INDEPENDENT EXPERT ON EFFECTS OF STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT,
SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON RIGHT TO FOOD PRESENT REPORTS
Commission Continues General Debate on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 29 March (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this afternoon continued with its general debate on economic, social and cultural rights, hearing from the Independent Expert on the effects of structural adjustment policies and foreign debt on the achievement of these rights as well as from the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
Bernards A. N. Mudho, the Independent Expert on the effects of structural adjustment policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, said that while due recognition should be given to the progress made under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, it should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a means to achieve poverty reduction goals and to create an environment conducive to the realization of human rights. It was a limited initiative and should be reinforced by other developmental actions and measures. There was a need to adopt a holistic view of the problems faced by developing countries in terms of foreign debt and structural adjustment in today’s globalized world.
Participating in the subsequent interactive dialogue was the Representative of Uganda - speaking as a concerned country - as well as the representatives of Cuba, Kenya and Burkina Faso.
Jean Ziegler, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, stressed that although the right to food of every human being should be respected, famine, hunger and extreme poverty still sentenced millions of people to underdevelopment, daily suffering and early death. Amid understandable distrust of the promises of free trade for ensuring food security and the recurrent collapse of trade talks, a new concept was emerging from civil society as an alternative model for agriculture and agricultural trade. “Food sovereignty” treated trade as a means to an end and gave primacy to food security and the right to food. Under its logic, subsidies were permissible to support small-scale agriculture for local production, but should never be permitted to large-scale farming or the export sector.
Responding to Mr. Ziegler’s presentation as concerned countries were the Representatives of Bangladesh, Israel and Palestine. Representatives of Cuba, Egypt, Brazil, Switzerland, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Canada, Australia, Mauritania and Pakistan participated in the interactive dialogue.
At the start of the meeting, the Commission concluded its interactive dialogue with Anne-Marie Lizin, the Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty, with Ms. Lizin responding to questions posed by Commission members during the morning session. Among other points, she said the three main factors of poverty were exclusion from education and from a decent level of income, as well as the need for laws to back up a minimum level of income.
Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertrand Ramcharan, also made a general statement on the relationship between delegations and the Commission’s Special Rapporteurs and other Experts. He said that while the delegations had the right to disagree and to express disagreement with those addressing the Commission, he wished to appeal generally for all to avoid personal invectives against the Special Rapporteurs in regard of their motivations, political intentions or integrity. Without a doubt, a human rights discourse should proceed upon a basis of respect for those same rights and such invective was unnecessary.
Representatives of the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Republic of Korea, Austria, Cuba, Nigeria, Mexico, United States, China and Sri Lanka also addressed the Commission this afternoon on the question of economic, social and cultural rights, raising issues, among others, related to redressing the historic imbalance between civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights, given the accepted logic of the indivisibility of all human rights; the need to educate populations on economic, social and cultural rights; and the legal obligations of States to ensure economic, social and cultural rights.
The United States spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Commission will resume its consideration of economic, social and cultural rights at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 30 March 2004.
Documents on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it the report by Bernards A. N. Mudho, Independent Expert on the effects of structural adjustment policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights (E/CN.4/2004/47 and Add.1 and Add.2), which attempts to provide an analysis of the progress made under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, which is presently regarded as the path to debt sustainability, economic growth and release of resources for social expenditure leading to poverty reduction. In doing so, the Independent Expert has also sought to discern the response of States, international financial institutions and the private sector to the Commission’s call, as addressed to the international community in general in and in particular to States, international financial institutions and the private sector. While analyzing the progress made under the HIPC initiative and particularly its explicit link to poverty reduction goals, the Independent Expert points out the danger of the HIPC initiative being seen as an end in itself rather than a means to achieve the poverty reduction goals.
In increasing the effectiveness of the HIPC initiative and resources made available through other initiatives, the Independent Expert places an emphasis on the importance of building capacities in the heavily indebted and poor countries to strengthen the national budget process. Considerations of human rights principles such as equality and participation need to be integrated into all stages of the public budget formulation, approval and monitoring phases. Consideration should also be given to the role national human rights institutions can play in monitoring the public expenditure performance and the implementation of the HIPC, Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, and other relevant initiatives, to ensure that these contribute to the enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.
The first Addendum to the report of Mr. Mudaho concerns the mission of the Independent Expert to Uganda to study the effects of the burden of foreign debt and the policies adopted to face them on the capacity of the Government to adopt policies and programmes for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in accordance with his mandate. The Independent Expert commends the important achievements that the Government has made in terms of attaining universal primary education and combating HIV/AIDS, among others. Uganda, however, remains heavily dependent on external resources, and strict expenditure ceilings have been set by the Government to maintain macroeconomic stability. The Independent Expert concludes the report with several recommendations, including that the Government and donors should further explore ways to reduce dependence on external resources and the adverse implications of this dependence for poverty reduction and other programmes that are designed to contribute to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights; and that the Government of Uganda should be urged to expedite the submission of its overdue reports to the treaty bodies.
The second Addendum contains a note by the Secretariat regarding the planned official visit of the Independent Expert on the effects of structural adjustment policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights to Kyrgyzstan. However, following the postponement of the visit to an undetermined future date, the concomitant report will now be submitted to the Commission at its sixty-first session in 2005, pending completion of the visit within the relevant time limit.
Also before the Commission is the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, (E/CN.4/2004/10 and Add.1 and Add.2), in which the Special Rapporteur calls urgent attention to the fact that progress in reducing hunger and malnutrition has virtually come to a halt. He urges all States to meet their commitments to eradicate hunger and realize the right to food. In the report, he opens with an introduction and overview of his activities over the last year, before moving on to further develop the conceptual background to his work on the right to food. In sections II and II, he seeks to analyse new and positive developments emerging, the concept of “food sovereignty” and the development of stronger human rights obligations for transnational corporations. The section on “food sovereignty” examines this new concept, which is emerging from civil society as an alternative model for agriculture and agricultural trade. The section on transnational corporations and the right to food builds on a chapter presented in his last report. The report closes with a summary of the conclusions and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.
The first Addendum to the above report examines the situation of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition in Bangladesh, and then analyses the situation from the perspective of the right to food. The report examines the legal framework governing the right to food in Bangladesh, including the obligation that the Government has undertaken to fulfil the right under international and national law, and looks at whether policies and programmes are in place to meet those commitments. The report then outlines the main findings and concerns of the Special Rapporteur regarding the realization of the right to food, and finally presents key conclusions and recommendations.
The second Addendum concerns the mission of the Special Rapporteur to the occupied Palestinian territories. In the report, the Special Rapporteur finds that although the Government of Israel, as the occupying power in the territories, has the legal obligation under international law to ensure the right to food of the civilian Palestinian population, it is failing to meet this responsibility. Recommendations are made in the report to the Government of Israel to improve access for humanitarian relief, to take immediate action to reverse the humanitarian crisis, to lift closures in the territories and to end the confiscation and the disproportionate destruction of Palestinian lands, water and other resources. The Government of Israel should halt the programme of “Bantustaniszation”, stop the building of the fence/wall and improve respect for the right to food under international human rights and humanitarian law. Serious consideration should be given to the viability of a future PalestinianState with sustainable access to, and control over, its own food and water supplies.
Also for its consideration, the Commission has before it a report (E/CN.4/2004/38) of the Secretary-General on the "question of the realization in all countries of the economic, social and cultural rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and a study of special problems which the developing countries face in their efforts to achieve these human rights". The report highlights the recent initiatives undertaken by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, outside the framework of examining States' reports on compliance with the International Covenant, to further the promotion, protection and full realization of the provisions. The report also highlights several activities of the special procedures on the right to adequate housing, the right to health, the right to food and extreme poverty.
Response to Questions by Independent Expert on Extreme Poverty
ANNE-MARIE LIZIN, Independent Expert on Extreme Poverty, responding to the questions asked by delegations during the morning session, said there were several types of statements, and regarding Sudan, the new law on the registration of births was a good law, and she hoped that funding would be found. With regard to the law on female genital mutilation, Sudan was encouraged to implement it. The Chinese delegation was thanked, and it was added that concerning a friend, one did not necessarily have to be negative about another friend. She encouraged her successor and hoped that that person would deal with the subject of the United States. As for the Dominican Republic, there was a need for a clarification and even a correction. When she mentioned that country, it was not to shed light on anything negative concerning racism, but quite the opposite, since a lot of work was being done with regard to civil registration, as said in the report. A modern civil status system would help to reduce differences, and not exacerbate them, and the Dominican Republic had shown this.
Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, had asked what would be considered as the three main factors of poverty: the exclusion from education and from a decent level of income were two of them, and laws needed to back up the need for a minimum level of income. Being a woman today was an exacerbating factor in a situation of poverty. There was also a need for electoral support processes. Yemen and the Irish presidency both mentioned access to identity documents for women in Yemen, and this showed how important it was for women to have an identity, as well as clearly identified rights linked to identity, and registration processes would help to enhance security in this respect.
BERTRAND RAMCHARAN, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that all human rights were indivisible and inalienable. The Independent Expert had performed a good job on the situation of extreme poverty and she had presented an analytic report to the Commission; he thanked her for her efforts.
Statements on Reports of Independent Expert on Effects of Structural Adjustment Policies
BERNARDS A. N. MUDHO, Independent Expert on the Effects of Structural Adjustment Policies and Foreign Debt on the Full Enjoyment of all Human Rights, Particularly Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said that in deciding to renew his mandate, the Commission had entrusted him with two important tasks: to pay particular attention to the effects of the burden of foreign debt and the policies adopted to face them on the capacity of the Governments of developing countries to adopt policies and programmes for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights; and to recommend measures and actions that could be taken to alleviate such effects, especially in the poorest and heavily indebted countries. The present report focused on the progress made under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, which was widely regarded as the path to debt sustainability, economic growth and release of resources for social expenditure leading to poverty eradication.
While due recognition should be given to the progress made under the HIPC initiative – particularly its emphasis on making explicit the link with poverty reduction goals, he said that it should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a means to achieve poverty reduction goals and to create an environment conducive to the realization of human rights. It was a limited initiative and should be reinforced by other developmental actions and measures by the affected countries and the international community at large.
In increasing the effectiveness of the HIPC initiative and other measures, he had recommended a focus on capacity building to strengthen national budget processes in affected countries. Considerations of human rights principles such as non-discrimination, equality and participation should be integrated into all stages of public budget formulation, approval and monitoring. In that context, Uganda offered an encouraging example. The country had developed its own national comprehensive strategy for fighting poverty and had made considerable efforts to articulate a clear framework for Government-donor collaboration in the form of budget support and opening up its budget process to stakeholder participation. However, the country remained heavily dependent on external resources to compensate for its large fiscal deficit, and strict expenditure ceilings had been set to maintain macroeconomic stability.
Situations such as Uganda’s demonstrated the need to adopt a holistic view of the problems faced by developing countries in terms of foreign debt and structural adjustment in today’s globalized world, he said. Such an approach seemed particularly pertinent in light of the failure at Cancun. Although these issues are beyond the scope of the HIPC initiative or other debt relief initiatives, they would nevertheless have profound implications for their implementation and for the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights.
NATHAN IRUMBA (Uganda), speaking as a concerned country, said some of the recommendations of the Independent Expert would be integrated into the plans of the Government of that country. Uganda had extended an open invitation to all mandate holders. The lack of reports alluded to in the report was due to lack of capacity, and not wilful, and would be remedied as soon as possible. Reforms had been made, in particular to introduce the necessary macro-economic stability for growth, but there was a need for growth first in order to start the process. To date, this had been one of the problems. Welfare programmes had been installed in order to improve the life of the ordinary Ugandan. Foreign aid was required to balance the deficit and there was a need for an increased flow of resources through the country. The collapse of the price of coffee had had a negative effect. One of the problems raised by the Independent Expert was the slow pace of reporting to human rights treaty bodies, and Uganda was doing its best to address this, and appreciated the support of the various mechanisms in this exercise. If poverty was to be addressed, agriculture was the place to start in Uganda, since the majority of the population worked in relation to that sector.
JORGE FERRER RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba) asked the Independent Expert whether there could be a baseline limit in regard of growth of domestic profit or earnings or coverage of basic social services as a prerequisite for payment of external debt. Second, what was the view of the Independent Expert on the problem of the external debt of those countries that had not benefited from the HIPC initiative? Finally, did he feel that those countries that had achieved the best results would only maintain their growth under the HIPC initiative, or should other programmes be elaborated to help them maintain those growth levels in lieu of the HIPC initiative?
PHILLIP RICHARD O. OWADE (Kenya) said that the Independent Expert had produced an excellent and in-depth report to the Commission. His report had clearly demonstrated the problems faced by the developing countries in attaining their development goals and in carrying out their economic structural adjustment processes. The developing countries' need for capacity building had been burdened by their external debts. The Commission should provide the Rapporteur with its full support so that he could carry out his mandate conveniently.
JEAN BAPTISTE NATAMA (Burkina Faso) said in recent years, a number of concerns had been addressed, particularly in respect of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, from which Burkina Faso benefited. However, discussions with partners who had agreed to provide debt relief had been confronted with certain issues and problems, including the difficulty of different procedures for different countries. Burkina Faso had committed all of its HIPC funding to its poverty mitigation programme, but the programme was having difficulty in getting the cash in time in order to be implemented as planned. The Independent Expert should coordinate these programmes so that they could be carried out in order.
BERNARDS A. N. MUDHO, Independent Expert on the Effects of Structural Adjustment Policies and Foreign Debt on the Full Enjoyment of All Human Rights, said in response to the question raised by the Representative of Kenya that he had taken careful note to ensure that every action undertaken by Uganda was underpinned by the Constitution of that country. What he had said was that there had not seemed to be express reference to the constitutional references. Uganda, like other countries in its situation, had the problem of capacity, which explained the delay in responding to treaty bodies. The Commission had taken note of the fact that Uganda had taken necessary action to fulfil its obligations in that regard as recently as last week.
To the Representative of Cuba and with regard to minimum standards for debt repayment, he said that anything was possible, given the necessary political will. In regard of other measures to augment the HIPC initiative, he recalled that the HIPC initiative had been predicated upon the additionality of other programmes.
To the Representative of Burkina Faso, he said that it would certainly be of help to have coordination between various donors and creditors. And although he had not made specific references to coordination in his report, he had made allusion to the links between HIPC initiative and other areas, including trade.
Statements on Reports of Expert on Right to Food
JEAN ZIEGLER, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, presenting his report on the right to food (E/CN. 4/2004/10/Add. 1 & 2), said the right to food of every human being should be respected; yet, famine, hunger and extreme poverty still sentenced millions of people to underdevelopment, daily suffering and early death. At this present moment, the food crisis was seriously affecting the lives of millions of people in 38 countries around the world, predominantly in Africa. Sudan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan were currently suffering the most seriously from a food crisis. The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory was also seriously deteriorating. Famine and widespread lack of access to food meant that in the world, 840 million people were suffering on a daily basis from chronic malnutrition. Around 36 million people died from hunger directly or indirectly every year. Progress in reducing world hunger had virtually come to a halt and in many countries hunger was increasing. It was time to recognize that hunger was not a question of fate, but the result of the negative effects of human action or inaction. It was a failure to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food.
Amid understandable distrust of the promises of free trade for ensuring food security and the recurrent collapse of trade talks, a new concept was emerging from civil society as an alternative model for agriculture and agricultural trade, he remarked. This concept of “food sovereignty” treated trade as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, and gave primacy to food security and the right to food. Under the logic of food sovereignty, subsidies were permissible to support small-scale agriculture for local production, but should never be permitted to large-scale farming or the export sector.
Also presenting his report on the occupied Palestinian territory, the Rapporteur said that he had visited the region following reports of a growing humanitarian crisis, as half of the Palestinian population had become completely dependent on food aid for their survival. During his mission, he found evidence of the deteriorating humanitarian situation. Over 50 per cent of Palestinians were now completely dependent on food aid, and yet humanitarian access was frequently restricted. According to the World Bank, more than half of Palestinian households were now eating only once a day. With regard to Bangladesh, he said that hunger, malnutrition and poverty affected the lives of 65 million people who struggled to meet their basic food needs every day. The Government was making important progress towards achieving the progressive realization of the right to food.
In conclusion, Mr. Ziegler called attention to the impressive global leadership that Brazil was showing in the fight against hunger. At the initiative of that country's President, a fight against hunger had been made the number one priority. The President's programme "Zero Hunger" was being applied across Brazil.
TOUFIK ALI (Bangladesh), speaking as a concerned country, said that the overview provided by the Special Rapporteur on emerging issues related to the right to food worldwide gave “food for thought”. The stark reality of the impact of multilateral trade negotiations on the right to food – including through agricultural subsidies in the developed world – had been recognized. Yet, while the food aid that such subsidies provided was welcome, one had to ask whether that constituted a sustainable option for meeting the food needs of the vast majority of food-importing countries. Therefore, the concept of food sovereignty advocated by the Special Rapporteur was not only rational, but eminently desirable. His comments on the role of transnational corporations and their human rights responsibilities were also of use. With regard to reforming the operation of the Commission, consideration should be given to introducing a sub-item on the role of transnational corporations and human rights.
In regard of recent developments and initiatives affecting the right to food in Bangladesh, he said the country was today “on the move”. The World Bank had concluded that the country had come a long way with an acceleration in growth and a reduction of poverty in all its dimensions; if the Special Rapporteur could have spent additional time in Bangladesh, he would have had the opportunity to study those issues in greater depth. Over the past three decades, the country had transformed itself from a chronic food deficit country to one generally able to feed its own population. That progress had been achieved through a well-structured and comprehensive approach, including through maintaining a security stock of food grains for natural disasters and other crises and a well-developed Public Food Distribution System and other non-monetized targeted relief and development programmes.
One of the greatest successes, he added, had been the mainstreaming of women’s rights into national policies and programmes. Through innovative ideas like those related to micro-credit and non-formal education, women had been empowered economically and politically. Moreover, aware that national policies and programmes had not solved all pressing problems, the Government had created space for social entrepreneurs to take initiative in providing services the State could not.
YAAKOV LEVY (Israel), speaking as a concerned country, said there was no hunger in the territories, nor was there any policy of provoking hunger. In 2003, there were early indications of economic improvement, with an increase in many areas, and the reason for this was the transfer of billions of shekels to the Palestinian Authority by Israel, the donors, and structural reforms. However, recent tension had affected this progress. Israel viewed the report with serious concern, both in view of its substantive content and the politicised and one-sided tone and manner in which it was written, which attested that it was a purely political exercise. This was striking, viewing the cooperation with which Israel had met the Expert, as it provided a platform for unsubstantiated allegations. In addition, there was no confiscation of water and land resources, nor did Israel provoke hunger; if there were any economic problems, it was due to the intents and policies of the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian terrorists had frequently delayed the provision of foodstuff to Palestinians, which was not mentioned in the report. The diversion of financial funds to private accounts instead of being used to alleviate the situation was also absent. The report made no attempt to distinguish between fact and fiction, and an unprofessional approach characterized the whole report, with frequent referral to measures that were beyond the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, and a clear abuse of professional integrity and standards, with a distinguishing lack of impartiality that was the characteristic of the Special Rapporteur. He overlooked the active participation of the Palestinian Authority in sabotaging the situation. The best way to alleviate the hardships faced by the Palestinians was to end the violence.
NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) expressed his respect and appreciation to the Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler. The destruction of houses and the confiscation of Palestinian lands by Israel had been inspired by an underlying strategy of "bantustanization", which had been used by the former apartheid regime of South Africa. The occupation forces had constructed military blockades and by doing so they were hindering the movement of food. The Palestinian territory was experiencing all sorts of crises. The violation of the right to food was a serious violation of human rights. The report of the Special Rapporteur was only an additional document to that of the Secretary-General and other rapporteurs who dealt with the region. The report of Mr. Ziegler was very important and it contained information on the new dimension of the violations of human rights in the occupied territories. He thanked the Rapporteur for his valuable work. With regard to the statement of the Israeli Representative in the Commission, he said that had the Rapporteur described the occupied territory as a place where no confiscation of land and deaths were occurring, the Israeli part would have been happy, but the case was different. The Special Rapporteur had presented the reality in the ground.
CLAUDIA PEREZ ALVAREZ (Cuba) said he supported the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur, but asked for his comments on the possibility of a monitoring mechanism to supervise the implementation of the norms referenced in the report.
EHAB GAMAL ELDIN (Egypt) said with regard to the occupied Palestinian territory, the report was timely and detailed the very dangerous situation there, and the lack of access to free and democratic humanitarian aid, as required by the international community. The occupying power was failing to meet its obligations as required by international humanitarian law, said the report, which should incite the international community to address the issue. What practical steps did the Special Rapporteur recommend in order to redress the situation with regard to the right to food for Palestinians?
HILDEBRANDO TADEU VALADARES (Brazil) said the report on the right to food represented an alert to all countries. It underlined the fact that although more than 840 million people suffered from undernourishment and the world produced more than enough food to feed its entire population, progress in reducing hunger and malnutrition had come to a halt. The report was interesting and intellectually challenging, and its conclusions and recommendations constituted interesting material for debate. In Brazil, since his first day in office, President Lula da Silva had announced the priority attributed to the fight against hunger and poverty, and the form this had taken was the “Zero Hunger Programme”. The President was engaged in the plight of poor people not only in Brazil, but also internationally. He had been very active in promoting mobilization at the highest political level in order to create an environment of understanding and openness to adoption of creative mechanisms at the international level to effectively fight against hunger and poverty in the world.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) asked the Special Rapporteur for further clarification of how to help protect the right to food and water in his report next year, as well as what steps should be taken to prevent private actors from impinging on these rights.
MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked the Special Rapporteur on the right to food on the impact of good governance and democracy on the right to food at the national level.
ANDREE LACASSE (Canada) said with regard to the reference to the Food and Agricultural Organization’s Inter-governmental Working Group, in paragraph 10 of the report, as the Special Rapporteur was aware, at the February meeting of the Working Group, over 400 new proposals had been tabled, and there was a need for the guidelines to be practical in order to ensure that the implementation of these recommendations were effective. Could the Special Rapporteur make suggestions to this effect?
PETER MAXWELL HEYWARD (Australia) welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s recognition that not all developed countries utilized agricultural protectionism to the detriment of the right to food, and said that encouraging agricultural liberalization at the World Trade Organization should be a focus of the Special Rapporteur’s work. In that regard, it was worrisome that encouraging food sovereignty could be counterproductive. The Special Rapporteur’s tendency to advocate policies without considering such counterproductive possibilities was also a source of concern.
MOHAMED SALECK OULD MOHAMED LEMINE (Mauritania) said the Special Rapporteur had shed light on the problematic subject of the right to food. Food security was being affected by natural disasters and distorted by international trade. He wanted to know about the views of other countries on the Special Rapporteur’s approach on that issue.
TCEHMINA JANJINA (Pakistan) said the report provided useful and thought-provoking ideas, and showed a sad image of the injustice done with regard to agricultural subsidies. The use of subsidies by developed countries caused the worse distortions in international trade. There was good governance in the developing world, but the fact that the world was confronted with such a horrendous problem was because there was this distortion. The credibility and durability of the multilateral trading system would depend on how agricultural subsidies were treated. In the face of mounting evidence, the world trading system was hurting the poorest and most marginalized and creating ever-greater inequalities. The issue of food sovereignty was an interesting one. The question was how could the World Trade Organization be mobilized for operationalizing the concept of food sovereignty, since this was where the real fight was.
JEAN ZIEGLER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, responding to the questions posed by the delegates, refuted one of the reproaches made by Israel. This was his membership in a body that was, he said, committed to peace, and was in concordance with his mandate, with which he was fully in conformity. With regard to Palestine, he thanked the delegate for his comments, noted that Cuba had for 40 years been confronting a blockade that jeopardized its economy, and yet managed to provide food to all its population. With respect to the Working Group, this was established following the Second World Summit on Food (2002), and work would be concluded now and voluntary guidelines moved to in September, and the next report would be shared with the Commission with regard to this. With regard to Egypt and Brazil, the Special Rapporteur was in agreement, and the World Summit of September would be a practical measure for combating hunger in the world. For France to be a partner in that initiative was a credit to the initiative, which was pioneering and welcome. For Switzerland and the European Union, and the issue as to how to implement human rights in multinationals, the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights implemented these mechanisms. Cancun was a failure- the World Trade Organization’s logic was for liberalization and free trade on an unlimited scale, and food sovereignty was the opposite, and he gave total priority to feeding a country’s own population first.
BERTRAND RAMCHARAN, Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, took the floor to make what he said was a general statement on the relationship between delegations and the Commission’s Special Rapporteurs and other Experts. While the delegations had the right to disagree and to express that disagreement with those addressing the Commission, he wished to appeal generally for all to avoid personal invectives against the Special Rapporteurs in regard of their motivations, political intentions or integrity. Without a doubt, a human rights discourse should proceed upon a basis of respect for those same rights and such invective was unnecessary.
General Debate on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
CLAUDIA HERNANDEZ BONA (Dominican Republic) said that her Government had made efforts in reducing the number of cases arising from HIV/AIDS infections among the population, particularly to reduce the incidence of mother-to-child transmissions of the disease. The Government had also taken a series of measures to combat the spread of the epidemic. Among other things, the Government had put in place a law prohibiting any form of discrimination against AIDS patients. It had made available retroviral drugs to 20,000 patients on a daily basis. In 2003, the Government had also agreed that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visit the country and observe the situation. The Government continued to implement the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on the AIDS pandemic. WHO had recommended the implementation of measures with regard to patients who suffered from incurable diseases.
EHAB GAMAL ELDIN (Egypt) said that the various programmes, policies and plans for development in his country sought to address economic, social and cultural rights and to involve civil society and other actors as participants. Given the indivisibility of human rights, emphasis must be laid upon these economic, social and cultural rights and stress must be laid upon helping developing countries to attain them. Yet, their attainment had not been properly achieved because of the challenges facing developing countries. The international community must also stress efforts to meet these rights in a non-elitist manner. Finally, with regard to the need for international cooperation to respect economic, social and cultural rights, he affirmed that resolutions thereon should respect the historical context whereby developing countries had found themselves in their current situation.
MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said efforts towards the realization of economic, social and cultural rights were an integral part of the wider action for the promotion and protection of human rights. Poverty eradication and full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights were interrelated goals. Respect for human rights, as an essential element contributing to social cohesion, set the foundation of any policy to effectively combat social exclusion and poverty. In this connection, there was a need for a better understanding of the links between poverty and discrimination on various grounds such as race, colour, sex, language and religion. Hunger was an affront to human dignity, as well as an elementary threat to human security. States should take all appropriate measures, individually and through international cooperation, to promote and protect the right to adequate food as well as to provide access to clean drinking water. Human rights standards were an essential part of the strategy for food security. The right to education contributed to the enjoyment of all other human rights, and played a vital role in poverty eradication, preventing conflict and violence, fighting discrimination, and promoting gender equality.
HONG JONG-KI (Republic of Korea) said the realization of economic, social and cultural rights depended on the achievement of civil and political rights and vice versa, as these two sets of human rights were intertwined and mutually reinforcing. Economic, social and cultural rights should be actively promoted and protected if civil and political rights were to be made meaningful and enjoyable. The realization of one category of rights at the expense of others was not conducive to a balanced national development and did not lead itself to the enjoyment of all human rights. The international community was now at a point where serious discussions were going on to determine what entitlements were implied by economic, social and cultural rights and what legal obligations States had in order to deliver them. Extreme poverty was one of the root causes of all human rights violations, and was particularly detrimental to economic, social and cultural rights. It was especially distressing that large populations around the world still suffered daily from hunger. All Governments should exert their utmost efforts to ensure, as a matter of priority and without discrimination, the right to freedom from hunger to their people, with particular consideration for the most vulnerable.
GEORG MAUTNER-MARKHOF (Austria) said there could be no doubt that for a long time the international community had given more attention to the promotion and protection of civil and political rights rather than economic, social and cultural rights. Today, there was a greater possibility of giving concrete shape and practical meaning to the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and inter-relatedness of all human rights. The right to education, an eminent economic and social right, entailed, as did all human rights, corresponding obligations of States to respect, protect and fulfil this right, and its full realization could only be achieved progressively. However, certain elements of the right should be realized immediately, in particular education directed towards the empowerment of the human person. Education about and education in human rights were key for the realization of other human rights and should thus be established as a priority in national educational policies.
CLAUDIA PEREZ ALVAREZ (Cuba) said the resolutions presented under this agenda item that defended the urgent need to protect economic, social and cultural rights interdependently and inter-relatedly with civil and political rights were a reflection of the concern to reverse the tragedy in which most of the world’s population barely lived. The alarming global figures showed a true economic, social and cultural genocide that threatened the human species. The lives of millions of humans on the planet were threatened by the aggressive plans of the hegemonic superpower whose designs of domination rested on hundreds of thousands of nuclear weapons and other military tools which had cost around 400 million dollars, with which money many of the world’s main problems could be tackled and resolved. The lives of Cubans were also threatened by this imperial power as a result of one of the cruellest, most inhumane and prolonged policies that people in the history of human civilization had ever been subjected to. The attempts of the United States to bring the socio-economic project of justice and equality chosen by the Cuban people to failure had not been successful, nor would they ever be.
JOSEPH UBAKA AYALOGU (Nigeria) said the importance of the right to water, food and shelter were critical components to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. To this end, the Government of Nigeria was making an effort to improve the life of the common man. Targeted national policies in health, education and employment had been linked to the overall strategy for poverty alleviation, as well as the expansion of agriculture and industry, privatisation programmes and measures taken to provide clean water. Political rights which did not translate into genuine economic empowerment of the human person were meaningless, and the Commission should ensure a correct balance between the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which were inter-related and inter-dependent, and the Commission’s true success in its mandate could only be assured on the basis of this formula.
DOROTY ESTRADA (Mexico) said that given the interrelation of human rights, Mexico believed in economic, social and cultural rights for all. The Government of Mexico had been promoting opportunities for all people who were in need, particularly those vulnerable segments of the society. The programme of opportunity had been put in place during the past years to assist people and to provide them with social assistance, medicines and other essential needs. In its development approach, the Government of Mexico had put the human being at the centre of its development programmes. Access to social programmes to all was being ensured. The actions carried out in the field of social development targeted those who were not already enjoying them. At the international level, Mexico promoted the economic, social and cultural rights of people, particularly of those who were in disadvantaged situations. It was also participating actively in the activities of the Commission and working groups in the social sphere in order to fulfil its international obligations and responsibilities. It believed that all people should exercise their economic, social and cultural rights.
MARC LELAND (United States) said the United States was proud of its own record of advancement in the economic, social and cultural spheres. It was in its own national interest to see that countries around the world respected human rights because nations that did so were far less likely to threaten the peace through aggression or internal instability. The role of Government in realizing economic, social and cultural rights was to create an enabling environment that empowered individuals to make effective decisions about their own lives, including on health, housing, food and education. To create economic success, Governments should take responsibility for creating conditions favourable to the realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. There was a clear distinction between civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. While all of these rights were universal, how a Government met its obligations was quite different. The international community could and should support Governments that were taking seriously their human rights obligations. The key to prosperity was education, individual creativity and an environment of economic and political freedom.
LIU ZHENHUA (China) said the observance of the principle of non-discrimination would help make the globalization process more inclusive and equitable. The international community should take measures to correct the prevailing imbalance between two categories of human rights: economic, social and cultural rights, and civil and political rights, which were the two pillars of the international human rights regime. The international community should respond positively to the legitimate demand of the developing countries for greater prominence to be given to economic, social and cultural rights so as to promote fuller enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all peoples. The responsibility of realizing economic, social and cultural rights fell first and foremost on national Governments, but international cooperation was indispensable. Compared with civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights were more dependent on conditions which could only be secured by economic growth and could therefore only be realized gradually. With regard to the human rights situation in the United States, this country had been quite apathetic about the economic, social and cultural rights of its workers, and this had led to serious problems such as poverty, hunger and homelessness.
SUGEESHWARA GUNARATNA (Sri Lanka) said extreme poverty was the most widespread human right violation in the world. The realization of economic, social and cultural rights would provide a sustainable basis to address the root causes of poverty. Eradicating poverty and raising social development had received the attention of successive Governments in Sri Lanka since independence. Today, extreme poverty levels were one of the lowest in South Asia, and other social developments contributed positively. Sri Lanka today was well on its way to achieving the Millennium Goals. If the goal of universally practiced human rights was to be achieved, it was of the utmost importance that such inequalities be addressed towards enabling wider participation in the process of wealth creation and wealth distribution.
Right of Reply
LUIS ZUNIGA (United States), speaking in a right of reply, said that facts denied the alleged division some sought to establish between countries large and small. Countries were not differentiated by size or location, but by the freedoms they provided to their citizens. For example, the Government that criticized his country the most in this forum, Cuba, denied access for its citizens to beaches used by farmers and members of the Government. They were also denied access to technical education – university only for revolutionaries spoke for itself. The lack of cultural rights was reflected by the Governmental slogan “Within the revolution – everything, outside the revolution – nothing”. Moreover, popular music was banned and the Internet was almost unknown. Furthermore, the economic disaster in Cuba was unprecedented; it had gone from being one of the richest countries of the region to being one of the poorest.
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