Spain Is First European Country to Ratify New UN Protocol on ESCR

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The Spanish government today ratified a new UN protocol to create a new international complaint mechanism to uphold economic, social and cultural rights

CESR and other human rights groups welcome Spain’s ratification of the Optional Protocol (OP) to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, becoming the first country in Europe to do so. The protocol is a new UN complaint mechanism adopted two years ago to allow people to seek justice from the UN if their right to adequate housing, food, water, health education or any other economic, social or cultural right is violated by their government.

In addition to Spain, Ecuador and Mongolia have ratified the protocol. Thirty other countries have signed it, thereby indicating their intention to ratify. At least 10 states must ratify the Optional Protocol for it to enter into force.

Spain’s ratification comes at a critical juncture for the state to confirm its commitment to economic and social rights both domestically and abroad.  Spanish President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero attended the UN MDG Review Summit in New York, where he affirmed the country’s pledge to increase overseas development assistance rates 0.7% of GNP by 2015, despite the fact that the country imposed public spending cuts earlier this year that led to a 600 million reduction in its foreign aid.

At the same time, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Spain’s Universal Periodic Review outcomes this week. The focus of the UPR comments was on discrimination and xenophobia, migrant rights, human trafficking, torture and the condition of detention centers, particularly for unaccompanied minors. Spain was encouraged to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

In a joint statement by Amnesty International and the Center for Economic Rights, CESR notes that Spain’s announcements at the UN indicate a strong commitment to realizing economic and social rights both at home and abroad. Its actions, however, have not always been consistent with these good intentions, as witnessed by its cuts in its development aid budget.

International eyes will be on Spain to ensure that the leadership it has shown in ratifying the Optional Protocol is reflected in policy and practice and that Spain follows through on the recommendations it has accepted through the UPR process.