COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS EXAMINES REPORT OF DJIBOUTI
12 November 2013
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today completed its consideration of the combined initial and second periodic report of Djibouti on how the country implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Introducing the report, Zahra Youssouf Kayad, Secretary of State on National Solidarity of Djibouti, said that since the submission of its report, Djibouti had seen significant changes which had improved the human rights situation in the country. Djibouti had established institutions for the realization of human rights and their follow-up, and set up a department for social and cultural rights in the Ministry of Culture and a Secretariat of State for Housing. Djibouti was working towards creating an egalitarian, participatory society and had taken several measures in health, education, basic social services, infrastructure, youth employment and women’s rights.
The Committee said that Djibouti, a small country located in a strategic, sensitive region, had made significant progress since ratifying the Covenant. Committee Experts raised issues concerning measures taken to ensure the effective implementation of anti-corruption laws, the status of non-governmental organizations in the country, the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press, the place of women in society, and the education of nomadic populations. Questions about clean water and sanitation, school teaching in the national languages of the country, and the influence of Islam and customary law on domestic legislation were also asked.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Kayad said that Djibouti was committed to taking into account all the concluding observations and recommendations made by Committee Members, whose input during the interactive dialogue had been productive and very welcome.
Azzouz Kerdoun, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Djibouti, thanked the delegation for replying to all the questions asked by the Experts. The dialogue with the delegation had been constructive and was the first step towards making further progress in the future. Despite still facing challenges concerning its compliance with the Covenant, Djibouti had made significant progress.
Zdzislaw Kedzia, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and expressed hope that the comments of Committee Members would help Djibouti achieve its goals. Djibouti should fully demonstrate the independence of its National Human Rights Commission at the next session by ensuring that the Commission attended the meeting as a separate entity.
The delegation of Djibouti included representatives of the Secretariat of the State on National Solidarity, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Budget, the Directorate for Employment and Social Security, and the Permanent Mission of Djibouti to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 13 November, when it will consider the combined fourth to sixth periodic report of Belarus (E/C.12/BLR/4-6).
The combined initial and second periodic report of Djibouti can be read here: E/C.12/DJI/1-2.
Presentation of the Report
ZAHRA YOUSSOUF KAYAD, Secretary of State for National Solidarity of Djibouti, said that the delay in submitting the report was not due to a lack of political will but the result of technical issues. Since the submission of its report, Djibouti had seen significant changes which had improved the human rights situation in the country. There was on-going dialogue and cooperation with the United Nations human rights bodies. Last month, Djibouti had submitted its report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Djibouti had also established institutions for the realization of human rights and their follow-up. In addition, a department for social and cultural rights had been established in the Ministry of Culture, the Secretariat of State for National Solidarity and the Secretariat of State for Housing.
Djibouti was working towards creating an egalitarian, participatory society. Its determination was backed up by a policy of incorporating international instrument provisions into the domestic legal order. To that end, a National Committee for general legal reform had been established. Measures taken by the Government focused on health, education, basic social services, infrastructure, young persons and women. More than 22 per cent of Djibouti’s national budget was allocated to education. One of the top priorities was to increase school attendance, which was today more than 80 per cent in basic education, where parity between boys and girls had been achieved. The goal was to achieve 100 per cent school attendance in primary and secondary education by 2015.
The health budget was the second largest social expenditure, amounting to 10 per cent of the State budget. Efforts were made to decrease child and maternal mortality, while a new bill aimed to establish universal health insurance. In addition, various measures were taken to combat youth unemployment, including granting business loans to young graduates, adapting its national service to allow young persons to gain access to further education, establishing a policy called the National Initiative for Social Development, reforming institutional and financial arrangements to combat poverty, and establishing a Djibouti agency for social development. The State was also actively promoting equality between men and women by investing in sport and sport infrastructure.
Concerning the area of housing, the roadmap adopted by the Secretary of State for Housing had laid down the provision for promoting adequate housing for all Djibouti citizens. The prospects for Djibouti and for the whole region were very encouraging, and policies were being put in place to attract foreign investment. That would contribute to strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
Questions by Experts
AZZOUZ KERDOUN, Committee Member and Rapporteur for the report of Djibouti, said that efforts had been undertaken by Djibouti to strengthen human rights in general, and economic, social and cultural rights in particular. Nevertheless, areas of weakness remained. Djibouti, a former French colony, was strategically located near the straits facing the Arabian Peninsula and shared borders with Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. Djibouti was a country of transit for African migrants hoping to reach the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. With a surface area of only 23,000 square kilometres and a population of less than half a million inhabitants largely concentrated in the capital, Djibouti was a small State. As the country did not have its own natural resources to exploit, its economy was based on trade and the service sector. Djibouti’s budget was heavily dependent on foreign aid. The country imported the majority of its goods and the economy was heavily dependent on the situation in the region, which continued to be volatile.
Concerning the promotion and protection of human rights, Djibouti had ratified a number of international instruments, which was positive and commendable. Nevertheless, Djibouti had still not acceded to a number of important instruments, such as the Optional Protocols to the Convention on Racial Discrimination, the Convention against Torture, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Djibouti endorsed the applicability of the provisions of the Covenant, which could be invoked in its courts.
Djibouti faced manifold problems which could not be solved overnight and certain of the Committee’s questions remained unanswered, so it was hoped that those issues would be clarified during the interactive dialogue, said Mr. Kerdoun.
An Expert asked for concrete examples showing that perpetrators of corruption crimes had been prosecuted under the recent anti-corruption laws and asked what sentences had been passed in those cases. Corruption should be combated from the top down, said the Expert, who also asked for statistical data on the fight against corruption. Had the law obliging high-ranking officials to declare their assets been implemented?
An Expert noted that the National Commission for Human Rights was an inter-ministerial Commission, which was not currently dealing with the dissemination of the provisions of the Covenant. Concerning the National Human Rights Institution which was established in 2008, did Djibouti have plans to apply for status A accreditation? Apart from relying heavily on foreign aid, what were the country’s main budgetary constraints? The country had a large number of refugees and over 4,000 asylum-seekers but did not have comprehensive legislation covering those persons. What would Djibouti do about that matter?
An Expert commended Djibouti on having put in place an extensive machinery for the protection of human rights. Were existing human rights institutions truly independent and free to write and say whatever came out of their evaluations? Did Djibouti welcome the involvement of non-governmental organizations in reviewing the human rights situation in the country? Were non-governmental organization representatives free to publish their findings or were they subject to restrictions? What steps could Djibouti take to introduce and familiarize the legal community with the provisions of the Covenant, such as organizing training courses and awareness-raising campaigns? The Expert also wanted to know whether Djibouti benefited from European Union assistance and to what extent human rights programmes were part of external aid and partnerships with donor countries.
An Expert noted that the country report only included sporadic disaggregated data and asked how often Djibouti had a census conducted. Did its national data collection mechanism systematically disaggregate data on the basis of gender and disability? The Expert also asked about Djibouti’s birth registration system and how births were registered. How did Djibouti ensure that all new born children were properly registered, including children born to refugee families living in refugee camps? Were there any plans of exempting refugees from the birth registration fees? Concerning women’s rights, what was Djibouti doing to ensure the implementation of the law which prohibited female genital mutilation?
Turning to the implementation of the Covenant, an Expert asked whether Djibouti had checked to ensure that its domestic laws and practices fully complied with the provisions of the Covenant. Bearing in mind that discrimination was a criminal offence, could the delegation provide examples of when and how the discrimination law had been applied in the national courts?
Response by Delegation
Responding to the questions asked by Committee Experts, the delegation began by saying that the ratification of other international instruments would take place at the appropriate time and whenever the need for such ratification arose. Concerning the standing of the Covenant in domestic legislation, the delegation said that the Constitution had incorporated universal human rights values even before the ratification of human rights instruments, which had only started taking place in the last decade or so. Ratified international instruments took precedence over domestic legislation. A legislative body was in place to oversee the transposition of Djibouti’s international obligations into national legislation.
In its criminal legislation of 1955, Djibouti had put in place specific measures to combat corruption and several prosecutions had taken place for such cases since then, although there was no detailed data available on the subject. The law for the compulsory declaration of assets by all high-ranking officials had been adopted and Djibouti was now working on its implementation. By the first quarter of 2014 the new stage of the fight against corruption was expected to be fully operational.
The law repressed and sanctioned trafficking in persons. Djibouti was aware that it was a transit country for those seeking a better future elsewhere, so in 2007 it adopted a law to combat trafficking in persons. Many perpetrators had been prosecuted because they were found to have exploited in various ways the vulnerability of migrants passing through Djibouti. The country was also collaborating with the main migrant-sending countries in the region for a more effective fight against the exploitation of migrants.
Customary law sometimes helped to settle issues and disputes, which also reduced the workload of courts. Far from being backwards, customary laws in Djibouti were regarded as peacemakers. Of course, customs which ran counter to the laws were not allowed and could not been practised. For example, the ancestral custom of female genital mutilation, which was now seen as totally unacceptable, was prohibited and sanctioned by the criminal code. Recent efforts had been focused on the protection of victims of that practice, while awareness-raising campaigns were also being undertaken in that respect.
The most recent population census was conducted in 2009 and there was only partial data available on persons with disabilities. The information available was mainly provided by civil society representatives and organizations advocating the rights of persons with disabilities. Djibouti was making efforts to ensure that public buildings were accessible to persons with disabilities. Figures on that part of the population would be gathered soon, based on which the Government would take appropriate action to ensure that persons with disabilities were integrated in society. Meanwhile, grants and scholarships as well as free transport were available for students with disabilities.
Concerning discrimination against women, the delegation said that many women were employed in the State’s central administration and even occupied high-rank posts. In recognition of their skills and abilities, those women had risen to decision-making posts. More than 45 per cent of Djibouti judges were women, and in the University of Djibouti there were more female than male students. In Djibouti men and women were paid the same wages and there was no wage discrimination. An internal coordination body would be created to ensure that no discrimination against women emerged.
As for violence against women, there was an extensive legal arsenal in place to combat that phenomenon. Civil society organizations looked after women who had been the victims of violence, and non-governmental organizations reported cases of violence against women to the authorities so that legal action could be taken against the perpetrators.
Birth registration in Djibouti was free of charge but the issuing of a birth certificate cost around 1,000 francs. Birth certificates were provided free of charge in certain cases. Campaigns had been organized to encourage parents, particularly those living in rural communities, to register their children, because Djibouti firmly believed that a child who did not have a birth certificate could not claim its identity.
The National Commission was set up in 2008, following a Presidential decree, and brought together numerous professionals, representatives of civil society and representatives of the authorities. As soon as it was established the Commission took steps to promote its work and make the population aware of its existence. It organized workshops, seminars and think-tanks to promote a human-rights-based approach for all civil servants. Law professionals, including judges, were now well aware of the provisions of international treaties. The Commission was trying to achieve financial independence and would be seeking accreditation in accordance with the Paris Principles, which had been part of its plans from the start.
Foreign aid constituted 25 per cent of Djibouti’s budget, while 23 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product came from tax revenue. The budget for education had considerably increased since the 1990s. The openness of the Djibouti economy meant that developments in the international markets affected the national economy. Nevertheless, skyrocketing food prices had been prevented through measures which promoted social cohesion and protection, so hunger strikes and protests about rising food prices had been avoided during the economic crisis. A register of vulnerable persons was being created so as better to target vulnerable groups.
Non-governmental organizations in Djibouti were active and challenged Government policies but also regularly worked with the Government. Such non-governmental organizations included an organization promoting women’s rights, an organization tackling violence against women, and associations promoting other human rights, such as the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS and the rights of persons with disabilities. The dialogue with civil society was constructive and civil society organizations were the most competent bodies to represent the views of vulnerable groups. Particular attention was paid to helping build the capacity of non-governmental organizations.
Questions by Experts
Focusing on unemployment, an Expert noted that access to employment in the private and public sectors was very limited for women. What income-generating activities for women did Djibouti propose? According to the family code, a husband might ban his wife from seeking employment, which was an unfair custom. Also, many highly educated young persons had trouble finding employment. Was Djibouti considering devising a national action plan to boost employment? Were there any vulnerable groups who were still not covered by Djibouti’s social assistance system? Was unemployment benefit paid to those out of work and, if not, did Djibouti have plans to introduce an unemployment benefit?
Did Djibouti have a comprehensive national employment policy or programme which covered persons with disabilities and youth? What was the present rate of inflation in the country? Had the Government taken measures to prevent the rise of inflation and guarantee access to food and basic goods?
An Expert asked whether there was specific legislation criminalizing domestic violence and requested all available statistics. Ninety-three of those living in urban areas had access to safe drinking water, while only just over 50 per cent living in rural areas had access to clean water. What steps were being taken to address disparities in the situation of urban and rural populations? Djibouti’s poverty reduction strategy did not seem to be working; both poverty and extreme poverty appeared to be increasing. What specific actions were being taken to rectify that problem? Was there a national action plan for poverty reduction in place?
An Expert wanted to know what the situation was in relation to the availability of mental healthcare, and asked whether mental healthcare was regulated in Djibouti. Also, how were generic medicines provided? Were they accessible to all, including poor segments of the population? How did Djibouti’s policy of renting land in Sudan and Ethiopia work in practice?
An Expert said that many of Djibouti’s local customs were harmful to human rights and noted that in remote areas religious courts existed alongside civil courts. In family courts, legislation on family inheritance was discriminatory to women. Concerning the wage gap, the Expert clarified that the term did not refer to a difference in pay between men and women doing the same job but, rather, to the difference between the total per capita income for men and for women. It seemed that men in Djibouti were concentrated in high-income jobs, while most women were in low-income posts.
An Expert pointed out that children should not be getting married, with or without the guardian’s authorization. He also said that discrimination in inheritance matters was based on traditional Islamic views about the man being the bread-winner of the family, while women were expected to stay at home. That family model, however, was rapidly changing across the world, so laws should follow suit and be in line with actual modern practice.
An Expert suggested that Djibouti request assistance from the International Labour Organization in establishing a universal social security floor. What was the retirement age for men and women? Could the delegation provide specific statistical figures of women in high-ranking and highly paid positions in the public and private sectors?
How extensive was human rights education offered in schools and was it based on educational norms? What was the ratio of students attending private schools to those attending State schools, and did private schooling offer a higher quality of education to pupils? The Committee had received reports that the lack of sanitation impacted negatively on the attendance of girls at school in rural areas. What was Djibouti doing to tackle that problem?
Access to the internet was extremely important for all those who sought assistance, employment, and opportunities to develop further their skills, said an Expert. What was Djibouti doing to facilitate access to the internet, particularly for marginalized and disadvantaged groups?
Response by the Delegation
Responding to these questions and comments and others, the delegation said that employment trends were changing and that an increasing number of women were now reaching high-paid positions, for example in the public sector. This was due to the higher level of education which women received. There were also many women with important posts in the informal sector. Djibouti was now trying to bring women from the informal into the formal sector, to ensure that they paid taxes and that related income figures were taken into account to determine with greater accuracy the country’s per capita Gross Domestic Product.
Gender issues in general and ensuring gender equality in employment in particular were among Djibouti’s main concerns, as was access for girls to a high level of education, which would help to narrow further the wage gap. Djibouti wanted women to play a full role in the development of the country.
The dual legal system in Djibouti involved the application of French legislation, since Djibouti was a former French colony, and customary law. Djibouti had set itself the task of having one set of laws applicable to the whole population, and the relatively new family code was one of the results of the political will to achieve that. There was no customary legislation which governed personal relationships, not even in rural areas.
Family relations were regulated by the 2002 family code, which comprised aspects of Roman law, aspects of Islamic Sharia law, and aspects of customary law. Sharia law in particular had informed the laws governing personal relationships, as the population of the country was 100 per cent Muslim. Nevertheless, safeguards had been introduced in order to regulate inter-marital relations, for example. If a woman was ill-treated by her spouse, then she could go before a judge and ask for reparations. In that respect, Djibouti was progressively moving towards full convergence with the Covenant.
Concerning the question on inheritance laws, the delegation said that women made a huge contribution to family assets and, over time, Djibouti would manage to eliminate completely all imbalances which currently existed in its legislation.
Members of the family were human beings and all acts of violence, either within or outside the family, were prosecuted. There was no special law on domestic violence, however, and for the time being there was no need to legislate specifically on domestic violence. To promote awareness of women’s rights, specific measures had been taken, including a helpline for victims and the publication of guidebooks on domestic violence, following consultations with non-governmental organizations such as the Union for Women in Djibouti.
The family code represented a big step forward towards compliance with the Covenant. Bringing domestic laws in line with the Covenant was a constant preoccupation for Djibouti. Violence against women took various forms. The most common form related to failure to provide for women financially. There were provisions in the criminal code relating to vulnerable categories of the population, such as pregnant women and women with disabilities.
The delegation said that there was no such thing as a requirement for authorization from the husband for a woman to work, either in the legislation or otherwise, nor were there any laws about forced marriages. The family code clearly stated that marriage was based on the mutual consent of both spouses, so forced marriages were prohibited. The law always sought to protect the weakest and most vulnerable persons. Therefore, minors could only get married if they had the consent of their guardian.
Concerning the question about street children, the delegation said that the phenomenon was not common at all. Nevertheless, there were some street children in the country and there were at least two associations providing assistance to children living in the streets. Street children were mainly orphans of war from neighbouring countries or AIDS orphans.
In terms of employment for women, the delegation said that making the family code as fair to women as possible was an on-going process for Djibouti. It was true that sometimes women were the family bread-winner and played the role of household head, even among vulnerable groups of the population. Women had their own property and wealth, had jobs and were even encouraged by their husbands to seek employment and contribute to the family income. In rural areas there were greater cultural differences, so awareness-raising campaigns were organized in those areas to inform women of their rights.
Concerning poverty, the delegation said that Djibouti’s annual economy growth rate of five per cent in recent years was still insufficient to increase employment and reduce poverty. A growth of at least seven per cent annually was needed to combat poverty effectively. Djibouti was therefore working to strengthen the economy by increasing, among other things, the capacity of its three ports, which it was hoped would increase economic activity and create jobs.
Regarding the finance sector, the delegation said that Djibouti aimed to transform itself into a regional financial centre. There were already eleven banks operating in the country today. Djibouti also aimed to turn itself into a telecommunications hub. It was therefore actively promoting telecommunications and was using its high-quality infrastructure in that regard.
Inflation had reached 12 per cent in 2008 but in the following years it had dropped to 10 per cent initially and then to four per cent. The inflation forecast for this year was three per cent. The economic crisis was one of the factors which had contributed to the decrease of inflation.
The main goal of the Labour Inspectorate was to ensure the application of employment regulations, to ensure that workers were protected, and to provide information and advice to social partners on the best way to comply with employment legislation. The Inspectorate also conducted studies and investigations, settled individual and collective disputes, and oversaw national and international labour contracts. The Inspectorate did not have the power to close down enterprises which were in breach of labour legislation, but it would report cases of law infringement to the public prosecutor. The Inspectorate was currently undergoing restructuring with a view to improving its working conditions and to ensure that it was not subject to outside influence.
Concerning the questions about minimum wage, the delegation said that Djibouti had been one of the first countries to sign the International Labour Organization Convention which guaranteed a minimum wage across all sectors. However, Djibouti had had to undergo a structural adjustment programme, as a result of which there was no longer a minimum wage.
Responding to questions about loans, the delegation said that granting “micro-credit” loans was one of the main tools used to ensure that women became independent. Savings and investment cooperatives had been established and many of those were led by women and covered areas such as fishing, retail, agriculture and other small income-generating activities. Loans to the value of one million dollars had been granted that way. The sector was entirely funded by the Government, which also established and managed those cooperative units until they became completely independent.
A Government-approved project was underway to put in place a health insurance system for the entire population. Once the law was approved by the National Assembly a new, truly universal health insurance system would become operative in Djibouti. It would include a special programme providing State protection to everyone in a vulnerable situation.
The pension system was financed through contributions of the working population and there was a parallel system for military personnel. The military pension was a separate regime and was not part of the main pension system, but there were currently discussions to merge the two. The private and public sectors were covered by the same scheme for the time being. The current pension system did not cover elderly citizens who had not paid contributions, so Djibouti was working to create a universal pension system which would cover all, especially the disadvantaged.
No unemployment benefit was currently paid in Djibouti and there was no such system in place. A severance package was paid by employers to those who lost their job because their company closed down or because they were fired.
Djibouti had taken measures to address women and youth unemployment. In addition to the loans granted to women who wanted to engage in professional activities, as mentioned earlier, a public loans institution granted loans to young graduates to enable them to set up their own business. Djibouti had found that in its University system there was a mismatch between qualifications and the needs of the job market. As a result, University programmes had been reformed to ensure that Departments and Faculties met more closely the needs of the job market.
Djibouti had difficulty targeting the poor, despite the fact that specific poverty reduction action plans were in place. The Government’s top priority at the moment was to identify those who were poor first and then provide medical insurance to them. Retirement age for men and women was 60 years old, but women could ask to take early retirement at the age of 55 years old.
The delegation reported that since 2008 Djibouti had been suffering from an unprecedented drought, which had affected millions of persons in the region. The cost for the national economy had been approximately 22 million euros per year. Djibouti had carried out a study of the problem with support from the World Bank and the European Union. The issue would be addressed in a different way in urban and rural areas. In urban areas, the solution initially related to improving the water distribution network. A project of the desalination of sea water, which had received funding from the European Union, would help to increase availability of good quality water. Djibouti had also signed an agreement with Ethiopia to import drinking water, which would help to alleviate water supply problems. A master plan had been established for a sewage network and a water treatment plant was expected to be completed by the beginning of 2014.
Concerning the water supply in rural areas, a programme had been established to mobilize surface water, which was not used much in Africa. The construction of water tanks in rural areas would increase storage capacity for persons affected by droughts. Dams and reservoirs were also built to provide persons in rural areas with water for their cattle. A public enterprise was responsible for managing the supply of drinking water in Djibouti.
With regard to healthcare, the delegation said that medical units had been set up in rural areas, comprising a maternity unit and a nursing station where consultations were carried out. There were also mobile units covering all regions. The efforts in rural areas were focusing on getting pregnant women monitored by qualified medical staff. Free contraception and other services were available for women in healthcare centres across urban areas.
Djibouti obtained generic medicines from producer countries and had a policy of promoting such generic medicines in hospitals. Generic medicines were also available for those who wished to purchase such medicines in communal pharmacies. Government efforts would continue in order to keep prices for generic medicines low and to oblige high street pharmacies to sell generic medicines instead of brand name pharmaceuticals for medical prescriptions.
Djibouti had weaknesses in the provision of mental healthcare services, because of a marked lack of qualified staff. There was one mental healthcare centre in the country, which was not enough to cover the needs of all persons suffering from mental illness. There were currently plans to build additional mental healthcare centres.
Freedom of press was guaranteed in the 1992 Constitution and Djibouti had established a regulatory authority for the communications sector, in which all media were represented. Citizens were free to consult any news source they liked, including internet sources, and there were no limitations to freedom of expression.
Concerning education for nomads, the delegation said that, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Djibouti built schools in rural areas instead of bringing children to the cities to attend school. There were more than 90 schools in rural areas. The children of nomadic families received three meals a day in school canteens and also had access to school dormitories, in case their families lived too far. Schools were usually accessible from the areas in which nomadic families lived within an hour. Because of recurring droughts, nomadic families had now turned into semi-nomads, so it was easier for their children to attend school. School supplies were provided to the children of nomadic families free of charge. In collaboration with the World Food Programme, incentives had been introduced to encourage children to attend school. Despite all these efforts, the current infrastructure was inadequate for school children. Funding was provided through the national budget, which could not cover all expenses involved.
Responding to the questions about school drop-out rates, the delegation said that dropping out of school was not a serious problem in Djibouti. Updated figures on drop-out rates would be sent to the Committee in the next few days. For a long time the education system had focused on boosting school attendance and ensuring access to school. Djibouti statistics had now improved in that respect, so efforts were being put into improving the quality of education. On-going training was offered to teachers to enable them to fulfil their duties.
There were private Arab schools which provided teaching in Arabic and also educated pupils on Islam, and private French language schools. All private schools required authorization from the State to operate and were subject to the same rules and regulations as State schools. Private schools provided a high level of education and pupils were taught in smaller classes than in State schools, but, as they charged fees, private schools did not attract many Djibouti pupils.
Sexual harassment was not a widespread phenomenon in Djibouti. The criminal code severely punished sexual violence against children and harassment, and sentences were especially severe in cases where the perpetrator was a teacher. In schools, parents participated in parent-teacher committees looking after the interests of the pupils. Social assistance was provided to eleven students with disabilities attending the University of Djibouti.
In Djibouti the concept of indigenous peoples did not exist and there were no minorities recognized in the Constitution. In the pre-colonial era there was a distinction in the civil registry on the basis of ethnic origin. Nowadays, Djibouti was working on strengthening national identity, so it did not encourage the distinction on the basis of ethnic background.
Concerning school teaching in the national languages, the delegation said that there were many writers’ associations in Djibouti for persons writing in the national languages, and there were also plans to build a Somali language institute in the country. Providing teaching in the national languages at school was not happening yet, but with the writers’ associations being so active, it was only a matter of time before national languages became part of the education system.
The teaching of human rights was the cornerstone of the National Human Rights Commission and the Government. Djibouti believed that only an individual fully aware of the principles of human rights could understand the importance of promoting and protecting human rights. Therefore, Djibouti had initiated many awareness-raising programmes designed specifically for school children. In addition, the Government had included courses in human rights in the school curriculum, so school handbooks included human rights values and concepts taught to all children. The Djibouti Teacher Training College had also incorporated human rights in its training programmes.
Concerning internet access, the Government had obliged the national internet provider to cut its rates by 50 per cent so that everyone, including students, could access the internet at a very low cost. A wireless system was widely available in schools and universities. Djibouti constantly worked to ensure that internet access was available in the more remote areas of the country.
ZAHRA YOUSSOUF KAYAD, Secretary of State on National Solidarity of Djibouti, said that the delegation was returning home with a sense of a duty fulfilled. Djibouti was committed to taking into account all the concluding observations and recommendations made by Committee Members. It would continue to meet its international obligations and take into consideration the suggestions made by the Committee and by other treaty bodies. The input of Committee Experts during the interactive dialogue had been productive and very welcome.
AZZOUZ KERDOUN, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Djibouti, thanked the delegation for replying to all the questions asked by the Experts and said he looked forward to receiving additional information and statistics from Djibouti. The dialogue with the delegation had been constructive and was the first step towards making further progress in the future. Mr. Kerdoun said that even though Djibouti was still facing challenges in terms of compliance with the Covenant, nevertheless progress had been made. He encouraged Djibouti to redouble efforts to ensure the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights.
ZDZISLAW KEDZIA, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue and expressed hope that the comments of Committee Members would help Djibouti achieve its goals. Concluding observations were meant to function as a tool that would help the State party in its work. The Committee placed great emphasis on the independence of national human rights institutions, so Djibouti should fully demonstrate the independence of its National Human Rights Commission at the next session by ensuring that the Commission attended the report examination as a separate entity, not as part of a Governmental delegation. This separation of roles was vital for the promotion and protection of human rights.
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