At its 39th meeting on 24 November 1995 and at its
58th meeting on 8 December 1995, the Committee, as
a follow-up to its technical assistance mission to
Panama, considered the information submitted by a
number of non-governmental human rights organizations
in Panama and adopted the following decision.
The report of the technical assistance mission sent
to Panama from 16 to 22 April 1995 by the Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights marked a new
stage in relations between the Committee and one of
the States parties to the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It marks a new
point of departure in following up the policy of the
Government of Panama in regard to housing.
The Committee welcomes the thrust of the programmes
and measures adopted so far by the Government in regard
to low-cost housing and the suspension of forced evictions,
which were frequent under previous Governments.
The Committee consequently expresses surprise and
concern at the decision taken by the President of
the Republic on 14 August 1995 to exercise his right
to veto the law establishing the minimum size of low-income
dwellings and adopting other provisions. The law had
been approved by the Legislative Assembly in response
to the basic requirement to satisfy the concept of
decent housing, solemnly recognized by the Government
and in keeping with the provisions of the Covenant.
The grounds on which the President's veto was based
seem to indicate an adverse change in social policy,
since the purchasing power of the most disadvantaged
groups and actual prices on the housing market are
adduced as the principal arguments for considering
that the establishment of a minimum size is contrary
to national housing and urban development policy.
In this connection, the Committee considers that any
social housing programme worthy of the name cannot
simply be based on market forces, but must also take
into account criteria which recognize the need to
favour - even provide for - the basic needs of low-income
groups, in particular their right to housing.
Lastly, the Committee remains concerned by the persistent
conflicts between the indigenous communities and landowners
in the Bocas del Toro province, for which a lasting
settlement will not be found until the boundaries
of the comarca of the Ngöbé-Buglé people are