1. The Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered the second periodic
report of Panama on the implementation of the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/1990/6/Add.24) at its 36th
meeting (E/C.12/2001/SR.36), held on 16 August 2001, and adopted,
at its 51st meeting (E/C.12/2001/SR.51), held on 27 August 2001, the
following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
welcomes the second periodic report of the State party, but regrets
its submission after a four-year delay. The report was in general
prepared in conformity with the Committee's guidelines, although insufficient
information was provided on the implementation of articles 1 to 5
of the Covenant.
3. The Committee
regrets the late submission of written responses to the list of issues
sent in due time to the State party, as well as the absence of experts
in the delegation that attended the examination of the report. These
problems limited dramatically the opportunity for a constructive dialogue
with the delegation.
B. Positive aspects
4. The Committee
notes with satisfaction the enactment of laws promoting equality between
men and women, such as the adoption of Act No. 4 of 1999 on equal
opportunities for women and the adoption of Act No. 38 of 2001 that
improves the provisions of Act No. 27 of 1995 on domestic violence.
The Committee welcomes the setting up of the National Women's Council
and other women's offices in various ministries as well as the active
participation of organizations of civil society in this process of
5. The Committee
notes with satisfaction the significant reductions in levels of child
mortality and malnutrition, and steady improvement in other indicators
of human development.
6. The Committee
notes with appreciation the establishment by Act No. 10 of 1997, Act
No. 69 of 1998 and Executive Decree No. 194 of 1999 of a territorial
demarcation (comarca) for the Nöbe-Buglé indigenous community,
which the Committee had recommended as a result of its 1995 technical
assistance mission to Panama.
7. The Committee
notes with appreciation the State party's declaration of its support
for the adoption of an optional protocol to the Covenant.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Covenant
8. The Committee
notes that economic and social underdevelopment in rural areas and
inequality in access to productive resources, together with the dominant
position held by the urban population in social programmes, are factors
impeding government action aimed at implementing the Covenant.
D. Principal subjects of concern
9. The Committee
regrets that legislation aimed at the incorporation of the Covenant
directly into Panama's domestic legal system has not been adopted
and that as a result the Covenant cannot be invoked before the internal
10. The Committee
regrets the lack of a national plan of action for human rights prepared
in accordance with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
the important number of legal instruments and other measures adopted
by the State party to ensure gender equality, the Committee is concerned
about the flagrant inequality of wages for equal work and about the
significantly higher rates of unemployment among women.
the absence of legal discrimination and the rights granted to indigenous
communities by the Constitution, the Committee is deeply concerned
about the persisting disadvantage faced in practice by members of
indigenous communities in Panama, and in particular about the marked
disparities in the levels of poverty and literacy and access to water,
employment, health, education and other basic social services. The
Committee is also concerned that the issue of land rights of indigenous
peoples has not been resolved in many cases and that their land rights
are threatened by mining and cattle ranching activities which have
been undertaken with the approval of the State party and have resulted
in the displacement of indigenous peoples from their traditional ancestral
and agricultural lands.
13. The Committee
is especially concerned that the minimum wage is not sufficient to
provide for the basic needs of the worker's family, and that payment
of that minimum wage is generally not respected in practice.
14. The Committee
is concerned about the limited applicability of labour laws in the
Colón Free Zone and the resulting limits on the protection of workers
against dismissal or trade union activity. It is also concerned about
high rates of unemployment in the surrounding area.
15. The Committee
is concerned about the lack of a sufficient number of labour inspectors
and the reported widespread use of "blank" contracts and temporary
work contracts, which avoid the protection and benefits that the law
requires for persons employed under longer-term contracts. It is also
concerned about legislation setting excessively high requirements
for the establishment of employer organizations and trade unions or
16. The Committee
is concerned about the persistence of domestic violence and the inability
of the State party to apply the existing legislation. It is also concerned
about cases of sexual harassment and the high rate of murder suffered
17. The Committee
is deeply concerned about the persistent problem of child labour,
especially in the rural areas, and that the minimum age for employment
is under 12 years in agricultural and domestic services. The Committee
is also concerned about the lack of effective measures taken to protect
children against sexual violence and other forms of exploitation.
18. The Committee
is concerned about the high incidence of poverty, especially in the
rural areas. In this regard, the Committee is concerned about the
State party's economic and social policies, which are strongly biased
in favour of urban and higher income groups and which have reportedly
resulted in resource misallocation and wastage and ineffective social
programmes for disadvantaged and marginalized groups.
19. The Committee
is concerned about the reported lack of social housing and in particular
about the many different programmes and initiatives that exist in
the field of housing, which are not integrated into a coherent national
strategy. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of information
concerning the extent to which its 1995 recommendations have been
implemented, especially with regard to the need to take into account
the opinions of those affected by forced evictions, in line with its
general comment No. 7.
20. The Committee
notes with concern that the significant progress achieved in reducing
child mortality has not been accompanied by a similar reduction in
the rate of maternal mortality, which remained stable between 1980
and 1997. The Committee is also concerned about respect for the rights
of women with regard to reproductive and sexual health and in particular
about the high rates of illegal abortion and early pregnancy.
21. The Committee
considers that the growing number of HIV/AIDS cases registered during
the last decade constitutes a serious health problem.
22. The Committee
remains concerned about the low rates of literacy, especially among
23. The Committee
is concerned about the inadequacy of resources allocated to address
the problems of primary and secondary education.
24. The Committee
regrets the absence of references in the second periodic report to
action taken in response to the Committee's recommendations adopted
upon the examination of the initial report of Panama.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
25. The Committee
urges the State party to ensure that the provisions of the Covenant
are directly applicable in the domestic legal order, so that they
can be invoked before the courts.
26. The Committee
strongly recommends that a national plan of action for human rights
be prepared, in accordance with the Vienna Declaration and Programme
of Action. The Committee requests the State party to annex a copy
of the national plan of action to its third periodic report to the
Committee, and to explain in its report how the plan promotes and
protects economic, social and cultural rights.
27. The Committee
requests the State party to provide, in its third periodic report,
detailed information about any government policies, programmes and
measures adopted to assist in the effective implementation of the
legislation on equality between women and men.
28. The Committee
reiterates its recommendation encouraging the State party to consider
ratifying the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No.
169). It urges the State party to pay particular attention to improving
poverty and literacy rates and access to water, employment, health,
education and other basic social services for indigenous peoples.
The Committee recommends that the issue of land rights of indigenous
peoples be fully resolved so as to avoid their coming under threat
by mining and cattle ranching activities that result in their displacement
from their traditional ancestral and agricultural lands.
29. The Committee
encourages the State party to take action to lower the requirements
for the setting up of employer organizations or trade unions and their
30. The Committee
recommends that the State party take effective measures to combat
the high rates of unemployment, in particular for women and in the
area surrounding the Colón Free Zone. It also recommends that the
limited applicability of labour laws in the Colón Free Zone be reviewed.
31. The Committee
encourages the State party to act on its stated commitment to develop
effective programmes and policies to combat poverty and to achieve
the goal of reducing the poverty rate from 37 per cent to 30 per cent
of the population by 2003. In this regard, the Committee urges the
State party to address the persistent problem of dramatic income inequality.
The Committee also urges the State party to review its various initiatives
designed to help reduce the high rate of poverty to ensure that they
fully integrate human rights, including economic, social and cultural
rights, in the light of the Committee's "Statement on poverty and
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights"
of May 2001.
32. The Committee
urges the State party to ensure that the minimum wage is increased
regularly with reference to the cost of living so as to guarantee
increasingly an adequate standard of living to workers and their families,
and to ensure that the rules regarding the minimum wage are respected
regard to Act No. 30 of 2001, the Committee strongly recommends that
the State party take effective measures to disseminate and implement
vigorously existing legislation on domestic violence, that police
and other law enforcement officials be given better training to this
end, and that information be provided in the third periodic report
on the number and outcome of court cases related to domestic violence.
34. The Committee
urges the State party to take all necessary measures, legislative
or otherwise, to address the persistent problem of child labour, especially
in agriculture and domestic services. In this regard, the Committee
urges the State party to consider ratifying the ILO Worst Forms of
Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182). The Committee also calls
upon the State party to take remedial action to protect children against
sexual abuse and all forms of exploitation.
35. The Committee
recommends that the State party collect comprehensive data and establish
a coherent national strategy on housing, especially social housing.
In this regard, the Committee urges the State party to take all appropriate
measures in order to ensure the availability of affordable housing
units, especially for the low-income, disadvantaged and marginalized
36. The Committee
requests the State party to provide detailed information in its third
periodic report about the number and nature of forced evictions, in
accordance with general comment No. 7 of the Committee. It requests
that information be provided on the implementation of recommendations
formulated by the Committee as a result of its 1995 technical assistance
37. The Committee
calls upon the State party to take urgent measures aimed at reducing
the excessively high maternal mortality rate, and to expand the availability
and accessibility of reproductive and sexual health information and
services, so as to encourage a reduction in the rates of illegal abortion
and early pregnancy.
38. The Committee
requests the State party to provide, in its third periodic report,
detailed information on the number of persons living with HIV/AIDS
and on the measures taken for the prevention, treatment and care of
those infected, affected, or particularly vulnerable.
39. The Committee
encourages the State party to refer, for its third periodic report,
to its general comment No. 14 1 for assistance on how to
report on its implementation of article 12 of the Covenant. The Committee
requests the State party to provide detailed information in its third
periodic report on the cost, affordability and availability –
particularly in rural areas and for marginalized groups – of
the expanded provision of outpatient and home care services that have
reportedly accompanied the reduction in the number of beds available
for hospital-based psychiatric treatment.
40. The Committee
urges the State party to implement a comprehensive national plan of
education for all, as required by paragraph 16 of the Dakar Framework
for Action, taking into account the Committee's general comments Nos.
11 and 13, as well as general comment No. 1 of the Committee on the
Rights of the Child on the aims of education. The Committee recommends
that the State party establish literacy programmes for adults, especially
for indigenous peoples and in the rural areas. The Committee requests
the State party also to provide in its third periodic report detailed
information about the measures taken to increase the quality of and
promote equal opportunity for all in education, including in vocational
education. The Committee encourages the State party to consider ratifying
the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education of 1960.
41. The Committee
requests the State party to take measures aimed at increasing the
resources available to fight illiteracy and promote primary and secondary
education, as well as to provide information in its third periodic
report about the allocation of resources to different levels and types
42. The Committee
requests the State party to disseminate its concluding observations
widely among all levels of society and to inform the Committee of
all steps taken to implement them. It also encourages the State party
to consult with non-governmental organizations and other members of
civil society in the preparation of its third periodic report.
the Committee requests the State party to submit its third periodic
report by 30 June, 2004, and to include in the report detailed information
on the steps it has undertaken to implement the recommendations contained
in the present concluding observations.
to paragraphs 43 and 44 and paragraphs 57 and 58 dealing with core
obligations and the setting of benchmarks.