Experts call on Australia to advance economic, social and cultural rights

May 5, 2023

A decade ago today, the United Nations celebrated the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (OP-ICESCR). In a letter to the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC MP and Foreign Minister Senator Penny Wong, Human Rights experts have called on Australia to mark this anniversary by finally committing to ratify the OP-ICESCR.

At a time when many Australians are facing a cost of living crisis and in the face of global challenges such as exploding inequalities, cuts to public services, the cost of food and the climate crisis, the protection of economic, social and cultural rights has never been more important.

Becoming a state party to this agreement will help advance fundamental rights like housing, water, health and education: rights that Australian people have consistently demanded from their governments.

Australia has been a State Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) for nearly 50 years. Countries including Ireland, France, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain have signed the Optional Protocol which allows people to seek the assistance of the United Nations if their rights under the Convention are violated.

ALHR is urging the government to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol this month, thus making a public commitment to its own policies such as Closing the Gap and to protecting human rights and eradicating poverty at home and internationally.

Nations that take their ICESCR obligations seriously, should embrace, rather than fear, the complaints mechanism established by the OP-ICESCR as a powerful tool to support improvements in laws and policies that secure and advance economic, social and cultural rights.

By ratifying the Optional Protocol, the federal government would show that it is willing to empower people living in poverty. It would send a signal to other countries in the Asia Pacific region and globally that we can no longer be complacent about the marginalisation and neglect of those living in poverty.

Read ALHR’s letter to the Attorney General and Foreign Minister here:

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.