New human rights instrument closes vital protection gap, says top UN official

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

12 December 2008 – The United Nations human rights chief has welcomed the General Assembly’s adoption of an important new instrument to strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights, stressing that it gives a voice to victims of violations.

“The approval of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is of singular importance by closing a historic gap,” stated UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The Protocol, adopted during the Assembly’s 10 December meeting commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, will enable victims to complain about violations of the rights enshrined in the Covenant at the international level for the first time.

Ms. Pillay stressed that the Protocol provides a voice to victims of human rights violations. It also “makes them better equipped to enlist the international community’s help to address their plight.”

The High Commissioner noted that the Universal Declaration chose not to rank rights. “On the contrary, it recognized the equal status of political and civil rights with economic, social and cultural rights, and underlined that all rights are inextricably linked,” she said. “Violations of a set of rights reverberate on other rights and enfeeble them all.”

The Optional Protocol will now be opened for signature during 2009 and enter into force once it has been ratified by ten States.


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