As Beth Simmons points out, three billion people survive on less than $2.50 per day. She states that if these facts are anything to go by, it is even harder to comprehend that economic rights have been codified as part of the international human rights system for the past 60 years. According to Simmons, what is even more disturbing is the fact that over 85% of states have ratified one or two treaties that recognise economic rights. In Kenya, more than 58% of Kenyans live below the poverty line. Further, more than half of the Kenyan population is poor and over 7 million Kenyans live in extreme poverty, despite Kenya having ratified the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) 41 years ago.
On 5 May 2013, the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR entered into force after receiving its tenth instrument of ratification. The purpose of the Optional Protocol is to address violations of socio-economic rights which have been loosely applied when compared to the civil and political rights. The Protocol achieves this by giving an individual locus standi before the Committee and hence asking directly whether a state violated the ICESCR. As much as there is scepticism about this Protocol, this paper wishes to submit that states, especially Kenya, should look beyond this scepticism and ratify the Protocol. This article will provide both arguments for and against ratification of the Optional Protocol.