On 5 February 2013, a milestone was reached when Uruguay became the tenth country to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (hereafter the Protocol). In accordance with Article 18 of the Protocol, it enters into force three months after the tenth country has deposited its instrument of accession. In force since 1976, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will at last have an international monitoring mechanism, which will strengthen the efforts to increase accountability for the violations of all human rights.
Once the Protocol enters into force, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (hereafter the Committee) will be able to receive and consider communications from individual or groups, under the jurisdiction of States Parties, claiming to be victims of a violation of any of their economic, social and cultural rights, amongst which the right to adequate food. In the consideration of a communication, the Committee will be able to request a State Party to take such interim measures as may be necessary to avoid possible irreparable damage to the victim or victims of the alleged violations. Besides, States Parties are required to take all appropriate measures to ensure that claimants will not be subjected to any form of ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of communicating with the Committee. Moreover, upon recognition by a State Party, the Committee will also be able to consider interstate communications and conduct inquiry.
Thus, with these three new facets, the Protocol strengthens the justiciability of the right to adequate food by providing an international monitoring mechanism that supplements the domestic systems of the States Parties. For right holders, it means that if there is a violation of their right to adequate food, they now have an international mechanism to resort to if they are not satisfied with the domestic judicial outcome of their claim. In sum, it provides another avenue for individuals and groups of States Parties to ensure that their basic human right is respected, protected and fulfilled. The expectation is now for more countries to take the initiative of becoming a State Party to this Protocol and offer the benefits of such a mechanism to their citizens.
As of 13 February 2013, 42 countries have signed the Protocol, thus endorsing the Protocol but not being legally bound by it, while the following ten have ratified it, thus becoming States Parties to the Protocol: Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mongolia, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Uruguay.
For up-to-date information on the signature and ratification process of the Protocol, please visit the United Nations Treaty Collection’s website at: