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COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS OPENS FORTY-NINTH SESSION
Hears Statement by Director of Research and Right to Development Division of Human Rights Office, Adopts Agenda and Programme of Work
12 November 2012

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this morning opened its forty-ninth session at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, hearing an address from Marcia V.J. Kran, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and holding an interactive discussion with her before adopting its agenda and programme of work.

Ms. Kran noted that in addition to the Committee considering State party reports and holding thematic discussions and briefings, it would be discussing the treaty body strengthening process.  Committee members were all too well aware of the strains the system was under and the challenges it faced.  While a longer-term solution was sought, she welcomed that the Economic and Social Council had approved additional resources.  The Office had been providing further information to New York as the decision of the Economic and Social Council was now awaiting approval by the General Assembly.  In terms of a longer-term solution for the treaty body system, Ms. Kran referred to the High Commissioner’s report on strengthening human rights treaty bodies.  The document made a series of recommendations which sought to address many of the challenges facing the treaty body system to ensure greater predictability, independence and harmonisation and to maximise the impact of the work of treaty bodies. 

In an interactive dialogue with Ms. Kran, Committee members asked whether the Office had assessed the extent to which human rights remained part and parcel of the development agenda.  Experts asked her to outline the current state of affairs regarding the right to development.  Did she think that this right was compromised by global economic trends and should the subject continue to be pursued in isolation of the realities on the ground?  Would the development goals be linked to human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights?

Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, Committee Chairperson, then adopted the Committee’s agenda and programme of work.

During its three-week session, from 12 to 30 November, the Committee will examine reports by Tanzania, Ecuador, Mauritania, Bulgaria and Iceland on how they comply with the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The situation in Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of the Congo will be examined in absence of a report.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be this afternoon at 3 p.m. when it will meet with partners – non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions and others – to discuss the reports that will be considered by the Committee during the session.

Opening Statement

MARCIA V.J. KRAN, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she would like to share some information on the work undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner and the Division she led with a view to better supporting the work of the Committee.  Many of the Office’s activities on economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development were linked to the work of treaty bodies in general and the work of this Committee in particular.  Highlighting a few examples, Ms. Kran said the Office had participated in days of general discussion and contributed to the discussion of general comments and statements. 

The Office had been active in promoting the judicial protection of economic, social and cultural rights and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  A seminar had been organised in October 2009, focusing on comparative experience in the adjudication of economic, social and cultural rights.  To further this objective, field presences of the Office of the High Commissioner had been encouraged to step up their advocacy efforts for signature and ratification of the Optional Protocol.  In this spirit, the Office had this year organised activities to promote the ratification of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Senegal and Uruguay.  The work of the Office had contributed to the ratification of the Optional Protocol by Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and El Salvador, and to its signature by Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Kazakhstan. 

As the Division of the Office of the High Commissioner responsible for knowledge management, they had organised regular consultations on emerging issues in order to develop guidance materials, said Ms. Kran. 

Turning to the work of the Committee, she said in addition to considering State party reports and holding thematic discussions and briefings, the Committee would be discussing the treaty body strengthening process.  Committee members were all too well aware of the strains the system was under and the challenges it faced.  While a longer-term solution was sought, she welcomed that the Economic and Social Council had approved additional resources.  The Office had been providing further information to New York as the decision of the Economic and Social Council was now awaiting approval by the General Assembly.  In terms of a longer-term solution for the treaty body system, Ms. Kran referred to the High Commissioner’s report on strengthening human rights treaty bodies.  That report drew on a three-year consultation process in which the Committee had been so closely involved.  The document made a series of recommendations which sought to address many of the challenges facing the treaty body system to ensure greater predictability, independence and harmonisation and to maximise the impact of the work of treaty bodies. 

Interactive Dialogue


In an interactive dialogue with Ms. Kran, a Committee member asked whether the Office had assessed the extent to which human rights remained part and parcel of the development agenda.

An Expert said he would be pleased if Ms. Kran could outline the current state of affairs regarding the right to development.  Did she think that this right was compromised by global economic trends and should the subject continue to be pursued in isolation of the realities on the ground?

As far as the post-2015 agenda was concerned, an Expert wondered whether Ms. Kran was optimistic about the developments which were taking place.  Would the development goals be linked to human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights?

In response to these questions, Ms. Kran said the Office had looked at the outcomes of Rio+20 and had been very active in the lead-up to the Conference.  The High Commissioner had been following preparations very closely and had undertaken advocacy efforts with key Member States before the meeting.  Her view on the outcomes of Rio+20 was quite positive.  In some ways, they had expected a less favourable document in terms of human rights and laying the future agenda.

Concerning the right to development, the Office had taken advantage of the anniversary to conduct advocacy and raise awareness of how the right to development could be implemented.  The context certainly posed challenges to the realisation of the right to development, but this also applied to other rights the Committee was focusing on.  This was an important area of work for the Office, which would continue its full-fledged efforts to pursue its work in this area.  

The Office had several staff working on the post-2015 agenda and had contributed to the internal efforts of the United Nations in discussing the next development objectives, Ms. Kran went on to say.  There were challenges from within the United Nations, however, as not every department was convinced that the post-2015 agenda should be strong on human rights issues.  Nonetheless, the Office was liaising with Amina Mohammed, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, who had been very clear that human rights must be represented in the discussions.  The Secretary-General’s task team had also laid out the principles for the work ahead, and one of the principles was that development could not be achieved without human rights.  The Office of the High Commissioner, together with the United Nations Development Programme, was also facilitating discussions on governance.  So there had been some good developments and while she would not say she was optimistic, she did believe that in some respect they had gotten off to a good start.


For use of the information media; not an official record

ESC12/011E