COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS CONTINUES DEBATE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS

30 March 2004
HR/CN/1066

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS CONTINUES DEBATE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS

30/03/2004
Press ReleaseHR/CN/1066

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS CONTINUES DEBATE

ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS

Hears Reports on Involuntary Disappearances,

Optional Protocol, Right to Housing, Illicit Movement of Toxic Products

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 30 March (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this morning continued its debate on economic, social and cultural rights, hearing reports from the Chairperson of the Working Group to consider options regarding the elaboration of an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Special Rapporteurs on the right to adequate housing and the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights. 

The Commission also briefly opened its agenda item on civil and political rights to hear the Chairperson of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances present his report.

Catarina Albuquerque, the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the open-ended Working Group to consider options regarding the elaboration of an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said the report, with the exception of the recommendations, was adopted by consensus at the last session of the Working Group.  A very fruitful interactive dialogue had taken place.  During its final sessions, a range of recommendations were examined and some were adopted.

Miloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, said that he had adopted an indivisibility approach in his mandate, strongly arguing that the right to adequate housing could not be fully realized if separated from other sets of rights.  His particular focus had been to develop a strong gender perspective, consistent with the right to non-discrimination and on the rights of particular groups, such as children, indigenous people and minorities.  He recommended that the Commission could play an important role by affirming its condemnation of the practice of forced evictions.

Kenya and Peru spoke as concerned countries after Mr. Kothari’s statement, and Ireland, on behalf of the European Union, participated in the inter-active dialogue.

Fatma Zohra Ouhachi-Vesely, the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, said that several activities of transnational corporations continued to affect the enjoyment of human rights, particularly to health and to life.  The victims continued to have difficulties to bring their cases to justice with the view to obtaining compensation and information.  Although positive developments had been obtained at the national, regional and international levels with regard to normative regulations, their implementation had been limited.

Turkey and the United Kingdom spoke as concerned countries after Ms. Ouhachi-Vesely presented her report, and Kenya and Cuba participated in the inter-active dialogue.

The Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, Diego Garcia-Sayan, introduced his report, saying that over the past 23 years, the Group had gained considerable experience in dealing with cases of disappearances.  More than 50,000 cases, allegedly committed by State agents, had been communicated to the Working Group during that period, of which 5,300 had been clarified.  The Working Group still faced a backlog of 41,934 outstanding cases.

After hearing from its mandate holders, the Commission resumed its general debate on economic, social and cultural rights and heard statements from Pakistan, India, Ukraine, Sudan, Argentina, Mauritania, South Africa, Nepal, Bhutan, Armenia, Iraq, Algeria, Canada, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Kuwait. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) also spoke.

The Commission will reconvene at 3 p.m. to continue its debate on economic, social and cultural rights.

Document on Civil and Political Rights

The Commission briefly opened its consideration of its agenda item on civil and political rights, including the question of disappearances and summary executions, to hear the report of Diego Garcia-Sayan, Chairperson of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (E/CN.4/2004/58).  The report continues to focus on two aspects of the issue:  the phenomenon of disappearance, which persists in a number of States, and the phenomenon of enforced disappearance as it relates to the clarification process.  The report contains information concerning enforced or involuntary disappearances in various countries including:  Afghanistan; Algeria; Argentina; Bangladesh; Belarus; Brazil; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chile; China; Colombia; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ecuador; Egypt; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Guatemala; Honduras; India; Indonesia; Iran; Japan; Kuwait; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Lebanon; Libya; Mexico; Morocco; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Paraguay; Philippines; Russian Federation; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Spain; Sri Lanka; Syria; Tajikistan; Thailand; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United States; Uruguay; Uzbekistan; Venezuela; Yemen; and Zimbabwe.  It also contains information on a case that has been clarified in Tunisia. 

The Working Group continues to labour in the shadow of a mountain of backlogged cases, concludes the report, which has moved it to consider whether it will have to modify its established methods of work.  Its core mandate -– to serve as a channel of communication between distraught families and friends of the disappeared and Governments -– remains valid.  The Working Group does not believe it will be wise, or even morally acceptable, to give up on its mandate because of the backlog.  The Working Group does, however, plead with States to provide greater financial support for special human rights mechanisms, including itself.

Statement on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

DIEGO GARCIA-SAYAN, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, said that over the past 23 years, the Working Group –- the first thematic mandate created by the Commission –- had gained considerable experience in dealing with cases of disappearance.  More than 50,000 cases allegedly committed by State agents had been communicated to the Working Group during that period, of which 5,300 had been clarified.  Nevertheless, the Working Group still faced a backlog of 41,934 outstanding cases.  Moreover, the Working Group continued to be concerned that some Governments had never replied to its requests for information, namely those of Burundi, Cambodia, Guinea, Israel, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles and Togo.  The Working Group also noted with concern the 16,386 unresolved cases in Iraq, which represented the single largest collection of unresolved cases reported.

During 2003, he said the Working Group had transmitted 234 new cases of disappearance in 22 States, 43 of which allegedly occurred during 2003.  Nepal had recorded the highest number of new cases.  That total number of new cases represented an almost twofold increase over the previous year, but was due in large part to the secretariat’s efforts to address a backlog of unprocessed cases.

Over the past 23 years, he continued, the Working Group had been able to identify the diverse contexts likely to promote the phenomenon of enforced disappearances.  Some were associated with policies of authoritarian regimes, some with internal conflict or tensions –- as was the case in Colombia, Nepal, the Russian Federation and some parts of India today.  Furthermore, it was troubling that Africa had been the victim of such conflicts over the last decade, but continued as the region with the fewest reported cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances.  The Working Group suspected that it was dealing with an underreported phenomenon of disappearances and considered that the United Nations should consider initiatives to encourage and support non-governmental organizations to facilitate the dissemination of information regarding the Group’s mandate and enable those organizations to report to the Group.

The Working Group had continued to call upon Governments to investigate and clarify past cases of disappearance, to bring perpetrators to justice, to exhume mortal remains and to pay adequate compensation to victims and their families, he concluded.  Ending impunity for perpetrators was pivotal for effective prevention.  Experience had also shown that positive results in the clarification of cases could be achieved through the establishment or strengthening of independent bodies domestically, such as truth commissions.  However, crucial prior action remained necessary to eradicate the phenomenon of disappearances.

BERTRAND RAMCHARAN, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, said he would not want the occasion to pass without a word of firm appreciation for his colleague Diego Garcia-Sayan, who had played an important role as a mainstay of the Working Group, had helped with the drafting of the Convention, and had championed human rights in various capacities.  He would continue this contribution as a recently elected judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Documents on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Also before the Commission for its consideration is a report of the open-ended Working Group to Consider Options Regarding the Elaboration of an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on its first session (E/CN.4/2004/44).  The report gives account of the activities of the Working Group, the proceedings of the sessions it held and the participants.  According to the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Group, widest support in the Working Group was registered for the recommendations.  It was recommended that the Working Group's mandate be extended for a further two years to consider options regarding the elaboration of an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Commission has before it a report submitted by Fatma-Zohra Ouhachi-Vesely, Special Rapporteur on the Adverse Effects of the Illicit Movement and Dumping of Toxic and Dangerous Products and Wastes on the Enjoyment of Human Rights (E/CN.4/2004/46).  She welcomes the positive legislative developments that have occurred and calls upon States to ratify the international conventions, to cooperate fully in implementing them and to reinforce the capabilities of the international conventions.  Domestic and international regulations should be provided with effective control and implementation mechanisms.  States should take more vigorous measures to reduce waste production, combat new flows of illicit trafficking and resolve the challenges posed by chemicals. Among other things, Governments should take preventive and deterrent measures, including administrative, civil and criminal penalties for individuals, enterprises and transnational corporations involved illicit trafficking.

Before the Commission is a report (E/CN.4/2004/46/Add.1) submitted by the Special Rapporteur Fatma-Zohra Ouhachi-Vesely on adverse effects of illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights concerning observations and information received from Governments.  The report contains summaries of general observations and information she received from Governments.  It also contains a summary of new allegations transmitted to her according to her mandate, as well as replies to the allegations by affected governments.  Furthermore, the report contains summaries of allegations contained in reports submitted to the Commission at its fifty-seventh to fifty-ninth sessions by the Special Rapporteur, as well as any updates received by her on previous reported cases.

Another report (E/CN.4/2004/46/Add.2) before the Commission is on the Special Rapporteur's mission to the United Kingdom in May-June 2003.  The mission allowed her to learn more about the policy, legislation and practice of that county on the issues falling within the scope of her mandate. The mission also provided her with a valuable opportunity to learn about present and upcoming European Union (EU) regulations on those issues which will apply in 25 countries once the enlargement of the EU takes effect.  While appreciating the opportunity provided by the mission to learn about the laws and practices in the country, the scope and validity of the findings and conclusions for the mission are limited by the fact that many of the central regulations and legislation in the areas of concern are currently under review, in the process of being drafted or in the process of implementation.

Before the Commission is a note (E/CN.4/2004/46/Add.3) by the Secretariat on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights concerning her scheduled mission to Turkey from 10 to 19 March 2004.  The Special Rapporteur will present her report to the Commission orally and a written report on her mission will be presented to the Commission at its sixty-first mission.

Elaboration of Optional Protocol to Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

CATARINA ALBUQUERQUE, Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Open-Ended Working Group to Consider Options Regarding the Elaboration of an Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said the report, with the exception of the recommendations, had been adopted by consensus at the last session of the Working Group.  The Working Group had met in Geneva for 10 working days, and the convening was a direct consequence of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which encouraged the Commission to continue the examination of the International Covenant.  The session had been divided into two main parts: an interactive dialogue with economic, social and cultural rights experts; and a debate between participating delegations on three specific questions related to economic, social and cultural rights and to an optional protocol.

Different experts had participated in the first part of the discussions, and all Special Rapporteurs of the Commission whose mandates were relevant, as well as members of treaty bodies were invited to attend.  A very fruitful interactive dialogue had taken place.  The Working Group had focused on three major issues: the nature and scope of States international obligations; the gestation of economic, social and cultural rights; and the benefits of the International Covenant, and its practicality.  During its final meetings, a range of recommendations had been examined, and some had been adopted, with those in the report being the ones that gained the widest support.

The 10 days of debate and exchange of views had been the first opportunity for many delegations to discuss issues related to the optional protocol, and this was already one of the achievements of the Working Group.  It was hoped that a future session could be held prior to the holding of the Commission, and that further aid would be given to some delegations who had had difficulty in attending the meeting. 

Statements on Adequate Housing

MILOON KOTHARI, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, presenting his reports (E/CN.4/2004/48/Add.1 and 2), said that since his appointment, he had adopted an indivisibility approach in his mandate, strongly arguing that the right to adequate housing could not be fully realized if separated from other sets of rights.  That approach had required him to examine a range of issues related to adequate housing, including land, forced eviction, access to water and sanitation, health, poverty and the impact of globalization.  His particular focus had been to develop a strong gender perspective, consistent with the right to non-discrimination and on the rights of particular groups, such as children, indigenous people and minorities.  All those human rights were threatened and violated by impending and actual forced evictions, the involuntary removal of people and communities from their homes.  Since his appointment, he had continued to receive reports about forced evictions from all corners of the world.  His report highlighted efforts made by other various actors to address the issue of forced evictions.

Mr. Kothari said that in 2003, he had undertaken two country missions to Peru and to Afghanistan, and he had recently completed a mission to Kenya.  In Peru, the housing deficit was of enormous proportions.  Lack of adequate water and sanitation was a top priority concern to almost all the poor communities.  Over the years, large numbers of people had been displaced due to political violence and informal settlements had mushroomed largely fuelled by poverty.  The Government was tackling existing housing problems at various levels, but had failed to address all aspects of the problem.  With regard to Afghanistan, he said that during the two years of the post-conflict situation, the struggle for housing and land rights had been a critical factor, including to the unprecedented number of returnees mainly from Pakistan and Iran trying to recuperate their houses and lands, which had often been occupied by those who stayed behind.  Other issues included land and house occupation by "war lords", and the regular occurrence of forced evictions without compensations and alternative arrangement.  Land speculation was reportedly increasing with money allegedly from poppy and marijuana cultivation invested into real estate.  The result had been a dramatic increase in prices, making houses and land inaccessible for large parts of the population.

In his oral report concerning Kenya, the Special Rapporteur said that the Government had taken positive actions.  However, despite the positive developments, he raised a number of concerns.  The emerging policies were not consistently based upon the human rights obligations of Kenya, nor on the reality on the ground, despite the existence of impressive disaggregated data.  The situation in Kenya also highlighted the need for the development of comprehensive guidelines on forced evictions.

In conclusion, the Special Rapporteur said that the Commission could play an important role by affirming its condemnation of the practice of forced evictions.  He hoped that the Commission would authorize an Expert Seminar to elaborate comprehensive guidelines or guiding principles, based on international human rights law and interpretative documents to capture in a comprehensive manner preventive and compensatory measures that would need to be taken to tackle the growing phenomenon of forced evictions.

PHILLIP RICHARD O. OWADE (Kenya), speaking as a concerned country, said the Kenya Government believed strongly in the well recognized notion that all human rights were universal, inter-dependent, and indivisible.  Accordingly, equal importance was attached to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, side by side with civil and political rights.  It was against a background of high priority on the promotion and protection of human rights that the Kenya Government had extended an invitation to Mr. Kothari to share experiences with regard to the Government’s priorities, policies, programmes and plans in the provision of adequate housing to Kenyans.  With regard to the concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur, it was found rather unfortunate that what would otherwise have been a very constructive and positive interaction with the Government now stood the danger of being distracted by a short-term phenomenon which was taking place at the time of his visit: the demolition of illegally constructed structures.  It was hoped the Special Rapporteur would appreciate the challenges that the Government was dealing with, and, accordingly, he should rest assured that all his concerns would be adequately addressed, and the Kenya Government hoped to engage him in a constructive dialogue between now and the time he submitted his report at the sixty-first session of the Commission.  Kenya encouraged the Ambassador to approach his mandate with impartiality, understanding and objectivity.

ELIANA BERAUN ESCUDERO (Peru), speaking as a concerned country, said that combating poverty and social exclusion and ensuring adequate housing for all Peruvians was one of the major objectives of the State.  The main political and social forces in Peru had committed themselves to developing infrastructure and housing to permit sustainable development and ensure for every family the necessary conditions for healthy development.  Special Rapporteur Kothari’s visit had helped to highlight the relevance of economic, social and cultural rights on the internal human rights agenda, both as complements to civil and political rights and as necessary tools for social cohesion.

Agreeing with the description of the country’s housing problem set out in the report, she also noted the references to insufficient attention paid to rural areas and the effects of migration.  To redress the problem, Peru had created a number of institutions, including the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Sanitation; a body to coordinate access to housing; and a National Housing Plan for 2003 to 2007, which aimed to ensure the construction of more than 300,000 new housing units and the remodeling of 900,000.  That meant a financial effort of some $15 million.  The concern expressed in the report over the elimination of language on the right to housing within Peru’s constitution was shared.  An amendment currently under review would redress that gap.  Other initiatives were aimed at increasing access to and the quality of sanitation services and addressing the needs of vulnerable groups and individuals.

However, on the issue of securing title to property, the Government disagreed with the Special Rapporteur’s conclusions, she said.  The rigorous nature of the process in Peru made it possible to ensure titles that were legally sustainable over time.  In regard of the participation of civil society in policy preparation on housing, it should be noted that the National Housing Plan ensured the participation of a wide-range of stakeholders.  In conclusion, the Government recognized that much room for progress remained and that ensuring adequate housing would reinforce democratic values.

Inter-active Dialogue

MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Special Rapporteur had particularly focused on developing a strong gender perspective of the right to adequate housing.  She asked if it was possible to identify best practices in that area. 

Mr. KOTHARI, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living, responding to the statements, acknowledged the amount of preparation that had gone into his visit on the part of Kenya.  He had not reflected concern over the reasons for the forced evictions, but regarding the means by which they had been carried out.  Many innocent people were caught up in the evictions and the Government should ensure that such acts were carried out with due regard for human rights.

He also welcomed the acceptance to nearly all his recommendations by the Government of Peru.  However, concern still remained that some of Peru’s programmes were not reaching the very poor.  Regarding titling, he noted that there were many who had homes, but lacked title in the country. 

Finally, in response to Ireland, he said that there had been a number of best practices that had been brought forward.  One of the main issues that had been raised in the Asian consultation had been the direct link between violence against women and the provision of adequate housing.  It was good to see that issue being addressed.  One must insist on the indivisibility of rights or there could not be best practices.  It was important for all Governments to institute human rights education programmes.

Statements on Adverse Effects of Illicit Movement of Toxic, Dangerous Products and Wastes

FATMA ZOHRA OUHACHI-VESELY, Special Rapporteur on Adverse Effects of the Illicit Movement and Dumping of Toxic and Dangerous Products and Wastes on the Enjoyment of Human Rights, presenting her report contained in document E/CN.4/2004/46/Add. 1 and 2, said that her missions to the United Kingdom and Turkey had been carried out under good conditions.  She said that in her reports, she had indicated concerns about 13 new incidents in France, Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Israel, Netherlands, as well as Turkey, China, Ethiopia, Nigeria and India as affected countries.  The incidents were attributed to the intensive use of pesticides, illicit movements or uncontrolled manufacturing of waste plastic and electronic products.  Several activities of the transnational corporations continued to affect the enjoyment of human rights, particularly to health and to life.  The victims continued to have difficulties to bring their cases to justice with the view to obtaining compensation and information.

Positive developments had been obtained at the national, regional and international levels with regard to normative regulations.  However, their implementation had been limited because of the availability of human, financial and technical resources, although the political will had been manifested by States.  Those instruments were not all entered into force and they were not ratified by those States directly concerned.  The developing countries, because of lack of assistance, cooperation in information exchanges and transfer of appropriate technology, did not have the means to fight against illicit trafficking.  Besides, there were no effective regional and international mechanisms that would allow the fight against illicit trafficking.  Due to weakness in national legislation, the movement of illicit waste would make its way to those countries.  It had been discovered that the application of  administrative, penal or civil sanctions against international corporations had been difficult.  Although the rights of victims had started to be recognized, the process remained to be long, costly and precarious.

TURKEKUL KURTTEKIN (Turkey), speaking as a concerned country, said the important report had been listened to carefully.  The Special Rapporteur had referred to her visit to Turkey, which had been most welcomed for many reasons, including that it allowed the examination of Turkey’s determination to cooperate with the United Nations’ mechanisms and special procedures; and that in Turkey there was awareness that the need to live in a clean environment was an important right for the individual, and the report addressed this right.  As a transit country, Turkey suffered from the movement of dangerous and hazardous materials, and was working to resolve the issue with countries of origin of dangerous materials that had reached Turkey.  It was hoped the report and its follow-up would help all parties to resolve these issues.  Turkey had the opportunity during the visit to explain its efforts to conjoin domestic legislation with its position regarding international instruments on the environment.  Once the report had been obtained, it would be studied and observations would be given in writing.

NICHOLAS THORNE (United Kingdom), speaking as a concerned country, said that he wished to stress that the United Kingdom always agreed to all requests for visits from Special Rapporteurs, even from the holders of mandates whose establishment had not been supported by the United Kingdom.  It did this because it sent a clear message on the importance of cooperating with all aspects of the United Nations human rights mechanisms and encouraged openness, transparency and accountability.  All States should act thus.

The United Kingdom, he assured the Special Rapporteur, would be examining closely the recommendations she had made and welcomed her recognition that progress had been made in respect of the issue, including through the Government’s review of all existing legislation and the implementation of the Basel Convention.  The Government took the subject seriously and would continue to address the important environmental and practical issues arising out of the disposal of toxic waste, particularly in those areas specified by the Special Rapporteur.

The Special Rapporteur, he noted, had raised the issue of the transfer of old ships from the United States to the United Kingdom for dismantling.  Much information on the subject had been made available by the free media of his country.  Fuller information had been given to the Special Rapporteur in pursuit of her mandate.  However, the United Kingdom continued to be concerned that most of the issues raised in the report would benefit from consideration in environmental forums, rather than this Commission.

Inter-active Dialogue

PHILLIP RICHARD O. OWADE (Kenya) thanked the Special Rapporteur for the tremendous work she had produced and for the recommendations she had made.  Kenya supported the appeal she made upon States to ratify conventions intended to prohibit the movement of toxic waste.  The conventions should be strictly observed once they were ratified.

CLAUDIA PEREZ ALVAREZ (Cuba) said with regard to the report of the Special Rapporteur, all her recommendations were supported, including that seminars should be organized for judges with regard to environmental crimes or offences, and this should also include lawyers from developing countries that were representing victims of the misuse of toxic goods and waste.  What were the most effective mechanisms for applying standards with regard to the responsibility of transnationals? the representative asked.

FATMA ZOHRA OUHACHI-VESELY, Special Rapporteur on Adverse Effects of the Illicit Movement and Dumping of Toxic and Dangerous Products and Wastes on the Enjoyment of Human Rights, responding to the issues raised, said the difficulties faced by developing countries in regard of her mandate should not be overlooked.  Moreover, the international community should ensure that a binding code of conduct on the disposal of toxic waste was elaborated.  It was also important to incorporate the views and needs of victims in regard of indemnities and reparations.  Above all, she acknowledged that while recognizing the need to remain objective in carrying out her mandate, she was by nature a committed individual and had not felt it necessary to remain neutral.  One could depart from strict neutrality and still maintain objectivity.

Mr. RAMCHARAN, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the Special Rapporteur had said she was committed, and he bore witness to that and thanked her.  She had started work on this topic as a member of the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, and had continued her mission as a Special Rapporteur, and had always continued in a convinced and devoted fashion to work in this area. 

General Statements on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan) said, while global interdependence and interconnectivity had reduced distances, they had simultaneously enhanced awareness of global disparities.  Despite progress in the promotion and protection of civil and political rights, violations of economic, social and cultural rights remained pervasive.  Poverty remained the most persistent violator of human rights.  Historical injustices had undeniably contributed to underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion and insecurity in different parts of the world.  Underdevelopment was not merely a sum of inadequate governance; it was a multidimensional problem that required a multifaceted approach addressing economic, political, social, environmental and institutional dimensions at both the national and international levels.  The root causes of a large number of problems at the national level could be traced to inequality at the international level, and which undermined national efforts aimed at poverty reduction, economic growth, political stability and the consequent realization of economic, social and cultural rights.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said that at the broadest level, economic, social and cultural rights called upon the State to strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting, as effectively as it could, a social order in which economic, social and cultural justice would inform all the institutions of national life.  The practical realization of these rights, of course, depended on the stage of development of the country.  Human development was a process of expanding people’s choices, allowing them to live secure lives with full freedoms and rights.  It required equitable, and sustainable economic growth.  There could be no gainsaying that there could be no real development without gender equality, and the participation of all sections of society in the decision-making process.  The realization of economic, social and cultural rights was indispensable to the dignity of man, and they could best be pursued in open, free and democratic societies, where Government policies mirrored the will and aspirations of the people.

VOLODYMYR BELASHOV (Ukraine) said peace or development could not be achieved without respect for human rights, economic, social and cultural, and civil and political.  Respect for human rights was essential for the prevention of conflicts, for development, for peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building.  Equity and order required the rule of law, democracy, and scrupulous observance of international standards on human rights.  The solution of international economic, social, health and related problems; the achievement of higher standards of living, full employment and economic and social progress and development thus went together with universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Unless basic human rights were respected and protected, the people would not be motivated to produce, and development would lag or there could even be a regression.  Basic human rights norms, civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights, gave development its core content.  The aim of development was to help achieve the realization of these norms.  Human rights norms also introduced the elements of non-discrimination and equity in the development process.

ELSADIG ALMAGLY (Sudan) said that in its efforts to comply with its international obligations, the Sudan had undertaken a series of measures to improve and strengthen the economic, social and cultural performance of the State.  The fight against poverty had also been given priority and a number of measures had been implemented to eradicate that phenomenon.  In 1992, the Government had adopted a comprehensive programme of development which aimed at enhancing the development process of the national effort.  Special programmes had been elaborated for mothers and to reduce the rate of malnutrition.  Breastfeeding had been encouraged by the Government, with maternity leave being raised to one year to allow mothers to stay with their babies for a long period.  The rate of infant and maternal mortality had been reduced, thanks to the availability of medical centres in many areas of the country equipped with adequate numbers of health professionals.  The right to property to wealth and to security of tenure had been guaranteed.  The Government had also adopted laws the ensured the respect for intellectual property.  The number of universities in the country had been increased since 1972. 

SERGIO CERDA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, said that the importance placed by the Group on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights could be widely seen.  It was felt that one of the major steps forward made by the Commission during its 2003 session had been the decision to establish a Working Group on the elaboration of the draft protocol.  Proceeding in the manner laid out by the Working Group’s objectives would enable progress to be made on redressing the asymmetries that persisted in regard of judicial instruments in this area of human rights.  Thus, while the indivisibility of all human rights had been reaffirmed since the Vienna Conference, putting the principle into practice had seen less concrete effect.  Individuals today benefited from channels to ensure their civil and political rights, but not their economic, social and cultural rights.  Maintaining such a situation indefinitely would negate the indivisibility of all human rights.

MOHAMED YAHYA OULD SIDI HAIBA (Mauritania) said this generation of rights, economic, social, cultural, civil and political, had been added to the fundamental array of rights, changing the perception of poverty and how it was dealt with, and how it was important to take into account economic, social and cultural rights when dealing with these issues.  Mauritania was implementing a policy of economic, social and cultural renewal, with the aim of combating poverty and strengthening the way in which all human rights were achieved in the country.  This was an objective that ensured that all those participating in the action would ensure that the most vulnerable would be looked after to the greatest extent possible.  Work was also being done to ensure sustainable development, access to mandatory education, to combat illiteracy, and cultural promotion activities.  Health had benefited from a number of programmes over the last few decades.  Social dialogue and professional training, supported by respect for pluralism had also been promoted.  Economic, social and cultural rights met essential needs and were the basis of the enjoyment of political and civil rights, and Mauritania would continue to work towards their enjoyment by all inhabitants of the country.

LESLIE GUMBI (South Africa) said all States, and not only those parties to the human rights covenants, had the legal obligation to fulfil economic, social and cultural rights.  Governments should represent a faithful contract between the elected and the general electorate, based on delivering socio-economic development programmes for their citizens.  It would be a contradiction in terms to conceive scenarios where civil and political rights could be successfully enjoyed without an integrated approach, which also took on board the practical enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. The past one and a half decades of United Nations conferences and summits had built and expanded the common understanding of the right to development and served to reinforce and mobilize political commitment and to provide benchmarks for measuring progress in promoting human development and poverty reduction. The fulfilment of economic, social and cultural rights required economic growth and mobilization of adequate resources at the national level.  The international community also had a responsibility through international cooperation to assist developing countries in the realization of these rights.

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal) said that the economic, social and cultural rights enunciated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were as fundamental as civil and political rights and noted that the rights to decent living, food, shelter, health and education were indispensable to the realization of all other rights.  Yet extreme poverty had forced sizeable populations to live in squalor and the HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis epidemics had further compounded the problem.  Thus, while the framework for global cooperation to fight the scourge of poverty was already in place, mere declaration of intent was insufficient.  National efforts must be matched by resolute action from developed countries and international financial institutions.

Nepal was fully committed to the realization of its people’s economic, social and cultural rights, he said, which was reflected in the Constitution.  The Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy was based upon pillars such as broad-based economic growth, social sector development and good governance.  Emphasis had been laid on stakeholder participation in decision-making and implementation and the principle of redistributive justice was one to which the country adhered.  The Government had been carrying out programmes targeted at the welfare of women, children, dalits, minorities and other disadvantaged and marginalized groups.  The Government had also focused programmes on increasing access to primary education and safe drinking water.

SONAM T. RABGYE (Bhutan) said the Government of Bhutan was strongly committed to human development through sizeable social sector investment, which had contributed to overall progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which were in themselves high priority development themes for Bhutan, which had made noteworthy achievements in economic and social sectors, particularly over the last two decades.  Despite challenges posed by extremely difficult mountainous terrain, the Government had established social services equitably and uniformly throughout the country, and in addition to free health care and education, many were provided at affordable rates.  However, there was immense danger of Bhutan’s small society being overwhelmed by the forces of globalization and conscious efforts were needed to maintain traditional values and culture while promoting the economic, social and cultural rights of its people. 

ZOHRAB MNATSAKANIAN (Armenia) said that as an economy in transition with a clearly defined development strategy based, among other things, on the interdependence between democracy and human rights, his country confronted at present the limitations to increased realization of economic, social and cultural rights.  At the same time, the progressive nature of the realization of those rights was recognized and the view that linked them to the right to development was shared.  Armenia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy was a powerful tool to address the improvement of socio-economic conditions through improved economic performance and good governance.  It was viewed as a roadmap for the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights. 

Reflecting upon the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, among others, he said that questions related to the concept of educating children as people with rights were of specific interest.  Armenia had progressed considerably in terms of human rights education in the past years – a textbook on children’s rights and obligations with basic concepts in the field of human rights had been included in the primary school curriculum.  Teachers had also been retrained to address such issues properly.  And while the issue of public spending on education continued to pose a considerable challenge, the Government aimed to increase the share of education expenditures within total budget expenditures to 13 per cent by 2006.

ALI-HOUSSAIN ALI (Iraq) said that the previous regime had deprived Iraqis of their rights to economic, social and cultural development, wasting every opportunity on useless wars and turning the country from a rich one to a debtor.  The continuous wars had also led to the destruction of the country’s infrastructure, which would require billions to reconstruct.  There had also been a net loss in wages, leading to a brain drain and worsened provision of social services, and drops in education levels with concomitant increases in illiteracy.  The regime had impeded the rights of freedom of religion and expression.  It was hoped that the transition would continue to proceed and that the new Iraq would be a State that respected all human rights.

LAZHAR SOUALEM (Algeria) said since the last session of the Commission, the situation of the world populations with regard to economic, social and cultural rights had, although it had moved forward slightly, not improved in the context of the benefits derived from globalization by the stakeholders of the world economic order.  The report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food showed that poverty was not diminishing.  Education was an elementary human right, and needed to be upheld, in particular as child labour could only be combated by obligatory and free primary education, from which flowed the access to a decent and more comfortable life, where integration could be reinforced and poverty fought.  At all times, conceptions of the world had been founded on religious or philosophical beliefs which had formed the cultural identity of all individuals.  Thus, cultural rights were a subject in which work remained to be done, and should be a reunifying factor in the context of plurality, and the vector of an increased closeness among those who made up human society.

HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN (Canada) said he was deeply concerned that the human tragedy of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics was threatening political, economic and social stability in many countries.  It jeopardized progress on the Millennium Development Goals and undermined the progressive realization of the right of all to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.  Enabling access to essential medicines was an essential component in achieving economic and social development, and, more broadly, in promoting human security.  Therefore, the World Trade Organization’s decision on TRIPS and public health was welcomed, as it enabled countries in need to import more affordable medicines to address public health problems.  Canada was currently in the process of amending domestic legislation to allow for compulsory licenses to be granted to Canadian manufacturers to export medicines to address public health problems in the developing world.  Legislation would also ensure that those medicines were of equivalent quality to those available to the Canadian population.

JENIFER ROWE, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said 2005 was to be the year in which the international community would make its first thorough assessment of work done towards the Millennium Goals, nearly all of which had a direct relationship to discussion of economic, social and cultural rights.  There should be mechanisms, usually managed with and through community organizations and the persons most affected, to ensure that the most vulnerable received services commensurate with their needs.  There was a growing international debate on the relationship of rights to needs.  There had been a dissipation of the value of many of the economic, social and cultural rights because of the politicization of the debate around their place in the human rights lexicon, and because of too narrow a focus on questions of obligation and responsibility. Much of this could be resolved through sensitive and well-planned debate at the community level, and through the development of national policies designed to deliver the services that most of the rights in question entailed. 

NESTOR CRUZ TORUNO (Nicaragua) said, as it was mentioned by the Independent Expert on the effects of structural adjustment policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, poor countries continued to face not only with the burden of external debt but it affected the realization of their economic, social and cultural rights.  Nicaragua, however, was struggling to eradicate poverty and realize those rights.  In the past, as the social indicators attested, the rate of infant and maternal morality had been reduced.  With regard to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Government, in collaboration with civil society, had put in place preventive programmes aimed at reducing the number of persons infected by the disease.  A number of institutions and State agents had been involved in all the activities concerning economic, social and cultural rights.

BLANCANIEVE PORTOCARRERO (Venezuela) said that economic, social and cultural rights were not just aspirations, but enforceable human rights.  Cultural creativity in her country was free and a component of the actual rights of the people.  The State worked to ensure the exercise of economic, social and cultural rights by working for the fair distribution of resources on an equal basis.  There was also respect for the right to pursue economic opportunity, and the micro-financing regime concentrated upon assisting women, among other sectors of the population.  The State was also concerned with the physical and mental health of its citizens, as well as the right to development and knowledge.  Venezuelan society was participatory and protagonistic.

MIRIAM MALUWA, of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that the range and impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic were affecting almost all areas of human life and development.  It was estimated that 40 million people were currently living with HIV/AIDS.  Although Sub-Saharan Africa remained by far the region most affected by the epidemic, over the years more recent epidemics continued to grow in Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.  AIDS constituted one of the most pervasive threats to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights generally and the right to health in particular.  All over the world, people living with HIV/AIDS were facing stigma and discrimination, exclusion and inequality.  The HIV/AIDS epidemic posed serious human rights challenges -- for example, unequal access to HIV/AIDS-related treatment remained a global reality.  Where there was unequal access to fundamental economic, social and cultural rights, the conditions were ripe for the spread of HIV.  If countries were seriously committed to protecting the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, then that inequality should be addressed. The problem was urgent.

TALMEES AL-AJMI (Kuwait) said that he wished to stress the importance of the report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.  It had noted that most violations of the right to food in the occupied Palestinian territories were caused by Israel and that the occupation should be ended.  He had studied that report carefully, noting its description of the vast humanitarian disaster that was occurring.  Kuwait wished to express its deep concern over deteriorating levels of nutrition due to Israel’s actions to restrict humanitarian access, thus violating the right to food.  It was important for Israel to respect its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.  Israel should take immediate steps to end the humanitarian disaster and to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.

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For information media. Not an official record.