Optional Protocol to ICESCR

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is an international treaty guaranteeing economic, social and cultural rights to all persons. Ireland signed up to the treaty in 1973 and ratified it in 1989.

Treaty articles

The treaty guarantees individuals the right to:

  • Work 
  • Social security     
  • Protection of the Family    
  • Housing                
  • An adequate standard of living
  • Health     
  • Education        


Optional Protocol - justice for economic, social and cultural rights

Most economic, social and cultural rights are not recognised or protected in the laws of many countries, including Ireland. This means that when a right of a person is violated, there is little hope of correcting the problem, or stopping it from happening again.

These rights should be protected in the domestic laws of each land.  In this situation it is very important that international mechanisms and procedures are in place to make sure that the rights, neglected by our domestic laws, are protected in some way.  

In 2008, a new protocol, or obligation, to the treaty was agreed by the UN.  This protocol would allow individual people, who felt that their Government was not delivering these rights, to report their situation and their Government to the United Nations.

The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would allow individuals, and groups to seek justice for violations of their economic, social and cultural rights.

This is not unusual.  We already have the right to fair trial or freedom from torture.  But our economic or social rights are not recognised in the same way.   

If a country, including Ireland were to adopt the Optional Protocol, it would strengthen the public understanding of their economic, social and cultural rights.  And, in the event of these rights being abused, it would also give them a course of action to take, to restore their rights, and prevent the abuses from happening again.  

Ten states have now signed and ratifiied the Optional Protocol.  The support of these states will allow the protocol to come into force on 5th of May, 2013.  

The states that have ratified so far are Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mongolia, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Uruguay.


Ireland and the Optional Protocol

Ireland signed the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on 23rd of March, 2012.

The Optional Protocol must be ratified into Irish law, to enable it to come into full effect and provide the greatest possible protections for people living in Ireland.

Amnesty International has been lobbying the Irish Government to sign the Optional Protocol since 2007.  The signing of the Optional Protocol was regarded as a great success by the NGO community.  Amnesty International will continue to lobby Government to ensure that the Optional Protocol is ratified into Irish law.  Read about Amnesty International's work on the Optional Protocol.

For more information contact rmckenna@amnesty.ie