The 5th of May marked an important day in the human rights world as the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR) received its requisite 10th ratification, triggering its entry into force.
Now operational, OP-ICESCR offers an avenue through which individuals, groups and third parties may file complaints against ratifying States for violations of rights set forth in the ICESCR. In establishing the complaints procedure, the Protocol offers a much-needed international mechanism by which rights under the ICESCR can be legally enforced. The significance of this is considerable given that ICESCR has been operational for close to 40 years (entering into force in 1976) but, until now, has functioned without any mechanism to enforce those rights. Complaints will be considered by the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), a body of independent experts established under ECOSOC and mandated to monitor the implementation of ICESCR.
For Ecuador, one of the 10 countries party to OP-ICESCR and also home to the largest number of refugees in Latin America, the Protocol’s entry into force means that refugees who have been subjected to labor rights abuses at the hand of the State may seek legal recourse at the international level.