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EXPERTS OF THE COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS EXPRESS CONCERNS ABOUT THE TAX SYSTEM AND THE DECREASE IN SOCIAL EXPENDITURES IN DIALOGUE WITH SENEGAL

Committee Observes Minute of Silence for Committee Expert Waleed Sadi of Jordan, who Died in Geneva Yesterday
8 October 2019

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concluded today the review of the third periodic report of Senegal on measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Committee Experts noted that social expenditures had gone down and were too reliant on indirect and regressive taxes. They requested information on efforts made to investigate and prosecute Koranic masters and other adults abusing children in daara schools.

The Committee observed a minute of silence for its Committee Expert from Jordan, Waleed Sadi, who died in Geneva yesterday.

Committee Experts noted that save for social protection, as years had gone by, social expenditure had decreased in the education and health sectors. What was more, the lion’s share of expenditures was financed by indirect taxes. They asked why Senegal was not able to better finance sectors that were vital to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. It was problematic that indirect, regressive taxes were still dominant. Experts also requested information on the draft bill on the modernization of daara schools. Could Senegal commit to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute adults, including Koranic masters, who forced children to beg for money or committed other abuses against them?

Malick Sall, Minister of Justice of Senegal, introducing the report, said the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights was taken into account in the implementation of the Head of State’s vision, through the Senegal on the Rise Plan.

The delegation said that the taxing system was devised for the current administration: it was up to each government to determine how to gather tax and distribute resources. For instance, from 2000 to 2012, the liberal government said 40 per cent of the budget had been allocated to education. From 2012, the new administration focused more on social equity, giving grants to the have-nots. That being said, discussions were underway to establish a budget for social expenditures funded by direct taxation systeMs. On the daara schools, the State believed that Koranic schools should be treated like mainstream schools. The forcing of others to beg was akin to exploitation and was punished accordingly, in line with relevant laws.

In his concluding remarks, Mohamed Ezzeldin Abdel-Moneim, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, said centuries of colonization and exploitation to which Senegal had been submitted could not be overlooked. He thanked the delegation for its honest and candid statements.

Fatou Gaye, Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Rapporteur and reiterated that Senegal remained committed to collaborating with all treaty bodies.



Renato Zerbini Ribeiro Leão, Committee Chairperson, concluded the meeting by saying that the Committee was Senegal’s unwavering partner in the promotion and protection of human rights.

The delegation of Senegal consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, and the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, Tuesday, 8 October, to review the sixth periodic report of Denmark (E/C.12/DNK/6).

Report

The Committee has before it the third periodic report of Senegal (E/C.12/SEN/3).

Presentation of the Report

MALICK SALL, Minister of Justice of Senegal, said the report submitted for the Committee's consideration was the result of a long process, which included regular consultations with relevant ministerial departments, following a participatory process, to better reflect the efforts made in the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Senegal. Civil society actors, through the National Advisory Council on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, had also been involved in the drafting of this report.

The promotion of economic, social and cultural rights was taken into account in the implementation of the Head of State’s vision, through the Senegal on the Rise Plan. This vision had been translated into bold policies centred on promoting and protecting the well-being of the population.

Labour statistics indicated that an average of 50,000 jobs were created per year in the Senegalese private sector, excluding the direct impact of government action in terms of financing projects and labour-intensive activities through infrastructure projects. The Equal Opportunities Card allowed persons with disabilities to benefit from access to employment and other benefits that may contribute to the promotion and protection of their rights through a multisectoral approach. Thus, a 15 per cent quota was established for them in the recruitment of civil servants.

Measures taken by the Government to guarantee access to free health care for the elderly (Sesame Plan) were based on affordable costs, and the protection and provision of care to the disadvantaged. Furthermore, measures had been taken to ensure maximum community participation in the planning, organization, management and control of primary health care.

The Government had initiated several programmes to register informal production units. To better support and register the informal sector, a Directorate of Small and Medium Enterprises has been established at the Ministry of Commerce. As a consequence of these measures, there were 85,000 small and medium enterprises listed through an identification number system in 2003, more than 205,000 in 2006, and over 250,000 in 2010.

The right to participate in cultural life was reflected in a number of measures, including the establishment, since 1997, of a National Festival of Arts and Cultures to promote the expression of the cultural specificities of each community; the establishment of the National Film Support Fund and the creation of the Film Production Centre since 2002; the creation, in each region, of a cultural centre incorporating a public library; and the support and supervision of cultural events initiated by the populations in order to affirm their cultural identity.

The Senegalese delegation remained attentive to the questions that the members of the Committee may wish to address to it at this session. They would enable a constructive, frank and sincere dialogue.

First Round of Questions by Committee Experts

OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, noted that save for social protection, as years had gone by, social expenditure had been reduced in the education and health sectors. This was concerning. The lion’s share of expenditure was financed by indirect taxes.

He requested information on the law on equality, and its implementation across the territory and shortcomings, notably in the town of Touba. Could the delegation comment on this matter?

The family code fell short of the standards set out in the Covenant. Would the Government consider reviewing it to remove any discriminatory component that negatively impacted women?

MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, asked about the national human rights institution and its status. He requested information about its staffing.

First Round of Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that international conventions had a “super-national” standing in Senegal; any person could request in any court the application of any provision of the Covenant.

When it came to the right to compensation, the population had the right to go to court whenever they were impacted negatively by a project. That rarely happened as the Government conducted required consultations prior to large projects being launched.

The law on parity was enforced and cases brought before courts had led to rulings. There were notably two such rulings that had been issued by the Supreme Court. Elections had been declared null by courts, for instance, when the law on parity related to elections had been flouted.

The Government was doing its very best to ensure that women enjoyed the very same rights as men. Efforts had been made in that regard. A Senegalese woman could now transmit her nationality to her children, which was not the case in the past. There might be some reticence to change family-related custoMs. The Government had to intelligently manage resistance to adequately address more delicate issues.

The Government would like to have an A status national human rights organization in the very near future. Measures were being taken right now to that end; the Government was hoping to achieve that status soon.

Follow-up Questions and Responses

Committee Experts asked follow-up questions on gender equality; the representation of women in the delegation; and the potential ratification of the Optional Protocol.

OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, asked why Senegal was not able to better finance sectors that were vital to the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. He also requested information on taxation. Indirect, regressive taxes were still dominant.

The delegation said Senegal used its own funds to finance its policies. One administration might start a project and another may focus on a different project depending on the results of elections. Senegal did not, however, depend on foreign aid to implement its policies.

The Government had a plan to reform the family code, notably as regarded inheritance and the notion of “paternal power”, to bring it more in line with the Covenant. Paternal authority was held by the father during the marriage, but it could be transferred by a court to the mother if there was a problem. This change had been made to ensure women had equal rights; women could obtain paternal authority if the father was unable or unfit to exercise it. The minimum age for marriage would be raised to 18 years old. The Family Code had been drafted in 1981.

On parity, the Government was hoping to change mindsets. There were four women in the delegation, but they had had to leave the room to accompany the Minister to a meeting.

Second Round of Questions by Committee Experts

MICHAEL WINDFUHR, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, noted achievements made, such as the activities carried out to deal with the informal sector by facilitating the registration of companies. He asked the delegation to conduct a summary self-evaluation. How far had the State come? He also requested information on the registration processes in the informal sector.

The Rapporteur drew the delegation’s attention to the feminization of poverty. Did the Government intend to overcome the obstacles impeding women’s access to the labour market? He noted that 58 per cent of the population was under 20 years old. How far had the Government come, taking into account the targets it had set itself?

He requested information about the cases that labour inspectors were handling. Sometimes, analysing the cases addressed by the labour inspectorate could lead to the identification of loopholes.

Turning to the law on non-discrimination, the Rapporteur pointed out that the number of women working in the information sector was very high. On this matter, what were the Government’s priorities?

He requested information that would allow the Committee to understand how big the domestic work sector was.

Was the Government considering measures to lift obstacles preventing foreigners from joining trade unions?

What was the percentage of formalized enterprises that were ran by women?

Second Round of Responses by the Delegation

The delegation explained that Senegal was located in a specific region, and it received a number of people from the sub-region. There were numerous patients from other countries that came to Senegal to receive healthcare.

All persons had the right to form and join trade unions. While it might be difficult for foreigners to lead trade unions, as the leaders had to be Senegalese nationals, foreigners could join trade unions as members.

On youth employment, the Government could not say how many youths had benefited from programmes and found a job thanks to them. There were many of them who had opened companies thanks to the funds mobilized by the State.

In West Africa, each family was entitled to recruit someone to help them with housework. Increasingly, domestic workers were setting up associations and trade unions to defend their rights. There was a law dating back to 2005 which defined trafficking in a manner that provided for the punishment of certain forms of abuse against domestic workers.

The delegation said it would provide the statistics requested by the Committee at a later time.

There were no regulatory or legal provisions that stipulated that women could not hold a certain job.

The family code was being reviewed thoroughly to identify all provisions that could lead to discrimination and redress them.

Third Round of Questions by Committee Experts

OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, said Senegal had made significant efforts to promote birth registration, including through birth registration campaigns, the implementation of the national birth registration centre strategy, mobile birth registration units and awareness raising campaigns. These efforts were bearing fruit to a certain extent, but much remained to be done; according to an estimate by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 30 per cent of Senegal's population was not registered in civil registries, and the situation was even worse in inland regions such as Tambacounda with 55.2 per cent of the population that was not registered. That number stood at 56.6 per cent for Kolda and 56.5 per cent for Sédhiou. If birth registration was mandatory and free of charge, what was the cost of the late birth registration procedure? With regard to unregistered children, how could the Government prevent this non-registration from impeding access to education and other social rights?

The Rapporteur requested information on the draft bill on the modernization of daara schools. Could Senegal commit to investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute adults, including Koranic school masters, who forced children to beg for money or committed other abuses against them?

What guarantees were in place to prevent rural councils, which were responsible for allocating land use, from systematically sacrificing the interests of women or young people, or giving up land use to foreign investors at the expense of local communities, either because of corruption or because they could be deceived by false promises from these investors? Conversely, how could the Government ensure that these rural councils made choices that were consistent with equity considerations for access to land?

Turning to abortions, he remarked that, beyond figures, the issue lay with the very restrictive conditions for the possibility of abortion in Senegal, and the extent of the use of clandestine abortions, which were naturally only very imperfectly reflected in criminal statistics. Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of abortions in Senegal were performed by unskilled persons and were considered to be of very high risk. How did Senegal intend to proceed to amend the Penal Code in order to comply with its obligations under the Covenant in this regard?

The Committee noted the measures taken by the State party to achieve universal health coverage, but the lack of resources allocated to the health sector remained a concern as only 8 per cent of the State budget went to the Ministry of Health. What additional commitments could Senegal make to remedy this situation?

Third Round of Replies by the Delegation

The delegation acknowledged that in rural areas, birth registration was not automatic. Some parents were reluctant to declare their children. To stamp out the practice of refraining from registering one’s children, the Government had been working to eliminate registration fees and rolling out mobile courts that travelled to the most remote regions to hold hearings and hand down rulings authorizing birth registrations, notably at a late stage.

In the last two years, the Government had ensured that pupils without birth registration certificates could have access to schools. The pupils were admitted and then registered. For children who did not attend schools, there were the mobile registration units.

The State believed that Koranic schools should be treated like mainstream schools. If a Committee member went to Senegal, they would not see daara school pupils engaged in the practice of begging - it was prohibited. About 66 per cent enrolled in daara schools were not Senegalese. While the delegation could not name States, this was a known fact. The forcing of others to beg was akin to exploitation and was punished accordingly, in line with relevant laws.

A project was underway to digitize birth registrations. Results, the delegation hoped, would be communicated to the Committee in the near future.
On land rights, the Government allowed the registration of land through the issuance of land titles. Those who did not regularize their land within the timeline saw their land become the ownership of the State.

Answering questions on abortions, the delegation said infanticides were prohibited. The Senegalese laws were based on the Napoleon Code, as it was a former French colony. Efforts were being made to modernize rights and render them more effective.

Follow-up Questions and Responses

OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, asked for justification for the transfer of land used by peasants to other individuals. He expressed concerns that it could impact people who did not have the means to register their land. He sought assurances in that regard.

The delegation said the vast majority of expropriations were imposed when some public works or infrastructure project required it, such as when a road or train track had to go through some land used by a peasant. In such cases, the concerned individuals were provided with indemnity, even if they did not hold titles for the land.

Fourth Round of Questions by Committee Experts

LAURA-MARIA CRACIUNEAN-TATU, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, flagged the insufficient public education and training opportunities, notably vis-à-vis the proliferation of private schools, which were not regulated in any way, especially in rural and disadvantaged areas. She pointed out that almost half of the children of the required age were outside the educational system

Had Senegal taken any steps to guarantee by means of law the free-of-charge character of preschool education?

Had Senegal taken any measures to amend provisions and address legal harmonization issues that seemed to contradict the compulsory nature of the education of children between the age of 6 and 16?

Turning to the education of woman and girls, the Rapporteur highlighted that women and girls continued to face serious difficulties in accessing and remaining in the educational system, due to, inter alia, sexual abuse in the school environment, violence faced on their way to school, especially in the rural areas, early marriages and early pregnancies. How many convictions related to sexual violence in the school environment had been handed down? How many teachers had been barred, so far, from continuing their work because of these convictions?

She asked the delegation to describe the procedure the Government had followed since the adoption of the 2014 decision of the African Committee on the Rights of Children – which condemned Senegal, for the violation of the right to education of children who were educated in daara schools because it had failed to guarantee the accessibility and acceptability of the right to education?

Senegal was reportedly working on the design of a new law that would address often-precarious conditions of artists and other culture professionals. Had that law been adopted?

Another Expert asked if Senegal was truly using the maximal amount of available resources to promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights

Fourth Round of Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said it had a taxing system for the current administration. It was up to each government to determine how to gather taxes and distribute resources. For instance, from 2000 to 2012, the liberal government said there had been 40 per cent of the budget allocated to the education sector. From 2012, the new administration focused more on social equity, on giving grants to the have-nots. Senegal was not a rich country. What was being done with the country’s resources could change, based on the platform that governments were elected on.

The current Government had liberalized part of the education system, and this had led several schools to spring to life. Senegal provided education for all free of charge. However, the number of children wanting to attend schools far exceeded the number of available staff members in public schools. In Senegal, private schools were seen as providing a better education than public ones. These schools received an annual State subsidy, supporting their efforts to teach children. There were also school inspectors to ensure compliance with current laws on education. Private schools had to meet obligations imposed by the State. In the case of non-observance, the State could swiftly shut down a school. There had been several such cases.

On the education of young girls, the Government had seen an increase in awareness-raising campaigns reducing housework chores and teenage pregnancies for young girls. The State celebrated the national day for the education of girls, on 11 November. There was also a network of private schools supporting the State’s actions on girls’ education. A “Miss Science” contest was also organized.

Follow-up Questions and Answers

OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, asked about the impact of measures taken on corruption, vis-à-vis the rights enshrined in the Covenant. He asked for information on overfishing and the fight against atmospheric pollution.

LAURA-MARIA CRACIUNEAN-TATU, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, asked what the exact responsibility of the school directors, the ministry and other stakeholders was when a girl registered a complaint on sexual violence. Did the State party conduct awareness-raising questions on this matter?

Another Expert reiterated his question on taxation. The majority of tax revenues came from indirect, regressive taxes. Was Senegal planning to change its taxation system to make it more progressive and thus reduce inequalities that impeded the enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights?

The delegation said Senegal was a member of an international coalition against money-laundering. There was a law on money-laundering that had recently been reformed, following the adoption of a directive in 2015. In legislative terms, there was a law dating from 2012, which established the National Office against Fraud and Corruption. It was equipped with a hotline, which could be used by anyone who wished to make anonymous reports.

Fishing in Senegal was regulated by national and international laws. The Government deemed it important to preserve fishery resources.

It was true that the sales taxes made up a significant part of Government revenues. Discussions were underway to establish a budget for social expenditures funded by direct taxation systems.

On sexual violence, directors were responsible for, inter alia, enforcing prevention rules and the ethical code of teachers, which was clear on this matter. Whenever there was a case of sexual violence, the Government applied “conservative measures”, that is the replacement of the teacher until the investigation was completed, following which quite severe punishment could be imposed.

Concluding Remarks

MOHAMED EZZELDIN ABDEL-MONEIM, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Senegal, said that the centuries of colonization and exploitation to which Senegal had been submitted could not be overlooked. He thanked the delegation for its honest and candid statements.

FATOU GAYE, Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Senegal to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Rapporteur and reiterated that Senegal remained committed to collaborating with all treaty bodies.

RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO, Committee Chairperson, concluded the meeting by saying that the Committee was Senegal’s unwavering partner in the promotion and protection of human rights.

For use of the information media; not an official record


CESCR19.16E