Complaints Procedure At The UN

Likely to overlook the Poorest

Linked with Anthony Ravlich – New Zealand, and with the International NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR.

Also linked with our many texts about op-icescr on our NGO-Blog: during February 2005, and during March 2005, then with op-icescr – the Optional Protocol of the International Convent of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, op-icescr on August 31, 2005, op-icescr and Intellectual Property; and with Again: op-icescr & NGOs; … and on the Humanitarian blog: what’s about the endless op-icescr, and with Background Doc on op-icescr.

Published on, by Anthony Ravlich (Chairperson Human Rights Council Inc., New Zealand), 29 March, 2008.

It is very likely the most disadvantaged will be largely overlooked by the complaints procedure for economic, social and cultural rights (social justice) being discussed at the United Nations which so far has failed to ensure that the core minimum obligations of these rights are included in the text. In addition New Zealand continues to fail to fully endorse a comprehensive complaints procedure preferring to be selective as to which rights will apply.

The complaints procedure, called an Optional Protocol (OP), is expected to be approved by the United Nations Human Rights Council in its session from 31 March to 4 April, 2008 and if passed in its present form will, in my view, fail to ensure the State’s social responsibility to an underclass which has grown considerably since 1991. According to human rights logic those suffering the most serious violations must be emphasised over those suffering lesser violations although not excluding the latter. However previous human rights instruments have failed to address the needs of those in most suffering. The spirit of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which is essentially egalitarian, born in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century and the Great Depression, would be utterly destroyed as well as the hopes and dreams of billions of people if these human rights are used simply to further elite interests …

… A controversial issue at the OEWG is whether States should be able to select the rights they are prepared to be dealt with by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. According to the NGO Coalition for an OP for ICESCR an OP which would extend to all economic, social and cultural rights in the Covenant (the comprehensive approach) is now supported by a growing majority of States, including all African, Latin American and Carribean states, as well as the majority of European and an increasing number of Asian states. However the NGO Coalition states that some states are continuing to push for the adoption of a so-called ‘a la carte’ OP, under which states would be able to treat the ICESCR as a menu of rights and specify which rights they would be willing to accept complaints on. These latter countries include Austria, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom and the NGO Coalition has been trying over the past month to encourage these countries to change their stance or reserve their decision. The ‘a la carte approach’ allows States to exclude inconvenient rights e.g. the right to fair wages in a low wage economy. full text.

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