PRINT PAGE SHARE THIS ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

News & Media

COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS HOLDS MEETING WITH MEMBER STATES
29 November 2013

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today held a meeting with Member States to brief them on proceedings of the session as well as the steps taken to enhance the efficiency and efficacy of the Committee’s work. 

Zdzislaw Kedzia, Committee Chairperson, said that there was a theme which appeared in reports from States parties and which was a challenge to countries in various regions and this was the economic and financial crisis and the related austerity measures.  The Committee was quite often confronted with references to the impact of this crisis on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  The crisis and the lack of economic growth may impede the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights and in some case could lead to retrogression.  Any austerity measures and policy adjustments should be seen as compatible with the Covenant only if they were temporary, for the period of the crisis; if they were necessary and proportionate; and if such measures were not discriminatory and comprised steps to ensure that the rights of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups were not disproportionately affected. 

Member States welcomed this meeting to enhance exchanges and the strong effort put forward by the Committee to promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights around the world, particularly those of women.  They shared concerns on the backlog of national reports and felt the need to strengthen the functioning of the Committee.  One State sought the views of Committee on ways and means to further share good practices that may be deemed useful in the protection of economic, social and cultural rights.

Speaking in the discussion were China, Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Republic of Moldova and Thailand.

Committee Experts said they were happy to be given the opportunity to meet with Member States and hoped that today’s dialogue would be a standing item on the Committee’s agenda.  In respect to how States parties implemented recommendations at the domestic level, the Committee constantly perfected and fine-tuned its methods of work to strengthen an area considered to be weak and not fully fulfilled, which was follow-up after dialogue with a State party.  The right to development was an issue that would certainly be shouldered by the Committee.  During this session, it was decided that a general comment ought to be issued on the right to development, a very important issue when considering economic, social and cultural rights.

The Committee will meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to adopt its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports of Kuwait, Albania, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Djibouti, Belarus, Egypt, Gabon, Austria and Norway, which were considered during the session, before closing the session.

Statements

ZDZISLAW KEDZIA, Committee Chairperson, said it was important to listen to the delegations to learn about their reflections and concerns.  The intention of this meeting was to brief the States parties and other Member States about this session of the Committee and the steps taken to enhance the efficiency and efficacy of its work.  With regards to highlights of this session, with regards to reporting, the Committee had considered the reports of Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Kuwait and Norway.  Some of the reports were submitted on time and others with considerable delay.  This delay made the dialogue and exchange between the Committee and the Member States more difficult.  This irregularity, it could be said with a great deal of certainty, negatively affected the reporting system.  However, the delayed submission of reports did not prevent the Committee from having very interesting and fruitful dialogues. 

On reporting, there was a theme which appeared and which was a challenge for States parties in various regions and this was the economic and financial crisis and the related austerity measures.  The Committee was quite often confronted with references to the impact of this crisis on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.  The Committee continued to draw attention to its views as expressed in a letter to all parties in May 2011.  Crisis and lack of economic growth may impede the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights and in some case could lead to retrogression.  Any austerity measures and policy adjustments should meet the following requirements, which were still valid and topical: austerity measures or policy adjustments should be seen as compatible with the Covenant only if they were temporary, for the period of crisis; if they were necessary and proportionate; if such measures were not discriminatory and comprised steps to ensure that the rights of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups were not disproportionately affected; and if in the framework of decisions concerning austerity measures the minimum core content of economic, social and cultural rights was identified and that decisions were taken to ensure protection of this core content at all times. 

An issue that was more and more visible during debates, which was interestingly tackled by delegations and also of great interest to the Committee, was the various aspects of the globalization process and its impact on economic, social and cultural rights.  The Covenant placed emphasis on international cooperation that should strengthen the capacities needed for the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights. 

In relation to methods of work, in May delegations were informed that the Committee had to be able to adjust its methods of work to evolving needs and requirements.  At present there were 161 ratifications of the Covenant, a 5 year reporting cycle, in principle two regular three-week sessions of the Committee, and a backlog of reports waiting for examination that went beyond 40.  The Committee was under pressure.  The Committee had proposed to the Economic and Social Council a strategic solution for this problem and appreciation was expressed for the Council’s understanding of this proposed solution, composed of two elements, namely eliminating and reducing the backlog and preventing the backlog from growing. 

China welcomed this meeting to enhance exchanges.  It commended the efforts made by Member States to promote the implementation of the Covenant and supported the Committee in its impartial objectives and constructive recommendations to Member States to effectively implement the Covenant.  China attached great importance to the implementation of the Covenant and had submitted, in June 2010, its second periodic report.  China expected a positive and constructive dialogue with the Committee on the implementation of the Covenant next year.

Republic of Korea appreciated the strong effort put forward by the Committee to promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights around the world, particularly those of women.  It shared concerns on the backlog of national reports and felt the need to strengthen the functioning of the Committee.  It also hoped the intergovernmental process in New York would draw substantive conclusions to strengthen the efficiency and functioning of the treaty body system.

Venezuela said that it recognized the contribution made by the Committee in striving for economic, social and cultural rights and thought that concluding observations and  recommendations and general comments were very important.  It welcomed the position of the Committee on austerity policies.  Venezuela had taken legislative and administrative measures in this respect.  It welcomed this opportunity to have a constructive dialogue with the Committee. 

Republic of Moldova welcomed the recent entry into force of the Optional Protocol and said the Republic of Moldova was considering at the national level the findings of a feasibility study on the process of ratifying the instrument.  The Committee had finalized rules of procedures for the examination under the Optional Protocol, and was particularly interested in methodology.

Thailand sought the views of the Committee on ways and means to further share good practices that may be deemed useful in the protection of economic, social and cultural rights.  Taking into account emphasis made with respect to the importance of the right to development, the Committee’s views were also sought on the mainstreaming of the right to development in the Committee’s work.    

A Committee member was happy to be given an opportunity to meet with States parties and hoped that today’s dialogue would be a standing item on the Committee’s agenda.  In respect to how States parties implemented recommendations at the domestic level, the Committee constantly perfected and fine-tuned its methods of work to strengthen an area considered to be weak and not fully fulfilled, which was follow-up after dialogue with a State party.  This work should be done in conjunction with the State.  The Committee had strengthened the role of the Country Rapporteur.

On the right to development, a Committee Expert said this was an issue that would certainly be shouldered by the Committee.  During this session, it was decided that a general comment ought to be issued on the right to development, a very important issue when considering economic, social and cultural rights.

Another Committee member said the Covenant was bountiful with right to development-related provisions, such as the right to work, education and adequate living standards, among others.  The Committee had issued a statement on the pertinence and relevance of the Covenant to the right to development on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development.  The Committee had also decided during this session to draft a general comment on the relationship between the Covenant and issues relating to the environment and development.

A Committee member said, on sharing of good practices, that the Committee was very interested in having examples of good practices in States’ reports.  In concluding observations, there was a section highlighting the positive aspects.  The more such examples were provided in reports, the easier it would be to highlight and use them.

Another Committee member recalled that this had been a very intensive session.  The Committee had in no way wavered when it came to preparation, quality and quantity of work.  An extension of work had been requested and if this was granted, the Committee would be able to deliver even more tangible results.  Attention was drawn to the fact that the Committee had already started consideration of individual communications under the Optional Protocol.

ZDZISLAW KEDZIA, Committee Chairperson, said that the Optional Protocol rules of procedure, from the procedural aspect and consideration of communications, were similar to those of other instruments.  The Committee had drawn on the experience of other Committees and had tried to adjust what was done to its own needs.  The problem was not so much procedural but that the implementation of the Covenant gave rise to some very specific, substantive problems of which the Committee was aware and was preparing itself for.  It wished to benefit from cross- regional and regional settings.  It was noted that there was a capacity challenge in doing this.


The Chairperson expressed on behalf of all members of the Committee thanks to all the delegates present.  This was a demonstration of interest in the Committee’s work, which was extremely important not only for its work but for the implementation of rules of procedures in general.  Gratitude and warm feelings were also expressed, for expressions of confidence made to the Committee.  This meeting was one element of a chain of meetings, started last May, and it was hoped that this practice would continue, with equal interest from delegations, in coming sessions.  With regards to the strengthening of treaty bodies, these deserved to be strengthened and thanks were expressed for intentions to offer support for this process, and for the determination to act towards this end.   


For use of the information media; not an official record

ESC13/028E