Justiciability--the capability of being accepted by a court--of legal cases about economic, social and cultural rights is still a challenge in many countries due to lack of access to justice or limited recognition of these rights. Since 2008, nevertheless, this has begun to change at the international level with the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR or OP), which was opened for signature on September 24, 2009.

This new legal instrument allows victims of violations of economic, social or cultural rights to present complaints before the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights--an independent body of the United Nations. A complaint can be brought against a state that violates the obligations established in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, if the state has ratified the OP. As of 2011 only three countries have done so--Spain, Ecuador and Mongolia--meaning seven more ratifications are needed for the OP come into force.

CESR has been collaborating in this work with the NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and ESCR-Net. As part of this work, in 2009 CESR launched a petition in support of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR, asking states to ensure that access to justice and the right to an effective remedy become a reality for victims of all human rights violations. Further, CESR has participated with others to develop strategies on how to make the best use of the OP among national organizations when it comes into force.  

During 2011 and 2012 CESR plans to further contribute to campaigning for the ratification of the OP led by the NGO Coalition. We will also be working on advancing strategies and tools to strengthen the monitoring role of the Committee as well as of role of civil society organizations under the OP.

Moreover, CESR will collaborate in developing evidence-based structural litigation and jurisprudence before judicial and non-judicial mechanisms, such as the OP enquiry procedure, to move beyond the debate on justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights to address policy obstacles to the effective implementation of legal decisions.

Major advance for social justice as 'OP' comes into force
by Luke Holland
May 13th, 2013
Blog: On May 5 the long-awaited Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights finally entered into force.
7 down, 3 to go: Momentum builds for economic and social rights complaints mechanism
by Luke Holland
February 7th, 2012
Blog: Only three more ratifications are needed to make the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights operational.