18 June 2008

GENEVA — The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour congratulated today the Human Rights Council on its adoption of an important new human rights instrument to strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights.

“This is a highly significant achievement”, she said. “The Protocol will provide an important platform to expose abuses that are often linked to poverty, discrimination and neglect, and that victims frequently endure in silence and helplessness. It will provide a way for individuals, who may otherwise be isolated and powerless, to make the international community aware of their situation.”

The Protocol will allow persons to petition an international human rights body about violations of rights guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Adopted by the Human Rights Council on 18 June, the Protocol is expected to get the final approval by the United Nations General Assembly later this year. Thereafter, the Protocol will enter into force once it has been ratified by ten States.

“Since the adoption of the two core international human rights covenants in 1966, the lack of a complaint procedure for economic, social and cultural rights has been a missing piece in the international human rights protection system” Arbour said. “As we are celebrating the 60 years anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Optional Protocol reaffirms our commitment to a unified and comprehensive vision of human rights, sending a strong, unequivocal message about the equal value and importance of all human rights.”

With its adoption of the Protocol, the Human Rights Council brings to fruition a process set in motion by the 1993 Vienna World Conference on Human Rights prompting the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights to prepare a first draft optional protocol in 1996 and leading to the commencement of intergovernmental negotiations in 2004.