Campaigning for legal protection for all rights

31 January 2013

Access to justice for all

All governments should ensure access to justice for people whose economic, social and cultural rights are violated.


Millions of people whose economic, social and cultural rights are routinely trampled on have a fresh route to justice thanks to the creation of a new UN mechanism which provides international legal redress when national governments are not protecting them.

The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Protocol) allows individuals and groups to seek justice from the UN if their rights are violated and their government does not provide justice.

The Protocol enables people who have suffered violations including being forcibly evicted from their homes, or denied an education because of their residential status – or any other violations of the rights to adequate housing, food, water, sanitation, health, work, social security and education – to have their complaints heard in front of an independent, international panel of experts once they have exhausted all domestic options.

This mechanism entered into force on 5 May 2013. It has been ratified by 14 states - Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, Gabon, Mongolia, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Uruguay and there are 31 additional signatories. The Protocol is only legally binding in those countries which are party to it.

We call on every country to be part of the Optional Protocol and allow justice to become a reality for the victims of every human right violation. Demand that your government does not leave you out.

Amnesty International is part of the international NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR, which successfully advocated for the UN to establish the Protocol, and continues to campaign for its ratification globally.

If you want to be part of your national coalition, please contact your national Amnesty International section.

Find out if your country has signed and become party to the Protocol

Why is the Optional Protocol so important?
Amnesty International has documented many cases around the world where people are finding it impossible to obtain justice for violations of their economic, social and cultural rights. Find out more about Cambodia, where the justice system can work against you, Nigeria, where justice can fail to enforce the law, and Slovenia, where the justice system can ignore you, to see just how important the Optional Protocol will be to people, especially those living in poverty.



International NGO Coalition for an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR

Make our rights law: Enforce economic, social and cultural rights

24 October 2008: UN discusses crucial step on economic, social and cultural rights

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