31/08/2001
Press Release
HR/4562



COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS


CONCLUDES TWENTY-SIXTH SESSION


Releases Observations and Recommendations on Senegal,

Syrian Arab Republic, Panama, Ukraine, Japan, Nepal, Germany and Israel


(Reissued as received)


GENEVA, 31 August (UN Information Service) -- The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its twenty-sixth session by issuing its concluding observations and recommendations on how the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are protected in Senegal, the Syrian Arab Republic, Panama, Ukraine, Japan, Nepal and Germany whose reports were considered by the Committee during its three-week session.  In addition, the Committee offered conclusions and recommendations on the additional information submitted by Israel on how it implements the Covenant in the occupied territories. 


After reviewing the economic, social and cultural rights situation in Senegal, the Committee noted with satisfaction the efforts undertaken by the State party with regard to the prevention of the spreading of HIV/AIDS in the country; however, it said it was concerned that female genital mutilation was still practised with impunity by certain ethnic groups and in certain regions.  The Committee was also concerned about the rise in clandestine abortions, unwanted pregnancies and the high rate of maternal mortality; and it recommended that Senegal take remedial action to address these problems.  It also recommended that the problem of street children be addressed and that they be reintegrated into mainstream society.


Concerning the situation in Syria, the Committee appreciated Syria’s efforts to improve the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by its inhabitants; it noted with appreciation that the State party was cooperating with international organizations and United Nations specialized agencies to reduce poverty, and to work towards further realization of the right to food and the right to health.  It was concerned about discrimination against certain minority groups in the country on the basis of their non-Arab heritage, including those groups that had been living in the territory of the State party for many generations.  Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party


take effective measures to combat discrimination in practice against minority groups, and in particular the Kurds; and that it take effective measures to incorporate a gender equality perspective in both legislation and in governmental policies.


With regards to Panama, the Committee noted with satisfaction the significant reductions in levels of child mortality and malnutrition, and the steady improvement in other indicators of human development.  It expressed concern about the persisting disadvantage faced in practice by members of indigenous communities in Panama, and in particular about the marked disparities in the levels of poverty and literacy and access to water, employment, health, education, and other basic social services.  It called upon the State party to take urgent measures aimed at reducing the excessively high maternal mortality rate, and to expand the availability and accessibility of reproductive and sexual health information and services, so as to encourage a reduction in the rates of illegal abortions and early pregnancy.


Cited among positive aspects in the report of Ukraine was the national plan of action to improve the situation of women and enhance their role in society.  The Committee expressed concern about the high level of poverty in the country and the inadequate measures of the State party to combat it; and at the de facto discrimination against ethnic minorities, such as the Crimean Tatars, and Roma, and harassment of foreigners of African origin by law enforcement officials.  It recommended, among other things, that the right of trade unions to freely function should be subject to no restrictions; and that the State party strengthen its efforts to combat the trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children.


As regards Japan, the Committee said that the country ranked as one of the most developed countries in the world, with the world’s second largest economy, and that it had achieved high levels of enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights for the majority of its citizens.  Among other things, it said that it was concerned about the persisting de jure and de facto discrimination against minority groups in Japanese society, and in particular against the Buraku and Okinawa communities, the indigenous Ainu people, and people of Korean descent, especially in the fields of employment, housing and education.  The Committee recommended that the State party find an appropriate arrangement in consultation with the organizations representing the ‘comfort women’ on ways and means to compensate the victims in a manner that would meet their expectations.


The Committee noted that the additional information submitted by Israel did not include information on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in the occupied territories, except in relation to East Jerusalem.  In the absence of such information in relation to the other occupied territories, and in accordance with its procedure in response to non-submitted and overdue reports, the Committee proceeded to discuss the situation in the occupied territories.


In its concluding observations on the situation in Israel, the Committee expressed its deep concern about the State party's continuing gross violations of economic, social and cultural rights in the occupied territories, especially the severe measures adopted by the State party to restrict the movement of civilians between points within and outside the occupied territories, severing their access to food, water, health care, education and work.  The Committee was particularly concerned that on frequent occasions, the State party’s closure policy had prevented civilians from reaching medical services.   The Committee urged the State party to exercise its powers and responsibilities to put an end to the violence, the loss of human lives and the restrictions imposed on the movement of civilians between points within and outside the occupied territories.


The next session of the Committee will be held in Geneva from 12 to

30 November 2001 during which it is scheduled to examine the reports of Algeria, Colombia, France, Sweden and the United Kingdom and its dependent territories.


Conclusions and Recommendations on Country Reports


Senegal


Among positive aspects of the report of Senegal, the Committee noted with satisfaction the efforts undertaken by the State party with regard to the prevention of the spreading of HIV/AIDS in the country; it welcomed the high proportion of the total government expenditure that was allocated to public education; and noted with appreciation that Senegal had hosted the World Education Forum in April 2000 where the Dakar Framework for Action on Education for All was adopted.


Under its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to take all necessary measures in order to ensure that all the people of the State party enjoyed, without any discrimination, the economic, social and cultural rights specified in the Covenant; called that remedial action be taken to address the inequality and discrimination against women and girls; and urged that legislation be strengthened to prohibit customary practices such as polygamy, female genital mutilation, and restricted access by women to land.  The Committee further recommended that Senegal take remedial action to address the problems of clandestine abortions, unwanted pregnancies and the high rate of maternal mortality; that the problems of street children be addressed and that they be reintegrated into society; that effective measures be taken to protect children from economic exploitation; that safe drinking water be made accessible to the entire population and to combat the problems of malnutrition; and that the State party should address the problem of shortage of hospitals and health centres and the unequal distribution of heath facilities in the country.


Syrian Arab Republic


The Committee was, however, concerned about discrimination against certain minority groups in the country on the basis of their non-Arab heritage, including those groups that had been living in the territory of the State party for many generations; about the persisting discrimination in political, social and economic spheres of life against women in Syrian society; about the living situation of refugees and stateless persons living in the Syrian Arab Republic; about the relatively high unemployment rate in the country; about the practice of forced labour in prisons; that the right to establish independent trade unions was obstructed by the State party; about the restrictions to the right to strike; and about the persistent occurrence of domestic violence against both women and children.


Among its suggestions and recommendations, the Committee encouraged the State party to establish as soon as possible a national human rights institution, which conformed to the 1991 Paris Principles; recommended that the State party take effective measures to combat discrimination in practice against minority groups, and in particular the Kurds; that it take effective measures to incorporate a gender equality perspective in both legislation and in governmental policies and to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; that measures be taken to ensure the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by refugees and stateless persons and to ratify the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, the 1967 Protocol, and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; that measures be taken to prohibit the practice of forced labour in prisons and to address the problem of child labour in family enterprises and in the agricultural sector; and to ensure that the right to establish free and independent trade unions was respected, and that the right to strike could be exercised without any form of intimidation.


Panama


Among positive factors in the report of Panama, the Committee noted with satisfaction the enactment of laws promoting equality between men and women; welcomed the setting up of the National Women’s Council and other women’s offices in various ministries as well as the active participation of organizations of civil society; the significant reductions in levels of child mortality and malnutrition, and steady improvement in other indicators of human development.


Cited among its concerns, the Committee regretted that legislation aimed at the incorporation of the Covenant directly into Panama’s domestic legal system had not been adopted; was concerned about the lack of a national plan of action for human rights, prepared in accordance with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action; about the flagrant inequality of wages for equal work and about the significantly higher rates of unemployment among women; about the persisting disadvantage faced in practice by members of indigenous communities in Panama, and in particular about the marked disparities in the levels of poverty and literacy and access to water, employment, health, education, and other basic social services; that the minimum wage was not sufficient to provide for the basic needs of the worker’s family; about the limited applicability of labour laws in the Colon Free Zone and the resulting limits on the protection of workers against dismissal or trade union activity; about the persistence of domestic violence and the inability of the State party to apply the existing legislation; about the persistent problem of child labour; about the lack of effective measures taken to protect children against sexual violence and other forms of exploitation; about the high incidence of poverty, especially in the rural areas; about the reported lack of social housing; and about the low rates of literacy, especially among women.


Under its suggestions and recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to ensure that the provisions of the Covenant were directly applicable in the domestic legal order, so that they could be invoked before the courts.  It recommended that a national plan of action for human rights be prepared; that the State party consider ratifying ILO Convention no. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples; and that particular attention be paid to improving poverty and literacy rates and access to water, employment, health, education, and other basic social services for indigenous peoples.  The Committee recommended that the issue of land rights of indigenous peoples be fully resolved so as to avoid their coming under threat by mining and cattle ranching activities that would result in the displacement of indigenous peoples from their traditional, ancestral and agricultural lands.  It called upon the State party to take urgent measures aimed at reducing the excessively high maternal mortality rate, and to expand the availability and accessibility of reproductive and sexual health information and services, so as to encourage a reduction in the rates of illegal abortions and early pregnancy.


Ukraine


Cited among positive aspects of the report of Ukraine was the national plan of action to improve the situation of women and enhance their role in society.  The Committee welcomed the establishment of the office of the Authorized Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada, which had considered many complaints in relation to economic, social, and cultural rights; and the establishment of a fund for social insurance.


Among other things, the Committee was concerned about the high level of poverty in the country and the inadequate measures of the State party to combat it; at the situation of women in society and the insufficient measures taken by the State party to eliminate discrimination against them; at the high scale of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children; at the de facto discrimination against ethnic minorities, such as the Crimean Tatars, and Roma, and harassment of foreigners of African origin by law enforcement officials; about the scale of the arrears in the payment of wages and pensions; about the high number of workplace accidents owing to inadequate health and safety standards; about restrictions on trade union freedoms; that the budget allocated to education, as well as for scientific research, had fallen sharply, leading to a deterioration in the quality of education; at the deterioration in the health of the most vulnerable groups, especially women and children, and in the quality of health services; and it noted with concern the rise in rates of sexually transmitted diseases and the spread of HIV/AIDS.


The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party evaluate the economic reform policies with respect to their impact on poverty; that it should take into account its obligations under the Covenant in all aspects of its negotiations with international financial institutions, thus ensuring that economic, social and cultural rights, particularly of the most vulnerable groups, were duly protected; that effective legal measures be taken to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sex in all fields of civil, political, economic, social and cultural life; that employees were remunerated in a timely manner and that legislation on minimum wages was fully enforced; that adequate resources were allocated for workplace accident prevention programmes; that the right of trade unions to freely function should be subject to no restrictions; that the State party strengthen its efforts to combat the trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of women and children; and that Ukraine ensure that its commitment to primary health care was met by adequate allocation of resources and that all persons, especially from the most vulnerable groups, have access to health care.


Japan


As part of the positive aspects of the report, the Committee noted that Japan ranked as one of the most developed countries in the world, with the world’s second largest economy, and that it had achieved high levels of enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights for the majority of its citizens.  It also noted that the State party was the world’s largest donor in absolute figures.  The Committee recognized the significant role of the State party in promoting international cooperation on the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights in the context of international fora, such as the United Nations.


The Committee said, among other things, that it was concerned that the State party did not give effect to the provisions of the Covenant in domestic law in a satisfactory manner.  It was also concerned about the persisting de jure and de facto discrimination against minority groups in Japanese society; about the persisting legal, social and institutional discrimination against children born out of wedlock; and about widespread discrimination against women and the de facto inequality that still existed between men and women in Japanese society.  The Committee further noted with concern that discrimination against persons with disabilities continued to exist in law and practice; the large number of homeless persons throughout the country; the frequent, excessively competitive and stressful nature of all levels of education; and the fact that there were very limited possibilities for children of minorities to enjoy education in their own language and about their own culture in public schools, in particular the Koreans.


Among its suggestions and recommendations, the Committee urged Japan to improve teaching and training programmes on human rights for judges, prosecutors and lawyers.  While noting that the State party was currently in the process of consultations with the Koreans living in the Utoro area regarding their unresolved situation, the Committee recommended that the State party continue to undertake necessary measures to combat patterns of de jure and de facto discrimination against all minority groups in Japanese society, including the Buraku people, the people of Okinawa, and the indigenous Ainu, particularly in the fields of employment, housing and education.


Further, the Committee recommended that the State party continue to address the issue of de facto inequality between men and women in wages for work of equal value; that the country adopt the necessary legislative and administrative measures to reduce working hours in both public and private sectors; that the State party undertake measures to secure social security benefits for those retiring before the age of 65, as the age of eligibility for the public pension system gradually increased from 60 to 65 years; and that the State party find an appropriate arrangement in consultation with the organizations representing the ‘comfort women’ on ways and means to compensate the victims in a manner that would meet their expectations.


Nepal


The Committee noted with satisfaction the assertion by Nepal that the rights contained in the Covenant could be justiciable; it welcomed the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Commission; the establishment of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare in 1995; the adoption of the Anti-Trafficking Act to combat trafficking in women and children; the abolishment of Kamaiya, the system of agricultural bonded labour, in 2000; and the measures adopted to abolish and punish the practices of polygamy, dowry, Deuki and prostitution among the Bedi caste.


The Committee was, nevertheless, concerned about the extent of poverty in Nepal; about the legal inequalities in the field of inheritance, the regime of shared assets in marriage, divorce, child custody in case of remarriage and conferring of nationality to their children and spouse, about the high female illiteracy rates and the inequality of wages for equal work; at the high number of women and girls being trafficked for prostitution; at the high rates of domestic violence and at the absence of specific legislation in that field; at the high unemployment and underemployment rates in Nepal and about the lack of skill-oriented education; that the legal minimum wage was not sufficient to provide a decent standard of living; at the high incidence of child labour in Nepal; about the occurrence of forced evictions; about the high incidence of infant and child and maternal mortality; that abortion was absolutely illegal and was considered as a criminal offence, punishable by severe sentences; and that the HIV/AIDS epidemic was spreading at an alarming rate.

Germany


Among its recommendations, the Committee encouraged Germany, as a member of the international financial institutions, to do all it could to ensure that the policies and decisions of those organizations were in conformity with the obligations of States parties to the Covenant.  It urged the State party to ensure that its percentage of GNP devoted to official development assistance steadily increased towards the UN goal of 0.7 per cent.  The Committee recommended that the State party address more expeditiously applications for asylum-seekers to avoid limiting applicants’ enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights.


Further, the Committee encouraged the State party to continue undertaking measures to ensure that the differences between new and old Länder in terms of standard of living, employment and wages for civil servants, were decreased; and that immediate necessary measures be taken to continue to address the high level of unemployment.  It strongly recommended that the State party take the necessary legislative and administrative measures to oblige employers to respect labour legislation; it urged the State party to ensure that the reformed social security, and the pension system under reform, take into account the situation and needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society; and that urgent measures be adopted to improve the situation of patients in nursing homes, and effective measures be taken and programmes be devised, to examine the extent and causes of homelessness in Germany and to ensure an adequate standard of living for the homeless.


Israel


The Committee deplored the State party’s refusal to report on the occupied territories and the State party’s position that the Covenant did not apply to "areas that are not subject to its sovereign territory and jurisdiction".  It rejected the State party’s assertion regarding the distinction between human rights and humanitarian law under international law to support its argument that the Committee’s mandate "cannot relate to events in the Gaza Strip and West Bank."  The Committee reminded the State party that also in times of armed conflict, fundamental human rights should be respected and that basic economic, social and cultural rights as part of the minimum standards of human rights were guaranteed under customary international law and were also prescribed by international humanitarian law.


The Committee expressed its deep concern about the State party's continuing gross violations of economic, social and cultural rights in the occupied territories, especially the severe measures adopted by the State party to restrict the movement of civilians between points within and outside the occupied territories, severing their access to food, water, health care, education and work.  The Committee was particularly concerned that on frequent occasions, the State party’s closure policy had prevented civilians from reaching medical services.  The Committee continued to be concerned that the State party's Law of Return denied indigenous Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes and properties.


The Committee urged the State party to exercise its powers and responsibilities to put an end to the violence, the loss of human lives and the restrictions imposed on the movement of civilians between points within and outside the occupied territories. In that regard, the Committee urged the State party to implement without delay its obligations under the Covenant and to desist from decisions and measures resulting in violations of economic, social and cultural rights of the population living in the occupied territories.  The Committee reiterated its request that the State party provide information on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights in all occupied territories.  That information should be submitted in time for consideration together with the State party's second periodic report, which was tentatively scheduled for the thirtieth session of the Committee in April/May 2003.


International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


The General Assembly adopted and opened the Covenant for signature, ratification and accession in 1966.  It entered into force on 3 January 1976.


Article 1 of the Covenant states that the right to self-determination is universal and calls upon States to promote the realization and respect of that right.  Article 3 reaffirms the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all human rights and enjoins States to make that principle a reality.  Article

5 provides safeguards against the destruction or undue limitation of any human right or fundamental freedom, and against misinterpretation of any provision of the Covenant as a means of justifying infringement of a right or freedom or its restriction to a greater extent than provided in the Covenant.  It also prevents States from limiting rights already enjoyed within their territories on the ground that such rights are not recognized, or recognized to a lesser extent, in the Covenant.  Articles 6 to 15 recognize the right to work; to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work; to form and join trade unions; to social security, including social insurance; to the widest possible protection and assistance for the family, mothers, children and younger persons; to an adequate standard of living; to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; to an education and to take part in cultural life.


The Economic and Social Council established the Committee in 1985.  Elected by secret ballot from a list of persons nominated by State parties to the Covenant, its 18 members are human rights Experts serving in their personal capacity.  The Committee is composed of the following Experts: Mahmoud Samir Ahmed (Egypt), Clement Atangana (Cameroon), Rocio Barahona Riera (Costa Rica), Virginia Bonoan-Dandan (Philippines), Dumitru Ceausu (Romania), Abdessatar Grissa (Tunisia), Paul Hunt (New Zealand), Valeri I. Kouznetsov (the Russian Federation), Giorgio Malinverni (Switzerland), Jaime Marchán Romero (Ecuador), Sergei Martynov (Belarus), Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay (Mauritius), Kenneth Osborne Rattray (Jamaica), Eibe Reidel (Germany), Waleed M. Sa'di (Jordan), Philippe Texier (France), Nutan Thapalia (Nepal), and Javier Wimer Zambrano (Mexico).


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