Should States Ratify? – Process and Consequences of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR

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Proponents and opponents of ratification of the ICESCR’s Optional Protocol have both exaggerated the consequences of giving individuals a “private right of standing” before the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. But this article argues that, on balance, ratification should be encouraged. Individuals will bring new and urgent issues to the international agenda, and the dialog will help to encourage a better sense of States’ international legal obligations under the treaty. The consequences for ESC rights are likely to be modestly positive, if outcomes under the Optional Protocol of the ICCPR are any guide. Even States that already respect ESC rights in their domestic law should ratify, because there is a tendency, judging by the ratification behaviour relating to similar agreements, for States to emulate ratification practices of other States in their region. Ratification will neither end deprivation nor damage the credibility of the international legal system. It will be a modest step forward in consensus-formation of the meaning of ESC rights, which in turn is a positive step toward their ultimate provision.

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Nordic Journal of Human Rights