Decisions adopted by the Committee at its twelfth session : . 19/05/95.
Convention Abbreviation: CESCR
A. Decisions adopted by the Committee at its twelfth session
Follow-up to recommendations of the Commission on Human Rights
1. Seminar with the international financial institutions
345. In 1992, the recommendations contained in the final report of the Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities on the realization of economic, social and cultural rights emphasized the importance of involving the World Bank and IMF in discussions in relation to the promotion of those rights (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1992/16, para. 238). This proposal was taken up by the Sub-Commission in its resolution 1992/29 (para. 11 (c)). Subsequently, the Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution 1993/14 (para. 18), requested the Secretary-General "to invite the international financial institutions to consider the possibility of organizing an expert seminar on the role of the financial institutions in the realization of economic, social and cultural rights". At its ninth session, in 1993, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights endorsed this proposal "in very strong terms" and urged "that every effort should be made to organize such a seminar" (E/1994/23-E/C.12/1993/19, p. 78, para. 388).
346. Correspondence ensued between the Centre for Human Rights and the World Bank in which the latter expressed its willingness to assist in that endeavour. Since that time, despite the adoption of two further resolutions by the Commission (resolution 1994/20, para. 17, and resolution 1995/15, para. 17), nothing has eventuated.
347. The Committee deeply regrets the continuing and unacceptable delays involved and calls upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights to take immediate action to give effect to the repeated recommendations of the Commission. The Committee believes that it would be entirely appropriate for such a seminar to be held, on the basis of expert participation from the concerned bodies, and for subsequent consideration to be given to the holding of a public seminar.
2. Seminars on indicators for economic, social and cultural rights
348. The Committee also notes that one of the very few specific recommendations relating to economic, social and cultural rights endorsed by the World Conference on Human Rights concerned the importance of using indicators as a means of measuring or assessing progress in the realization of human rights. Pursuant to this endorsement, the Commission on Human Rights recommended that "the Centre for Human Rights convene expert seminars for chairpersons of the human rights treaty-monitoring bodies and representatives of specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations, as well as representatives of States, focused on specific economic, social and cultural rights, with a view to clarifying the particular content of these rights" (resolution 1994/20, para. 9). Despite this request, no such seminars were held in the course of 1994. The Commission therefore reiterated its recommendation in its resolution 1995/15 (para. 9). The Committee has not been consulted in any way in relation to this initiative and, as far as can be ascertained, the Centre for Human Rights has still not undertaken the organization of even one such seminar.
349. In view of the extraordinarily limited resources devoted by the Centre for Human Rights to the only body dealing expressly with economic, social and cultural rights within the entire United Nations system, the Committee calls upon the Centre to take immediate steps to rectify this situation and requests the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights to report to the Committee at its thirteenth session as to the arrangements that have been made.
Staffing for the Committee
350. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has for the past several years sought to draw attention to the fact that there is not a single specialist in these rights within the Centre for Human Rights. As a result, the Committee has been unable to call upon any specialist expertise for any of its many research and related needs. It considers this situation to be a negation of the oft-proclaimed equality of the two sets of rights and calls upon the Secretary-General to take urgent measures designed to ensure the availability of, at the very least, a minimal amount of expert assistance to the Committee.
Office facilities for members of the treaty bodies
351. For the past seven years the Committee, as well as the regular biennial meetings of persons chairing the human rights treaty bodies, have persistently called for both the establishment of a resource and documentation facility and the provision of an office for use by members of the treaty bodies when their committees are in session in Geneva. The Committee is delighted to note that some progress has been promised in relation to the former proposal. It regrets, however, that successive heads of the Centre for Human Rights have made no attempt to provide any facilities whatsoever for the members of the treaty bodies. The result is that there is no place to leave voluminous and often confidential or private papers except in the conference rooms, which remain entirely open to the public. There is no place to leave equipment such as laptop computers, and no place to obtain access to a computer or a printer. There is not even a place where expert members may obtain access to copies of the Committee's own past documentation.
352. The situation could be remedied by setting aside a single office, with several lockable desks in it, a computer and a printer, and some basic documentation for use by the 97 members of the various treaty bodies when they are in Geneva. While the Committee recognizes the shortage of office space available to the Centre, it does not accept the implied position of the Centre that the treaty bodies can be given no access whatsoever to even the most basic facilities. The Committee calls upon the Centre to reconsider this matter urgently.
Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace (Beijing, 1995) and United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) (Istanbul, 1996)
353. The Committee emphasizes the importance which it attaches to the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace. For this reason it appointed a drafting group during its twelfth session which was responsible for the preparation of a statement for the Committee to consider sending to the Conference as an official document both of the Committee and of the Conference. The group consisted of Mrs. Virginia Bonoan-Dandan, Mrs. María de los Angeles Jiménez Butragueño and Mr. Juan Alvarez Vita. The statement, as revised, was adopted by the Committee and is contained in annex VI to the present report. In view of the importance of the Conference and the central relevance of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to its work, the Committee believes that it is essential that it be represented at the Conference by its Rapporteur, Mrs. Bonoan-Dandan, as well as by Mrs. Jiménez Butragueño. It asks the Secretariat to make all the necessary arrangements to facilitate their attendance.
354. The Committee also takes note of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), to be held in June 1996. It decided to request one of its members, Mr. Philippe Texier, to draft a statement to be adopted by the Committee at its thirteenth session with a view to its being transmitted to the meeting of the Preparatory Committee, as well as to the Conference itself. The statement will, in particular, emphasize the importance which the Committee attaches to full implementation of the right to adequate housing, which is recognized in a wide range of international instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It will also note the importance of ensuring that the general policy framework for the Conference takes full account of the importance of that human right.
Draft optional protocol
355. The Committee held a brief discussion on this issue at its twelfth session and agreed to request Mr. Philip Alston to submit a revised report to it at its thirteenth session. The report should reflect the discussions held at the Committee's eleventh and twelfth sessions and provide the basis on which the Committee could complete its consideration of this matter, with a view to forwarding a final report to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-second session.
Day of general discussion
356. The Committee decided that, in view of the time pressures to which it would be subject at its thirteenth session, it would devote its day of general discussion to the adoption of its report on a draft optional protocol. In order to ensure the availability of as much time as possible for this purpose, the Committee decided that participation by non-members of the Committee should be extremely limited.
Draft general comment
357. The Committee continued its examination of a draft general comment on the economic, social and cultural rights of older persons. It adopted paragraphs 1 to 20, as revised, on first reading. The Committee decided to continue its examination of the draft at its thirteenth session and to make a particular effort to complete its adoption at that time. It requested various of its members to examine the draft in relation to specific articles of the Covenant and to forward their observations as soon as possible to Mrs. Jiménez Butragueño, in order to enable her to present a revised draft to the Committee at its thirteenth session.
358. The Committee noted that Mr. B. Simma had undertaken to prepare the first draft of a general comment on the application of the Covenant in domestic law and that Mr. P. Alston would prepare a draft general comment on the right to health.
359. The Committee attached particular importance to the need to publicize its work and to undertake public information initiatives designed to improve understanding of the Covenant and the Committee's role in relation to it. The Committee recalled that it had requested more than two years earlier that the Fact Sheet on economic, social and cultural rights, which it considered to be superficial and unhelpful, should be thoroughly revised and reissued. It noted with regret that no progress had been made in that regard and, once again, called upon the Centre for Human Rights to take the necessary measures as soon as possible.
360. Representatives of the Committee held a very constructive meeting during its twelfth session with Ms. Thérèse Gastaut, Director of the Information Service at the United Nations Office at Geneva, in relation to the Committee's request that a video be prepared which would provide an illustration of the way in which the Committee fulfils its principal role of considering the reports of States parties. The Committee was informed that the proposal, made in December 1994, had reached the Department of Public Information too late to be included in the 1996-1997 programme budget for the Department. The Director indicated, however, that existing resources would permit the work of the Committee to be featured in "World Chronicle", a regularly produced 30-minute television programme, and in "UN in Action", a three-minute feature produced weekly. It was agreed that full advantage should be taken of these opportunities. In addition, it was agreed that a brief video, of perhaps five minutes' duration, could be prepared during the course of 1995 from within existing resources. This would draw on available archival material and some filming of the Committee's session in November-December 1995. The Committee expresses its appreciation for these very helpful responses to its request.
361. It was also agreed that, in future, a press release containing some background information on the Committee and an indication of the main issues to be dealt with in relation to a specific country report would be issued by the United Nations Information Centre in the reporting country at least one month before the report was to be examined by the Committee. A copy of the report would be made available at the same time to the information centre in question and the summary records relating to the consideration of the report would be provided subsequently.
Access to specialized expertise
362. The Committee also decided that it would renew its request to the Economic and Social Council for an allocation in the amount of $10,000 annually, within the overall budget of the Centre for Human Rights, to enable the Committee to bring in specialists to participate in its days of general discussion and to commission papers dealing with those technical dimensions of its work which required expert elaboration. Such funds would not be spent on members of the Committee and would be committed only with the approval of the head of the Centre for Human Rights. The Committee believed that such an allocation would enable it to operate more efficiently and to undertake more work towards the elaboration of indicators, as recommended by both the Commission on Human Rights and the World Conference on Human Rights.
363. The Committee recalled that it had on several occasions in the past drawn attention to the fact that, while each member of other equivalent human rights treaty bodies received an honorarium, its members did not. It requested the Economic and Social Council to remedy this situation and for that purpose the Committee decided to include the issue in a draft decision to be proposed to the Council.
364. The Committee noted that its workload in recent years had consistently required it to hold two sessions annually but that that had had to be approved on an exceptional basis on each occasion. It noted that no other committee (except the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which had proposed an amendment to the text of the Convention in question in order to increase the number of sessions held each year) was able to carry out its responsibilities in a single annual session. In view of the fact that it was clearly unable to discharge its responsibilities on the basis of a single annual session, the Committee requested the Economic and Social Council to authorize it to hold, on a regular basis, two sessions per year, each of three weeks' duration. It noted that it had scheduled its pre-sessional working group meetings to follow its sessions in order to conserve resources through the elimination of additional air fares. The Committee took note in that regard of the statement of financial implications provided by the secretariat.
Role of non-governmental organizations
365. The Committee reaffirmed the importance which it attached to the receipt of detailed and reliable information from non-governmental organizations. It noted that its own deliberations had been greatly assisted in those cases in which pertinent information had been available from domestic NGOs based in the reporting State. Conversely, the Committee regretted the lack of such information in other cases, particularly in relation to those countries in which there was a lively civil society but in which, for whatever reason, the relevant groups appeared to be unaware of the Committee's work. It noted that, for example, in recent consideration of reports submitted by Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom, no information had been provided to the Committee by domestic NGOs. For that reason, it requested its secretariat to make a greater effort to inform relevant NGO groups based in States whose reports were scheduled for consideration by the Committee. Such notification should be undertaken at the earliest possible moment on the basis of a letter from the Chairperson inviting NGOs to submit relevant information, preferably in time to be taken into account by the pre-sessional working group. The letter should be accompanied by a copy of the report of the State party, a copy of chapter III of the Committee's annual report outlining the procedures followed by the Committee, and any other pertinent information.
Consideration of the situation in non-reporting States parties
366. In accordance with its long-standing policy of requesting reports from States parties which ratified the Covenant many years ago and have failed to submit any reports, as required under the Covenant, the Committee decided to consider at its fourteenth session the situation in Guinea, which ratified in 1978 and whose initial report was due in 1980, and in Sri Lanka, which ratified in 1980 and whose initial report was due in 1982. The Committee expressed the hope that each of those States would be able to submit a report as soon as possible, but decided that it would, in the absence of any such report, proceed to a detailed examination of the situation in each State party on the basis of all available information.
367. The Committee agreed that, despite the time pressures involved, it would consider at its thirteenth session reports from five States parties, namely Ukraine, Colombia, Norway, Mauritius and Algeria. It resolved to consider making use of sessional working groups for purposes yet to be determined.
368. In view of the importance of ensuring that the Committee followed up on all the specific recommendations it made, both those relating to its own work and those relating to the reports of States parties, the Committee requested its secretariat to provide it at each session with a document giving a brief indication of all outstanding requests of a specific nature to which responses had not been received.