantaged, who are the most likely to see their rights violated.
“This marks an essential step towards the establishment of a long-awaited mechanism that reinforces the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights, and the guarantee of dignity and justice for all,” stressed the group of Experts, calling on all States to sign and ratify the instrument swiftly, so as to secure a speedy entry into force and wide application.
The Experts also welcome the General Assembly`s reaffirmation that there must be accountability for violations of all human rights: “As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the adoption of the Optional Protocol is a concrete action reaffirming, as the Declaration did, that there is no hierarchy between human rights.”
The Experts emphasized that the new complaint and inquiry mechanism will also play a role enhancing protection of other rights. “Widespread violations of economic, social and cultural rights are often root causes of social unrest and conflict which can lead to massive violations of civil and political rights.” By providing an additional avenue for redress these new mechanisms can thus help prevent other human rights violations. The 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights reaffirmed the indivisibility of all rights when it encouraged consideration of an Optional Protocol.
“The Optional Protocol,” in the Experts’ view, “provides further recognition of the inherent dignity of every human being, and of the importance of justice and accountability for all violations of human rights.”
Ms. Catarina Albuquerque, Independent Expert on the issue of h