The Committee considered the initial report of Azerbaijan
on the rights covered by articles 1 to 15 of the Covenant
(E/1994/5/Add.30) at its 39th to 41st meetings, held on 25
and 26 November 1997, and adopted at its 54th meeting, on
5 December 1997 the following concluding observations.
The Committee welcomes the initial report of the State party,
which was prepared in conformity with the guidelines regarding
the form and contents of reports to be submitted by States
parties. It also appreciates the additional information provided
in response to the written list of questions (E/C.12/Q/AZE/1)
and welcomes the high-level delegation with which it engaged
in an open and constructive dialogue. The Committee, however,
notes with regret that much of the additional information
provided was incomplete or of a general nature and that consequently,
a number of specific concerns raised by it were not addressed
during the dialogue.
B. Positive aspects
The Committee welcomes the fact that Azerbaijan ratified or
acceded to the principal international human rights treaties,
including the Covenant, immediately after achieving independence
The Committee notes the existence of rich agricultural and
oil resources in Azerbaijan, as well as a relatively advanced
industrial sector. If well utilized, these resources may aid
long-term enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
The Committee further notes the success achieved in stabilizing
some key macroeconomic indicators.
The Committee notes that in newly independent countries, a
large body of legislation is normally required in all areas
relating to basic government functions. In this regard, it
welcomes the progress made thus far in developing or enacting
legislation, inter alia, in the areas of labour, social
insurance, refugees and stateless persons, and education.
The Committee welcomes the work conducted by the State Employment
Service in finding jobs for applicants, providing counselling
and vocational training.
The Committee notes the generally high level of education
of the population. It welcomes the fact that 10 years of free,
compulsory education are provided. It welcomes the broad participation
of women in institutions of higher learning, as well as the
measures being taken to provide education to members of minorities
and to refugees.
The Committee further notes that extensive international assistance
has been mobilized to assist the State party during its difficult
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the
implementation of the Covenant
The Committee notes that Azerbaijan is undergoing rapid changes
in its development and is experiencing socio-economic difficulties
that are typical in many countries with economies in transition.
It notes in particular that national production and income
have declined dramatically since 1991 and that, by the Government's
admission, nearly the entire population of Azerbaijan is living
The Committee notes with concern that a large proportion of
the resources necessary to finance social programmes is diverted
by corruption, which pervades State organs and the sectors
of the economy that are still under State control.
The Committee notes the flight of capital and the emigration
of specialists that resulted, in part, from such difficulties.
The Committee notes that the State party is also faced with
considerable adversity and instability due to an armed conflict
with Armenia. As a result of the conflict, there are a large
number of refugees and internally displaced persons whose
stay in Azerbaijan may become a prolonged one.
D. Principal subjects of concern
The Committee notes with concern the lack of information concerning
the status of the Covenant in domestic law, the extent to
which the rights contained therein may be invoked in the courts,
as well as the absence of cases before the courts relating
to those rights. It is concerned that there appears to be
a generally low level of awareness among the general public
of the emerging national legislative framework, including
the provisions relating to human rights. In addition, there
is not at present an effective recourse mechanism for persons
who consider their rights to have been violated. The Committee
notes, in this regard, that the Constitutional Court has not
yet been established.
The Committee notes with concern that because of the large
proportion of public expenditures devoted to facilitating
the development of the oil industry, there has not been sufficient
attention given to encouraging the development of small and
medium-sized enterprises. It also notes that inadequate attention
has been paid to the adverse environmental consequences of
some of the activities of the oil industry.
The Committee stresses the importance of an independent judiciary,
ensured not only by constitutional declaration, but also de
facto by guarantees accorded to magistrates, in order to ensure
the exercise of all human rights, in particular economic,
social and cultural rights, and the availability of effective
remedies in case of violation.
With respect to specific provisions of the Covenant, the Committee
calls attention to article 1 on the right of self-determination.
The Committee regrets that, due to lack of information, it
is unable to assess to what extent the general public is able
to participate in the privatization process. It stresses the
importance of managing this process in a way that is sufficiently
transparent to ensure fairness and accountability.
The Committee notes with concern the lack of detailed information
concerning the situation faced by refugees in the State party.
While it welcomes the statements made by the delegation that
women enjoy equality of status with men, the Committee reaffirms
the need for objective disaggregated data to assess the situation
of women with respect to all the rights provided for in the
Covenant. Data that are indicative of the status of women,
in addition to the information presented orally during the
dialogue, would include health care, professional opportunities
and measured income differentials between women and men.
The Committee notes with deep concern the problems faced with
respect to articles 6, 7 and 8. The Committee is concerned
by the high level of unemployment, including hidden unemployment,
and the absence of details concerning national and local employment
programmes or other clear strategies to address this problem.
It notes that a large proportion of unemployed persons have
found a means of sustenance in the informal sector, which
appears to have surpassed the formal economy in volume. Regrettably,
there appear to be attempts on the part of the Government
to eradicate the informal sector.
The Committee also notes with concern the lack of detailed
information on mechanisms relating to the right to form and
join trade unions. It notes the absence of a clear definition
of "political activities", which trade unions are prohibited
from engaging in by the 1994 Law on Trade Unions. It further
notes that the categories of workers that are prohibited from
exercising their right to strike include a broad range of
workers in the public service, defence and communications
With respect to article 9, the Committee expresses concern
that the disintegration of public finance and the high rate
of inflation have destroyed the purchasing power of pensions
and social insurance benefits. It regrets that information
on how, in times of high unemployment, the size of pensions
is adjusted for persons who do not meet the minimum number
of years of employment was not forthcoming.
The Committee stresses the need for effective control over
inter-country adoption of children. In the absence of such
controls, foreign adoption may subject children to various
types of exploitation, including sexual abuse. Pursuant to
article 10, the Committee regrets that, despite the assurances
of the delegation to the contrary, women are not receiving
adequate medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. It
regrets that its questions on the effect on women of the proposed
introduction of a three-tier fee system remain unanswered.
The Committee expresses its alarm over the prolonged decline
in the standards of living. This is evident in the rising
level of poverty, the large proportion of the population living
without safe drinking water, the lack of affordable housing,
the decline in agricultural production due to the inefficiencies
of the privatization process of State farms and the consequent
inadequacies in food production and distribution, the declining
quality of medical care and the declining number of persons
receiving medical care. The Committee seeks information on
measures being taken or envisaged for the protection of vulnerable
groups, including children who do not have a family, single
parents, and unemployed persons.
The Committee expresses concern about the shortage of housing
which is compounded by the influx of refugees and displaced
persons, and the fact that vulnerable groups and the homeless
are not given adequate protection against forced evictions.
The Committee notes with concern that the general shortage
of resources is weakening the educational system and corrupting
the traditionally high educational standards of the State
party. Education has also become more costly, which is having
a disproportionate effect on the poor.
In the spirit of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights
Education, the Committee draws attention to paragraph 1 of
article 13, which states that education shall be directed
to the full development of the human personality and the sense
of its dignity, and shall strengthen respect for human rights
and fundamental freedoms. The Committee regrets having received
no information in this regard.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
The Committee recommends that the Covenant be granted a definitive
status in domestic law by which the rights contained in it
may be invoked in the courts. It recommends that instruction
on the Covenant be included in the training of lawyers, judges,
social workers and other professionals whose work is relevant
to economic, social and cultural rights. It further recommends
that the Constitutional Court be established as a matter of
The Committee recommends that the State party regulate the
oil industry more effectively, particularly with respect to
its potentially adverse effects on the environment. The Committee
suggests that the Government encourage diversification of
the economy into other industries and particularly local small
and medium-scale enterprises, which are important for the
means of livelihood of major parts of the population.
The Committee notes that the ability of people to defend their
own economic, social and cultural rights depends significantly
on the availability of public information. Efforts to ensure
accountability and to combat corruption also require such
information in order to be effective. In this regard it is
important that the privatization process should be conducted
in an open and transparent manner and that the conditions
under which oil concessions are granted should always be made
The Committee requests, in the second periodic report of the
State party, detailed information concerning the situation
faced by refugees. The Committee further requests concrete
information concerning any obstacles faced by women in the
protection of their economic, social and cultural rights.
The Committee urges the Government to work with the informal
sector and seek to regulate it, rather than eliminate it,
as it serves as a means of sustenance for a large number of
persons. Some work in this sector may potentially grow into
micro-enterprises. The Committee suggests that those engaged
in this sector should be able to benefit from low-interest
loans and credit incentives such as those that are being provided
to small businesses.
The Committee requests detailed information on mechanisms
relating to the right to form and join trade unions. In the
next report, it requests clarification of the meaning attributed
to "political activities" prohibited in the 1994 Law on Trade
Unions. The Committee agrees with the views of the ILO Committee
of Experts that the categories of workers prohibited from
exercising their right to strike should be limited to only
those fields where a strike would result in life-threatening
The Committee requests specific information on pension benefits,
particularly how the difference between pension benefits and
the minimum requirements for sustenance is reconciled and
how, for persons who do not meet the minimum required years
of employment, the size of their pensions is affected.
The Committee recommends that the State party address in a
more efficient and focused manner the housing needs of its
population, especially the disadvantaged groups, and that
it devote a substantial proportion of its budget to creating
conditions leading to a higher number of people being adequately
housed, in accordance with the Committee's General Comment
The Committee draws the attention of the State party to the
importance of collecting data relating to the practice of
forced evictions and of enacting legislation concerning the
rights of tenants to security of tenure, in monitoring the
right to adequate housing.
The Committee recommends that effective control be placed
on inter-State adoption of children with a view to preventing
sexual and other forms of exploitation. The Government should
ensure that all women receive adequate medical care during
pregnancy and childbirth. The Committee requests detailed
information on the effect on women of the proposed three-tier
The Committee recommends that the Government address as a
matter of utmost urgency the basic needs of the population,
including safe drinking water, food, affordable housing and
health care. The Committee requests detailed information on
measures being taken or envisaged for the protection of vulnerable
groups, including especially children who do not have a family,
single parents, the unemployed, and women who are victims
of crimes of violence.
The Committee recommends that resources be allocated to ensure
that national educational standards are strictly observed.
It urges the Government to address the weakening educational
system, which is having a disproportionate effect on the poor.
The Committee encourages the Government to reflect the spirit
of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education in
its educational curricula and to submit information in this
regard to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Human Rights.
The Committee recommends that the proposal for technical cooperation
(for strengthening capacities and infrastructure for human
rights protection and promotion) which is currently under
review take fully into consideration the need to strengthen
the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. It
encourages the State party to continue to seek international
assistance, including that offered by non-governmental aid
organizations, in all areas where assistance is needed.
Finally, the Committee recommends that the concerns expressed
in the present concluding observations, as well as the issues
raised during the discussion of the initial report which remained
unanswered, be addressed in the State party's second periodic
report, and it urges the State party to disseminate widely
the present concluding observations adopted by the Committee
following its consideration of the State party's initial report.