Decisions adopted by the Committee at its thirteenth session : . 08/12/95.
Convention Abbreviation: CESCR
B. Decisions adopted by the Committee at its thirteenth session
Methods of work
369. The Committee was informed by Mr. A. Bahi, Chief of the Conference Service at the United Nations Office at Geneva, about the implications of the grave budgetary crisis besetting the Organization, including for the activities of the human rights treaty bodies. In response to this situation, the Committee will make every effort to reduce costs, without jeopardizing the quality of its work. The Committee draws attention to the fact that it decided several years ago to discontinue its earlier practice of including in its annual report to ECOSOC summaries of its dialogue with the representatives of reporting States. Consequently, the size of these reports has been reduced by almost half. The Committee points out, however, that this measure was made possible only by the existence of summary records of its proceedings, which would allow States and interested observers to trace how the Committee arrived at its concluding observations on States parties' reports. For this reason, the Committee insists that such summary records must continue to be produced by the Secretariat.
370. With regard to the size of reports submitted by States parties to the Covenant, the Committee realizes that the costs of translating these reports into all official languages of the United Nations constitute a major component of the overall expenditure required for monitoring the implementation of the Covenant. The Committee maintains that in each case a careful balance should be struck between the imperatives of comprehensiveness, on the one hand, and the necessity to reduce costs, on the other. It considers that, aside from exceptional instances (such as complicated federal structures within a State party), especially in the case of consecutive reports and in view of the practice of submitting identical core documents to all human rights treaty bodies, a report of around 100 pages should be sufficient, if prepared in accordance with the Committee's revised guidelines, to give a concise picture of the state of the implementation of the Covenant in the country concerned. On the more practical side, the editorial work to be performed by the Secretariat would be greatly facilitated if States submitted the manuscripts of their reports double-spaced and, where such reports were produced on computers, if they supplied the Secretariat with a computer diskette.
Consideration of States parties' reports
371. The Committee noted with appreciation that, for the first time, all States parties whose reports were considered during the thirteenth session complied with the Committee's recommendation to submit written replies to the lists of issues made available to the States parties concerned well in advance of each session. This allowed the Committee to have a more constructive dialogue with reporting States and to concentrate on the most important issues in the course of the consideration of the reports. It also facilitated the task of States parties' delegations in presenting their reports before the Committee. The Committee therefore reiterated its recommendation to States parties to comply with this procedure.
Economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development
372. For many years, the Committee has followed with interest activities within the United Nations system related to the Declaration on the Right to Development, particularly those carried out by the Working Group on the Right to Development of the Commission on Human Rights. During its ninth session (December 1993), the Committee met with Mr. Mohamed Ennaceur, Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Development, who emphasized the significance which the Working Group attached to the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights within the comprehensive framework laid down by the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development. The Committee, for its part, expressed its wish to collaborate closely with the Working Group on the Right to Development.
373. At its thirteenth session, the Committee considered the report of the Working Group on the Right to Development on its fifth session, paying particular attention to the suggestions and recommendations contained therein. The Committee noted the emphasis placed in the report on the close relationship that exists between economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development, the realization of the latter being greatly conditioned by the level of realization of the rights set forth in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
374. The Committee, conscious of the role conferred on it by the Economic and Social Council in monitoring the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant by, at present, 133 States parties and in response to the recommendations formulated in the report of the Working Group on the Right to Development, adopted the following recommendations for consideration by the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-second session with a view to ensuring the effective implementation of the Declaration on the Right to Development:
(a) Institutional aspect (monitoring)
375. The Committee, conscious of the interrelationship that exists between the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Declaration on the Right to Development, as highlighted in the recommendations of the Working Group on the Right to Development, considers that economic, social and cultural rights, on the one hand, and the right to development, on the other hand, are mutually reinforcing concepts; that the realization of the former results in an effective realization of the latter, and vice versa. Accordingly, the Committee considers that monitoring of the implementation of the Declaration on the Right to Development should be carried out together with that of the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee expresses its willingness in principle to assume, at the appropriate moment, the responsibility of monitoring the implementation by Member States of the United Nations of the Declaration on the Right to Development, in addition to its current mandate as defined by the Economic and Social Council in its resolution 1985/17.
(b) Functional aspect
376. Should the Committee be entrusted with monitoring the implementation of the Declaration on the Right to Development, it will report, through the Commission on Human Rights, to the Economic and Social Council on progress made in the realization, at the national level, of the Declaration on the Right to Development.
Gender perspective in the work of the Committee
377. Within the framework of its discussion of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (A/CONF.177/20, chap. I), adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Committee considered the following documents: report of an Expert Group meeting on the development of guidelines on the integration of gender perspectives into United Nations human rights activities and programmes (E/CN.4/1996/105); a paper prepared by the Division for the Advancement of Women (Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, New York) on the incorporation of a gender perspective into the work of the United Nations human rights regime; report of the sixth meeting of persons chairing human rights treaty bodies (A/50/505); gender-specific information provided by the Division for the Advancement of Women and relating to the reports of two States parties considered by the Committee at its thirteenth session.
378. The Committee also heard statements by Mrs. Virginia Bonoan-Dandan and Mrs. María de los Angeles Jiménez Butragueño, who represented the Committee at the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace, held at Beijing from 4 to 15 September 1995. Mrs. Bonoan-Dandan also served as Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Expert Group meeting referred to above.
379. The Committee reaffirmed the importance it has always attached to the integration of gender perspectives in all aspects of its work. The Revised General Guidelines adopted by the Committee in 1990 call for the provision of disaggregated data and information on the particular situation of women, under relevant articles of the Covenant. The Committee's long-standing concern for the enjoyment and protection of the economic, social and cultural rights of women is further emphasized in the formulation of its lists of issues and in the oral questions raised during consideration of States parties' reports.
380. In the context of follow-up action to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, of the recommendations adopted by the sixth meeting of chairpersons of treaty bodies concerning gender issues, and in the light of its own experience, the Committee is willing to assume the task of identifying the gender-specific issues arising under each of the substantive articles of the Covenant. This may lead to the formulation of a general comment and eventually to a revision of the Committee's reporting guidelines in order to assist States parties in providing adequate information on the enjoyment of the economic, social and cultural rights of women and the girl child.
General Comment No. 6 (1995) on the economic, social and cultural rights of older persons
381. The Committee considered the draft general comment on the economic, social and cultural rights of older persons, submitted by Mrs. Jiménez Butragueño. After a lengthy discussion, the Committee adopted the General Comment and decided to publish it as an annex to the present report (see annex IV) and to express its gratitude to Mrs. Jiménez Butragueño for her work.
382. At its thirteenth session, the Committee continued its discussion of a draft optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It noted with appreciation the contribution made to that discussion by ILO and a number of non-governmental organizations, which had submitted written statements to the Committee on the subject. The Committee decided to continue its consideration of a draft optional protocol at its fourteenth session with a view to finalizing its work.
Day of general discussion
383. The Committee decided that it would devote its day of general discussion to be held on Monday, 13 May 1996 to its consideration of a draft optional protocol. The Committee also decided to invite representatives of States parties to attend that meeting and to take part in the discussion. The Committee requested Mr. P. Alston to submit a revised version of his report on a draft optional protocol not later than 1 March 1996.
Secretariat working papers on the World Summit for Social Development and the Fourth World Conference on Women
384. The Committee took note of two working papers prepared by the Secretariat, dealing with the implications for the work of the Committee of the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development (A/CONF.166/9, chap. I) adopted by the World Summit for Social Development, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women. The Committee regards these documents as a useful basis for discussion of the issues concerned at its next sessions. It therefore requests the Secretariat to make them available in all working languages for its May 1996 session.
Publication of the Committee's annual report
385. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the Secretariat for the timely publication of its annual report, which was issued prior to its twelfth session (May 1995) following the recommendation adopted by the Committee at its eleventh session. The Committee hopes that this encouraging practice will continue and calls upon the relevant services to do their utmost to ensure publication of its report immediately after its adoption in December so that it may be made available to the Commission on Human Rights at its session now scheduled to be held in March-April.
United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II)
386. The Committee emphasizes the importance which it attaches to the effective realization of the right to housing as enshrined in article 11, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It has followed with great attention the preparatory process for the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), to be held at Istanbul in June 1996, especially the debate with regard to the right to housing. At its twelfth session, the Committee appointed Mr. P. Texier to draft a position paper on that issue for the Committee's consideration at its thirteenth session. That statement was adopted by the Committee at its thirteenth session and is contained in annex VIII to the present report. The Committee decided to transmit that statement, together with a letter sent by its Chairperson to Mr. Wally N'Dow, Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, to the Preparatory Committee for the Conference at its next session and to the Conference itself.
387. In view of the importance of the Conference and the central relevance of the Covenant to its work, the Committee designated Mr. P. Texier to represent it at the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) and asked the Secretariat to make all the necessary arrangements to facilitate his attendance.
Relations with other human rights treaty bodies
388. At its thirteenth session, the Committee held a discussion with the Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in the context of improving cooperation and relations with other treaty bodies. The Committee recommended that a seminar of representatives from all the treaty bodies should be organized, with the participation of outside experts, to discuss areas of mutual concern and to develop further strategies of cooperation. A discussion of methods of work would focus on the question of avoiding overlapping in the monitoring of the implementation of human rights treaties.
389. The Committee expressed its interest in the studies being conducted by an independent research group on developing indicators relating to the various articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Cooperation with specialized agencies
390. The Committee emphasized the great value which it attaches to cooperation with specialized agencies, whose contribution, in accordance with the Covenant, is of vital importance to the work of the Committee. In this context, it noted with appreciation the submission of the twentieth report of ILO. It regrets that UNESCO has submitted only one such report and FAO none at all during the Committee's existence.
391. The Committee also noted with regret that, except for ILO, none of the specialized agencies was present at its thirteenth session.
392. The Committee reiterated its standing request for specialized agencies to attend its sessions and to contribute, both in writing and through oral statements, to its work in monitoring the implementation of the Covenant. The Committee extended its invitation to the specialized agencies concerned to attend and provide information to the Committee's pre-sessional working group at its first meeting.
Reinforcement of the secretariat servicing of the Committee
393. The Committee has, for a number of years, emphasized in its reports the need for adequate secretariat support and requested the Secretary-General to provide it with the services of a full-time expert in the field, in addition to its Secretary. The Committee is dissatisfied that additional professional assistance has not been provided to the Committee pursuant to its recommendations and to paragraph 16 of Commission on Human Rights resolution 1995/22, in which the Commission requested the Secretary-General to provide the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights with additional means to deal effectively and in a timely manner with their increasing workload. In this regard, the Committee emphasizes that its workload has increased significantly over the past few years, and that for this reason the Economic and Social Council authorized it to hold two regular sessions per year and two pre-sessional working group meetings (eight weeks in total per year). This will also increase the workload of the secretariat and make even more urgent the Committee's requests for more staff.
394. In the light of the foregoing, the Committee requests the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that the necessary measures are taken to implement the recommendations referred to above and report on the action taken to the Committee at its fourteenth session, in May 1996.
Support of non-governmental organizations for the Committee
395. The Committee emphasized once more the importance which it attaches to cooperation with non-governmental organizations. In this connection, it notes with satisfaction their increasing participation in the Committee's work and the constructive contribution made at the thirteenth session, above all by national NGOs.
396. The Committee notes that, since its inception, the NGOs which have participated in its work specialize essentially in human rights issues; few NGOs or groups concerned with development have shown an interest in the Committee's work, or even in the Covenant itself. Yet development issues are closely tied in with the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
397. The Committee therefore considers that NGOs engaged in the protection of human rights should work together with development NGOs and envisage establishing a liaison body that would work on economic, social and cultural rights. The objectives of such a body could include the following:
- To coordinate activities connected with economic, social and cultural rights among actors outside the United Nations;
- To cooperate with the United Nations Centre for Human Rights;
- To provide help and assistance to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in monitoring the implementation of the Covenant. This could be done in a way similar to the assistance provided by NGOs to the Committee on the Rights of the Child;
- To provide assistance to national NGOs working for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights and to development NGOs, so as to help them institute programmes which guarantee for the beneficiaries the exercise of their economic, social and cultural rights, in conformity with the provisions of the Covenant.
Publicity for the Committee's work
398. The Committee welcomed the efforts of the Department of Public Information to publicize the Committee's work, following decisions taken at a meeting with Ms. T. Gastaut, Director of the Information Service at the United Nations Office at Geneva, during the Committee's twelfth session. The Committee expressed appreciation for the fact that a detailed background press release, highlighting aspects of the country reports under consideration and indicating the main issues to be dealt with, had been issued prior to the Committee's thirteenth session and distributed by the Information Service to the United Nations Information Centres in the reporting countries. The Committee noted with appreciation that, beginning with its twelfth session, its concluding observations are now faxed at the end of each session to the United Nations Information Centres in the countries whose reports have been considered. The Committee also acknowledged other steps already taken by the Department of Public Information, in particular the television coverage of the Committee's work, and encouraged the Department to explore further possibilities to make the work of the Committee known to a wide public.