IHRC urges Government to Sign New UN Protocol Offering greater Protection for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) today urged the Government to sign a new United Nations Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) because it offers greater protection for people’s economic, social and cultural rights. The Protocol opens for signature on 24 September 2009, at the UN in New York.

The ICESCR protects a broad range of economic and social rights, such as the right to adequate housing, the right to the highest standard of health and the right to education. The new Protocol will allow individuals or groups to appeal to an international human rights body to investigate an alleged violation of their rights under the ICESCR. This means that when a person has been unsuccessful in having their economic, social and cultural rights vindicated in the Irish courts, he or she may be able to make a complaint to a UN independent body of experts to examine the case.

Warmly welcoming the opening for signature of the new Protocol Dr Maurice Manning, President of the IHRC said, "The Irish Government should sign and ratify this Protocol as soon as possible. The Protocol is recognised as closing a historic gap in human rights protection in the international system by providing a complaints procedure for economic, social and cultural rights. The Protocol will provide an important platform to expose violations of human rights that are often linked to poverty, discrimination and lack of adequate investment in social protections." Dr Manning continued, "protection of economic, social and cultural rights is increasingly important, particularly in difficult economic circumstances, where the non allocation of sufficient resources can have a serious negative impact on rights such as the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to adequate housing, the right to health and the right to education, especially for the most vulnerable in Irish society."

Éamonn Mac Aodha, Chief Executive of the IHRC said, "This Protocol will provide a secondary mechanism when all avenues of complaint through the Irish courts have been exhausted. It is an important safeguard in ensuring that economic, social and cultural rights are upheld in Ireland. The Government has been legally bound to comply with the human rights standards set out in the ICESCR since 1990 and this individual complaints mechanism will serve to strengthen Ireland’s commitment to this important Convention. We urge the Government to support this important international development as swiftly as possible."

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Fidelma Joyce, IHRC, Tel: 01 8589601 Mob: 087 783 4939

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