day 6 of the op-icescr working group

Programme for the day: The discussion today focused on the question of benefits of an Optional Protocol to the ICESCR and the practicability of such a procedure, including the issue of complementarity with other procedures.  

A representative from the ILO provided information to delegations, and clarified how an OP to the ICESCR was different to the complaints procedure under the ILO (a key difference relates to standing, the OP to ICESCR would enable individual complaints to be submitted).

Themes from the interactive dialogue session: To date, the tone of the discussion has been quite optimistic. While Poland, China, India and Japan have been quite outspoken and active in their opposition to the OP, other delegations who do not support the OP have been more open to the debate than anticipated, certainly when reflecting on the history of this issue at the Commission on Human Rights (for example, Canada, the UK, Australia, Sweden, and Angola). Portugal, Mexico, Brazil, Austria, Croatia, Chile, Czech Republic, South Africa, the Holy See, Belgium, Finland, Algeria, Russia and Germany have all made strong statements in support of an OP, and a number of delegations have indicated their support privately, but are not speaking out on the issue. The GRULAC have indicated their support but have yet to deliver their public statement.

Nonetheless, at the session today, a sense of pessimism prevailed. The session opened with Poland delivering a statement challenging the views of the Chair in her concluding statement on Friday. The Chair had commented that in the discussions of the day there was strong evidence to support the view that economic, social and cultural rights were being adjudicated at national and regional levels. Poland stated that it was erroneous to suggest that such adjudication was consistent across the regions, and reiterated that while governments supported the view that civil and political rights are justiciable, the same could not be said for economic, social and cultural rights. Egypt then supported Poland’s statement, but no delegations spoke in support of the Chair’s summary.

The debate then turned to the question of benefits and complementarity, with states speaking both for and against. Many of the pro-arguments we are aware of. A theme of the anti-arguments was the identification of alternatives to an OP to ICESCR, including a process of peer reviews, appointment of an expert, a study on the issue, and strengthening of national machineries.

In general, European governments continue to be the majority participants. Representation of African states increased today, though it is still a small number: Congo, Mauritius, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and Angola were present; Burkina Faso has also participated during the working group. In private discussions it is clear that Kenya, Senegal and Burkina Faso are supportive. Congo has no clear position. South Africa has been an outspoken supporter, while Angola is opposed. In terms of Asian participation, throughout the session, the Republic of Korea, Japan, China, India, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Malaysia and Indonesia have all spent some time in the room during the session. Japan, the RoK, China and India have all been outspoken opponents. In terms of Middle Eastern participation Turkey, Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the OIC have all spent some time in the room. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have both spoken against the OP.

NGO activities
Activities have focused on:
• Delivering interventions, a number of NGOs focused on benefits from the national perspective, and also addressed complementarity;
• Bi-lateral lobbying with supportive delegations, ambivalent delegations, and those opposed to the Optional Protocol;

Action Alerts for NGOs: There are no action alerts at this time, though we anticipate that with the initial conclusions and recommendations for the report being delivered and discussed today that there may be a need for some urgent lobbying over the next 48 hours. The draft report is presented on Wednesday afternoon, Thursday has no sessions enabling delegations to receive instructions from capitals, and on Friday the representatives discuss and adopt the report. We will send an update on government positions, and conclusions and recommendations we support in the update for Tuesday.

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