19 September 2016
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights opened today its fifty-ninth session, hearing the opening remarks by Peggy Hicks, the newly appointed Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today to discuss the initial report of Costa Rica.
Statements and Discussions
PEGGY HICKS, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, stressed the existence of clear links between articles of the Covenant and the Sustainable Development Goals. Many of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals were linked with the Covenant: Goal One on ending poverty, Goal Two on ending hunger, Goal Five on gender equality, Goal Eight on promoting decent work, and Goal Sixteen on peaceful societies, accountable institutions and access to justice. Ms. Hicks reminded that the High-Level Political Forum of the 2030 Agenda had reviewed the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 22 States on a voluntary basis, focusing on the theme “Leaving no one behind”. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had prepared a detailed report contributing to the work of Forum, stressing that vulnerable and under-privileged groups had to be involved in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda as rights-holders. Additional initiatives were conducted to ensure that data collection be in line with human rights principles. The Economic and Social Council had examined the list of the indicators adopted in March 2016 by the United Nations Statistical Commission and the Guidance Note on a human rights-based approach to data prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
During her speech, Ms. Hicks also reminded the Committee that Ibrahim Salam, Director, Human Rights Treaties Division, had sent a letter to the Chairs of the treaty bodies, encouraging committees to find the most appropriate ways to engage with the 2030 Agenda in the context of their respective mandates. Ms. Hicks reiterated that the year 2016 had marked the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the two Covenants and used the chance to thank the Committee members whose terms had expired at the end of 2016 for their contribution and expertise that had enriched the work of the Committee.
In the discussion that ensued, an Expert expressed appreciation for the outreach that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was doing in promoting the 2030 Agenda, and asked whether other committees had been informed of the need to integrate human rights concerns into the 2030 Agenda, most notably the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee on the rights of Child. Another Expert asked what topics and areas of intervention had been brought forward by the 2030 Agenda that corresponded to human rights priorities, in addition to the eradication of poverty. An Expert underlined that a strong liaison of committees was needed with the development community acting on the ground, and asked to what extent the Committee could count on the United Nations country teams in promoting human rights within the context of Sustainable Development Goals.
WALEED SADI, Committee Chairperson, expressed additional concern on how to make the Covenant relevant for Governments, and said that the challenge remained on how to get all countries on board.
Ms. Hicks stated that the Experts’ questions and comments reflected the ongoing challenges faced in the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights when establishing links of the development agenda with the work of the committees. She underlined that there was a strong cohort of people in development agencies that had taken into account human rights considerations, and that there had been a noticeable increase of awareness in the development community in comparison with the time when the Millennium Development Goals had been adopted. The work on the Sustainable Development Goals was perceived as a cross-cutting agenda, and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had been recognized as a central player. Moreover, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had engaged with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Committee on the Rights of the Child, linking their objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals implementation. The detailed mechanisms of engagement would be developed in the future. As for the topics that were being promoted within the 2030 Agenda, along within the eradication of poverty, trade had been looked upon within the context of the right to development, the role of the international financial institutions, as well as the climate change.
The Committee then proceeded to adopt its agenda. The fifty-ninth session of the Committee will continue in Room XVI of the Palais des Nations in Geneva until 7 October. During the session, the Committee will discuss the reports of Costa Rica, Cyprus, Poland, Tunisia, Lebanon, Dominican Republic and the Philippines.
For use of the information media; not an official record