1. The Committee considered the second periodic report of Belgium
on the implementation of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights (E/1990/6/Add.15) at its 64th, 65th and 66th meetings, held
on 17 and 20 November 2000, and adopted, at its 79th meeting, held
on 28 November 2000, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
welcomes the submission of the second periodic report of the State
party, which was prepared in general in conformity with the Committee's
guidelines. A delegation of officials competent in various fields
provided extensive written and oral replies to the Committee's list
of issues. The Committee welcomes in particular the open and constructive
dialogue with the delegation.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee
notes with satisfaction the positive attitude of the State party towards
the active participation of civil society in promoting and protecting
economic, social and cultural rights, and the fact that the delegation
of the State party invited a representative of a national NGO to address
the Committee during the dialogue.
4. The Committee
also notes with appreciation the State party's indication of its support
for the Committee's work with regard to the draft optional protocol
to the Covenant.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the
5. The Committee
notes with concern that there are not sufficient mechanisms to coordinate
and ensure uniformity of compliance, at both the federal and regional
levels, with the State party's international human rights obligations.
6. The Committee
notes that article 23 of the Constitution represents a step forward
in that it incorporates a number of economic, social and cultural
rights, leaving the guarantee of such rights to statutes and royal
decrees. However, such legislation has so far not been adopted. While
article 23, read in conjunction with other fundamental rights guarantees
of the Belgian Constitution, could be interpreted to be applicable
directly in the domestic legal order, such interpretation still depends
on the exercise of discretion by the national courts.
D. Principal subjects of concern
7. The Committee
regrets that the State party has not established a comprehensive national
plan of action for human rights, in accordance with paragraph 71 of
the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
8. The Committee
also expresses its concern about the lack of an independent national
human rights institution, established in accordance with the Paris
Principles of 1991, which would serve to monitor the entire range
of human rights in the country.
9. The Committee
is deeply concerned that there is no specific legislation which outlaws
acts of xenophobia and racism, and in particular the activities of
right-wing racist political parties, which are increasingly present
on the political scene, especially in Flanders.
10. The Committee
expresses its concern about the discriminatory effects against women
of the so-called "cohabitation rule" in the unemployment insurance
regime of Belgium.
11. The Committee
is also concerned about the persistent gap between the unemployment
rates of men and women and the discrepancy between them with regard
12. The Committee
expresses its concern about the considerable unemployment among young
people and the fact that that State party has not sufficiently addressed
the long-term unemployment of persons over 45 years of age, nor the
situation of those who have been forced into early retirement.
13. The Committee
is also concerned about the phenomena of paedophilia, prostitution
of children, child pornography and violence against children.
14. In the
light of article 28 of the Covenant, the Committee is concerned about
the significant shortage of social housing in Belgium, especially
in Flanders. The Committee is also concerned that larger families,
as well as single-parent and low-income families, are at a disadvantage
in qualifying for such social housing.
15. The Committee
is deeply concerned that the State party has not established adequate
mechanisms to ensure uniformity in the application of educational
standards, including international norms on education, in all regions,
owing to the fact that the regional governments have primary responsibility
in the formulation of educational policy. The Committee also regrets
that the delegation provided uneven information on the implementation
of the right to education in the different regions.
16. The Committee
notes with concern that, in 1998, Belgium devoted only 0.35 per cent
of its gross domestic product (GDP) to international cooperation,
while the United Nations recommendation in this regard is 0.7 per
cent of GDP for industrialized countries.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
17. The Committee
recommends that, in the next periodic report, the State party provide
more details on the mechanisms adopted to coordinate and ensure uniformity
in activities by the various levels of government aimed at complying
with international human rights obligations, in the light of article
28 of the Covenant.
18. The Committee
urges the State party to formulate and adopt a comprehensive plan
of action for human rights, as called for in paragraph 71 of the 1993
Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
19. The Committee
also urges the State party to establish an independent national human
rights institution, in accordance with the Paris Principles of 1991.
20. The Committee
recommends that the State party, having ratified the Covenant, take
appropriate steps to guarantee fully the direct applicability of the
Covenant in the domestic legal order.
21. The Committee
recommends that the State party adopt measures to ensure that xenophobia,
racism and activities of racist organizations, groups or political
parties are outlawed, with a view to complying with the principle
of non-discrimination, set forth in article 2.2 of the Covenant.
22. The Committee
urges the State party to revise the "cohabitation rule" in the unemployment
insurance regime, in order to eliminate its indirect discriminatory
impact on women.
23. The Committee
recommends that the State party undertake more active measures to
address the inequality of employment between men and women and the
discrepancy in wages between them, as well as to promote women's access
to all levels of the labour market.
24. The Committee
encourages the State party to combat unemployment among young people
and the long-term unemployment of workers over the age of 45, through
appropriate vocational and technical training. The Committee would
welcome more information in the State party's next periodic report
on the measures taken and on the results achieved.
25. The Committee
urges the State party to take effective measures to combat paedophilia,
child prostitution, child pornography and violence against children,
and to seek international cooperation in this regard.
26. The Committee
urgently requests more detailed information in the State party's next
periodic report on the situation of social housing in Belgium, especially
in Flanders. The Committee also recommends that the State party take
measures to eliminate the disadvantage of larger families, as well
as of single-parent and low-income families, in qualifying for such
27. The Committee
recommends that the State party establish an adequate mechanism to
monitor and ensure uniformity of educational standards, such as those
arising from international legal obligations, throughout the country.
In addition, the Committee would welcome information in its next periodic
report that reflects adequately and in a balanced manner the situation
of education in all regions and communities.
28. The Committee
requests more information in the State party's next periodic report
concerning the initiative introduced in September 1999 to assist Flemish
secondary school students who are in conflict with the educational
system and, if the initiative has proved successful, the Committee
suggests that consideration be given to its introduction in all the
29. The Committee
looks forward to receiving information from the State party in its
next periodic report on the enjoyment of the right to participate
in and benefit from cultural life, such as access to cultural activities
and cultural property, especially by disadvantaged and marginalized
groups in society, persons with disabilities and older persons.
30. The Committee
recommends that the State party review its budget allocation for international
cooperation with a view to increasing its contribution, in accordance
with the United Nations recommendation.
31. The Committee
encourages the Government of Belgium, as a member of international
organizations, in particular the International Monetary Fund and the
World Bank, to do all it can to ensure that the policies and decisions
of those organizations are in conformity with the obligations of States
parties to the Covenant, in particular the obligations contained in
article 2.1 concerning international assistance and cooperation.
32. The Committee
requests the State party to include in its next periodic report information
on how the State party has taken into consideration the suggestions
and recommendations contained in the present concluding observations.
The Committee looks forward to receiving the third periodic report
of Belgium no later than 30 June 2005.
33. The Committee
encourages the State party to disseminate widely the present concluding