The Committee consists of a panel of 18 independent experts, who meet twice a year.
Uniquely amongst international human rights treaty bodies, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was not directly established by its corresponding instrument. It was the Economic and Social Council, established by Article 16 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, that in turn created the Committee.
‘The Committee cannot consider individual complaints, although a draft Optional Protocol to the Covenant is under consideration which could give the Committee competence in this regard. The Commission on Human Rights has established a working group to this end. However, it may be possible for another committee with competence to consider individual communications to consider issues related to economic, social and cultural rights in the context of its treaty.’
It should be noted that the Committee has already developed two practices that have been characterised as ‘informal petition procedures'.
First, during the regular reporting procedure, the Committee has examined concrete cases of violations of the Covenant, determined that the situation is not in compliance with the Covenant and made recommendations to the government with regard to remedying the violation. These recommendations have included the repeal of laws, halting threatened violations and providing compensation. The Committee has also made recommendations to governments to ensure that the arguments of governments in court cases conform to the Covenant.
Second, the Committee has occasionally been willing to take action on ad hoc requests from non-governmental organisations and others that have complained of serious, imminent and massive violations of the rights in the Covenant. The Committee, for example, has written letters to governments concerning planned forced evictions and the repeal of constitutional guarantees.