1. The Committee
considered the state of implementation by the Republic of the Congo
of the economic, social and cultural rights contained in the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at its 16th and 17th
meetings, held on 5 May 2000 (twenty-second session), and adopted,
at its 22nd meeting, held on 10 May 2000, the following concluding
2. At its
seventh session, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
decided to proceed to a consideration of the state of implementation
of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
in a number of States parties which, despite many requests to do so,
had not fulfilled their reporting obligations under articles 16 and
17 of the Covenant.
the reporting system established by the Covenant States parties report
to the competent monitoring body, i.e. the Committee on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights, and through it to the Economic and Social
Council, on the measures which have been adopted, the progress made,
and the difficulties encountered in complying with the rights recognized
in the Covenant. Non-compliance by a State party with its reporting
obligations, in addition to constituting a breach of the Covenant,
creates a serious obstacle to the fulfilment of the Committee's functions.
Nevertheless, the Committee still has to perform its supervisory role,
and it must do so on the basis of all reliable information available
in situations where a Government has not supplied the Committee with
any information on its compliance with its obligations under the Covenant,
the Committee has to base its observations on a variety of materials
from both intergovernmental and non-governmental sources. While the
former provide mainly statistical information and important economic
and social indicators, the information gathered from the relevant
academic literature, from non-governmental organizations and from
the press tends, by its very nature, to be more critical of the political,
economic and social conditions in the countries concerned. Under normal
circumstances, the constructive dialogue between a reporting State
party and the Committee will provide an opportunity for the Government
to present its own views and to seek to refute any criticism, and
to demonstrate to the Committee that its policy conform to the requirements
of the Covenant.
fully understanding the difficulties the Republic of the Congo is
presently encountering in its efforts to comply with its reporting
obligations under the Covenant, the Committee recalls that the Republic
of the Congo has been a party to the Covenant since 5 January 1984
and has not yet submitted its initial report.
6. The Committee
expresses its appreciation for the presence of a high-level delegation
on 5 May 2000, which engaged in a constructive dialogue with the Committee
during two meetings. The Committee also appreciates the openness and
candor with which the delegation replied to questions from the Committee
members, and its willingness to provide information to the best of
its ability. Nevertheless, the Committee wishes to emphasize that
the presence of the delegation and its dialogue with the Committee,
in the absence of a written report, cannot be considered as compliance
with the State party's obligation to submit a written report under
articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant.
in mind the difficult general situation in the Republic of the Congo,
the Committee deems it necessary to confine its concluding observations
to an assessment of its dialogue with the delegation with respect
to the current status of economic, social and cultural rights in the
country. The Committee further considers that, in view of the failure
of the State party to submit a written report, as well as the need
for technical assistance to be offered to the State party to enable
it to comply with its reporting obligations, the Committee's concluding
observations can only be of a very preliminary nature.
and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Covenant
8. The Committee
takes note of the violent political unrest that has plagued the Republic
of the Congo intermittently since its independence. The consequences
of this political unrest have been disastrous for the situation in
the country in general, and on the enjoyment of economic, social,
cultural, civil and political human rights in particular.
9. The Committee
also takes into account the massive population displacements caused
by the violence during the 1997-1999 civil war, which seriously disrupted
the functioning of the State public services, economic activity and
social stability. The damage inflicted by the civil war has been tentatively
estimated at approximately 55 per cent of the gross domestic product
projected for 2000.
10. The Committee
is also aware of the negative impacts of the fluctuation in oil revenues
and of the State-led development policies on the present financial
situation of the Republic of the Congo.
11. The Committee
is particularly concerned that the external debt was estimated to
be over US$ 5 billion at the end of 1998 which, for a population of
2.9 million people, amounted to a per capita debt of almost US$ 1,700.
C. Positive aspects
12. The Committee
notes with satisfaction that two agreements to cease hostilities were
signed between the Government and the various militia groups in November
and December 1999, and expresses the hope that the process of national
reconciliation that has been initiated will bring about political
and social stability and will allow economic, social and cultural
rights to be respected to a greater degree.
13. The Committee
commends the State party for its ratification in November 1999 of
a considerable number of basic International Labour Conventions: the
Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81), the Right to Organize
and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), the Equal Remuneration
Convention, 1951 (No. 100), the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention
(No. 105), Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention,
1957 (No. 111), the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138) and the
Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155).
14. The Committee
expresses its satisfaction at the return to their places of origin
of a large number of internally displaced persons and hopes that this
process will continue in a peaceful manner.
15. The Committee
notes with appreciation that at the request of the Government, specialized
agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World
Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund (IMF), as well as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),
are assisting the Republic of the Congo in addressing its innumerable
problems, as follows:
(a) In 1998,
the IMF decided to provide the Congo with a special post-conflict
recovery credit of US$ 10 million; the IMF also indicated that health,
education and social spending were at the top of the expenditure priority
has undertaken a number of humanitarian activities relating, inter
alia, to the following: emergency epidemiological surveillance
in the 21 areas with internally displaced persons in Brazzaville;
technical support for water and sanitation and for the provision of
essential medicines; and technical support for and provision of safe
is presently carrying out four operational projects in the Congo,
of which three are technical cooperation programmes funded by FAO,
relating to the provision of urgent agricultural inputs, rehabilitation
of agricultural statistical systems and supporting legislation on
the fauna. The fourth project is concerned with the provision of urgent
agricultural inputs and support for coordination, funded by the Government
D. Principal subjects of concern
16. The Committee
expresses its deep concern regarding the abrogation of the Constitution
in October 1997 by the Government of President Denis Sassou-Ngueso,
resulting in a legal vacuum which has been detrimental to the enjoyment
of economic, social and cultural rights by the citizens of the Republic
of the Congo. The "Fundamental Act", which was adopted to replace
the Constitution, cannot guarantee the enjoyment of these rights.
17. The Committee
is equally concerned about discrimination against women. Marriage
and family laws overtly discriminate against women (for instance,
adultery is illegal for women but, in certain circumstances, not for
men; while the Legal Code provides that 30 per cent of the deceased
husband's estate goes to the wife, in practice the wife often loses
all rights of inheritance). Domestic violence, including rape and
beatings, is widespread but rarely reported, and there are no legal
provisions for punishing the offenders. Furthermore, despite the provision
in Congolese legislation that endorses the principle of equal pay
for equal work, women in the formal sector are under-represented and
encounter discriminatory promotion patterns. Women in rural areas
are especially disadvantaged in terms of education and employment
conditions, including wages.
regard to ethnic minorities, the Committee has discerned a similar
pattern. The Pygmies do not enjoy equal treatment in the predominantly
Bantu society. Pygmies are severely marginalized in the areas of employment,
health and education, and are usually considered socially inferior.
19. The Committee
is gravely concerned about a number of labour-related issues in the
Congo. As a result of the abrogation of the Constitution, many constitutional
provisions concerning the right to work and to just and favourable
conditions of work are not in effect, such as provisions prohibiting
forced and bonded labour by children under the age of 16 and those
providing for reasonable pay, paid holidays, periodic paid vacation
and legal limits on allowable hours of work.
20. The Committee
is also concerned about the negative effects on the food supply of
the violence, population displacements and disruption of production
and marketing activities, as noted by FAO. Import requirements for
the year 2000 in respect of wheat, rice and coarse grains are expected
to be approximately 140,000 tonnes, accounting for 97 per cent of
total consumption. The United Nations Development Programme, Human
Development Report, 1999 indicates that the daily per capita
intake of food in the Congo is 2,107 calories, which is just below
the level for countries categorized as having a low human development
ratio (2,145 calories). The proportion of the undernourished among
the population has increased from 29 per cent in the period 1979-1981
to 34 per cent in 1995-1997.
21. The Committee
expresses its grave concern regarding the decline of the standard
of health in the Congo. The AIDS epidemic is taking a heavy toll on
the country, while the ongoing financial crisis has resulted in a
serious shortage of funds for public health services, and for improving
the water and sanitation infrastructure in urban areas. The war has
caused serious damage to health facilities in Brazzaville. According
to a joint study by WHO and UNAIDS, some 100,000 Congolese, including
over 5,000 children, were affected by HIV at the beginning of 1997.
More than 80,000 people are thought to have died from AIDS, with 11,000
deaths reported in 1997 alone. Some 45,000 children are said to have
lost either their mother or both parents as a result of the epidemic.
22. In addition,
the Committee is concerned that as a result of the violence and the
ensuing massive displacements, epidemics of diseases such as cholera
and diarrhoea have occurred. Furthermore, owing to the disruption
to the infrastructure of the country, including transportation and
communications, humanitarian aid organizations have limited access
to displaced groups outside Brazzaville.
23. The Committee
is profoundly dissatisfied with the education system in the Congo.
Although the Congo used to have quite a developed education system,
that has seriously deteriorated as a result of economic mismanagement,
the shortage of resources and political unrest. According to the delegation,
there are fewer children enrolling in school, a shortage of teachers
and teaching materials, and the school buildings are in a deplorable
E. Suggestions and recommendations
24. The Committee
draws the State party's attention to the fact that the Covenant creates
a legal obligation for all States parties to submit their initial
and periodic reports and that the Republic of the Congo has been in
breach of this obligation for many years.
25. The Committee
urges the State party to adopt a Constitution, in order to ensure
that the people of the Republic, and particularly the most vulnerable
and marginalized groups of society, enjoy their economic, social and
cultural rights. It should also take appropriate measures, to guarantee,
inter alia, the prohibition of discrimination, the elimination
of forced or bonded labour, particularly of children under 16 years
of age, and conditions for the enjoyment of the right to work, such
as equal pay for equal work for men and women. The Committee would
like to point out that these issues should be brought to the attention
of ILO, with which the Government of the Congo is presently negotiating
concerning follow-up measures to recently ratified ILO Conventions
and possible technical cooperation programmes.
26. The Committee
urges the State party to address the inequalities affecting women
in society with a view to eliminating them, inter alia by adopting
and enforcing appropriate legislative and administrative measures.
27. The Committee
also urges the State party to adopt measures in order to fully integrate
Pygmies into Congolese society, so that they may fully enjoy their
economic, social and cultural rights.
28. The Committee
strongly urges the State party to pay immediate attention to and take
action with respect to the grave health situation in its territory,
with a view to restoring the basic health services, in both urban
and rural areas, and to preventing and combating HIV/AIDS and other
communicable diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. The Committee
also encourages the Government to work closely with WHO and UNAIDS
in its efforts to cope with these problems.
29. The Committee
urges the State party to pay due attention to the rehabilitation of
the educational infrastructure by allocating the necessary funds for
teachers' salaries, teaching materials and school building repairs.
It also recommends that the State party withdraw its reservation to
article 13, paragraphs 3 and 4, of the Covenant.
30. In accordance
with articles 2 (1) and 23 of the Covenant, the specialized agencies
are invited to provide the Committee with supplementary information
and comments relating to the status and enjoyment of economic, social
and cultural rights in the Republic of the Congo.
31. The Committee
encourages the State party to consult with UNDP and other appropriate
agencies and programmes about the availability of advisory services
and technical cooperation in relation to the formulation and implementation
of a coherent and comprehensive plan of action for the promotion and
protection of human rights. Such a plan should include effective mechanisms
for monitoring and evaluating its realization.
32. The Committee
supports the request by the Government addressed to FAO for a Special
Programme for Food Security (SPFS) to facilitate access to food through
small-scale low-cost agricultural projects. The Committee notes that
a new project formulation mission is planned for the near future to
support the national team in the initial preparations for such a programme.
The Republic of the Congo can also take advantage of the FAO South-South
Cooperation Initiative, which involves the exchange of knowledge,
expertise and experience between developing countries.
33. The Committee
recommends that the Government of the Republic of the Congo avail
itself of the advisory services of the Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights so that it may submit, as soon as possible, a comprehensive
report on the implementation of the Covenant in conformity with the
Committee's revised guidelines and with particular emphasis on the
issues raised and concerns expressed in the present provisional concluding
34. The Committee
looks forward to the submission of the initial report by the Republic
of the Congo and hopes that the constructive dialogue with the Committee,
as well as the information provided by the various specialized agencies
and programmes, will be of use to the Government in complying with
its obligations as a State party to the Covenant.