University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights,
Panama, U.N. Doc. E/C.12/1995/18, paras. 306-312 (1995).

306. 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.

307. 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.

308. 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.

309. 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.

310. 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.

311. 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.

312. 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 defined.

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