The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: A Commentary
Edited by Malcolm Langford, Bruce Porter, Rebecca Brown & Julieta Rossi
ISBN: 978-1-920538-50-7
Pages: 396
Print version: Available
Electronic version: Free PDF available

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About the publication

On 10 December 2008, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR). The Optional Protocol permits individuals or groups of individuals to submit complaints to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights if they have exhausted domestic remedies and believe a ratifying State has violated their rights under the Covenant. It therefore effected an historic change in the UN human rights system in that it recognizes the equal status of claimants of economic, social and cultural rights and their right to access justice. The Protocol came into force on 5 May 2013, and the number of ratifications is steadily growing.

This Commentary, the first and most comprehensive of its kind, offers rigorous scholarly commentary on the provisions of the OP-ICESCR, aimed at informing and encouraging research, reasoned argument, consistent interpretation and effective advocacy, adjudication and remedies under the Protocol. It provides a critical resource for both users of the Optional Protocol (applicants, lawyers, governments, the Committee) and a broader audience of scholars, students, national judiciaries and policy makers.

The book is divided into three main sections that respectively address procedural issues, substantive interpretation, and remedies and enforcement. Each of the chapters highlights and discusses what is most innovative about the OP-ICESCR, as well as potential ambiguities and controversies. The Commentary makes a unique and critical contribution to legal scholarship and practice by laying the foundations for cutting-edge, authoritative jurisprudence. The chapters have benefited from a peer-review process, and an exchange and discussion among the authors and other experts.

About the editors:

Malcolm Langford is an Associate Professor at the University of Oslo and Co-Director of the Centre on Law and Social Transformation, University of Bergen and CMI. He was previously a Research Fellow at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo.

Bruce Porter is the Executive Director of the Social Rights Advocacy Centre, a Commissioner on the Ontario Human Rights Commission and Senior Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing.

Rebecca Brown is the Director of Global Advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights. Before joining the Center, she was Deputy Director of ESCR-Net.

Julieta Rossi is a Professor and researcher at the National University of Lanús, University of Buenos Aires and National University of San Martín. She was previously the Executive Director of ESCR-Net.

Table of Contents


  • 1. Introduction
    Malcolm Langford, Bruce Porter, Rebecca Brown and Julieta Rossi
  • 2. The Origins of the Optional Protocol
    Catarina de Albuquerque and Malcolm Langford


  • 3. Individual Complaints Procedure
    Christian Courtis and Julieta Rossi
  • 4. The Inquiry Procedure
    Donna J. Sullivan
  • 5. Inter-State Procedure
    Malcolm Langford, Cheryl Lorens and Natasha Telson


  • 6. Reasonableness and Article 8(4)
    Bruce Porter
  • 7. Substantive Obligations
    Malcolm Langford
  • 8. Equality and Non-Discrimination
    Rebecca Brown, Lilian Chenwi and Michael Ashley Stein


  • 9. Interim Measures
    Viviana Krsticevic and Brian Griffey
  • 10. Remedial Recommendations
    Viviana Krsticevic and Brian Griffey
  • 11. Enforcement
    Başak Çalı

Annex 1: Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Annex 2: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

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