1. The Committee
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered the fourth periodic
report of the Syrian Arab Republic on the implementation of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/1994/104/Add.23)
at its 34th and 35th meetings (E/C.12/2001/SR.34 and 35), held on 15
and 16 August 2001, and adopted, at its 53rd meeting (E/C.12/2001/SR.53),
held on 28 August 2001, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
welcomes the fourth periodic report of the State party, as well as the
useful dialogue that took place with the delegation. The Committee also
takes note of the information contained in the letter of 24 August 2001
from the Permanent Mission of the State party in Geneva addressed to
3. The Committee
regrets that a considerable number of its written and oral questions
remained unanswered, owing to a lack of detailed information in the
State party's report, the written replies and the oral responses during
the dialogue. The Committee also regrets that the delegation of the
State party was not composed of officials responsible for the relevant
rights of the Covenant, a fact which had a negative impact on the quality
of the dialogue.
4. The Committee
appreciates the State party's efforts to improve the enjoyment of economic,
social and cultural rights by its inhabitants. In particular, the Committee
takes note of the State party's goals and objectives in the context
of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), which
aims at improving living standards by reducing socio-economic and regional
disparities and strengthening institutional capacities to meet development
5. The Committee
notes with appreciation that the State party is also cooperating with
international organizations and United Nations specialized agencies
to reduce poverty and to work towards further realization of the right
to food and the right to health.
6. The Committee
welcomes the State party's efforts to address the acute problem of water
shortage, as well as its efforts to enhance public awareness of this
7. The Committee
welcomes the fact that infant mortality has decreased and that life
expectancy has increased.
8. The Committee
notes with satisfaction the measures taken by the State party to provide
health services and education for nomadic peoples, such as mobile first
aid facilities and dispensaries and mobile schools and libraries.
9. The Committee
welcomes the measures taken by the State party pursuant to the Dakar
Framework for Action to adopt a National Education For All Plan.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Covenant
10. The Committee
notes the State party's statement that, owing to the continuing foreign
occupation of part of its territory, it feels compelled to allocate
a considerable part of its resources to national defence.
11. The Committee
recognizes that the efforts of the State party to comply with its obligations
under the Covenant are impeded by the high foreign debt/GDP ratio, and
that this has adversely affected its capacity to enhance the enjoyment
of economic, social and cultural rights by the population.
12. The Committee
notes that the prevalence of certain traditions, customs and cultural
practices in the State party continues to impede the full enjoyment
by women and girls of their rights under the Covenant.
D. Principal subjects of concern
13. The Committee
is concerned about discrimination against certain minority groups in
the Syrian Arab Republic on the basis of their non-Arab heritage, including
those groups that have been living in the territory of the State party
for many generations.
14. The Committee
expresses its concern about the persisting discrimination in the political,
social and economic spheres of life against women in Syrian society,
which is particularly reflected in limited participation by women in
the political and economic decision-making process, a low legal age
of marriage for girls, more severe punishment of women for adultery
and "honour crimes", and unequal treatment insofar as personal property
and social security laws are concerned. The Committee regrets that the
State party has not adopted any significant legislative or administrative
measures to eliminate this discrimination, nor ratified the Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
15. The Committee
is also concerned about the living conditions of refugees and stateless
persons in the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as the fact that the State
party has not ratified the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of
Refugees nor its 1967 Protocol. The Committee regrets the delegation's
lack of sufficient information on this matter.
16. The Committee
is concerned about the relatively high unemployment rate in the State
party, which has been estimated to be between 10 and 25 per cent, and
regrets that the State party's delegation was not able to provide sufficient
statistical data to clarify this point of concern.
17. The Committee
regrets that the State party has not provided sufficient information
on the incidence of child labour. Moreover, the Committee is deeply
concerned that the minimum working age is too low and that children
working in family businesses and the agricultural sector are not protected
by the relevant labour legislation.
18. The Committee
expresses its concern about the practice of forced labour in prisons,
especially by minors and those who have been incarcerated for vagrancy
and other petty crimes.
19. The Committee
also expresses its concern that the minimum wage has not been adjusted
in recent years and that it has therefore become insufficient to provide
a basic and adequate standard of living for workers and their families.
20. The Committee
is also concerned that the right to establish independent trade unions
is obstructed by the State party, as trade unions are obliged to register
with the General Federation of Trade Unions which is closely linked
to the governmental structure.
21. The Committee
also expresses concern about the restrictions in practice reported by
the ILO with regard to the right to strike, such as the imposition of
sanctions, including imprisonment, which constitutes non-compliance
with the State party's obligation regarding article 8 of the Covenant.
22. The Committee
is concerned about the absence of unemployment benefits, which runs
counter to the State party's obligation under the Covenant to realize
progressively the right to just and favourable conditions of work and
to social security.
23. The Committee
is also concerned about the disparity in the provision of social benefits
and accident compensation to Syrian nationals, refugees and stateless
24. The Committee
expresses its concern about the persistent occurrence of domestic violence
against both women and children and the lack of legislation to criminalize
such violence. Moreover, the Committee is concerned that there is no
law against spousal rape.
25. The Committee
is concerned about the incidence of poverty in the State party, which,
according to alternative sources, affects about one third of the population.
The Committee also regrets the absence of official statistical data
on this subject.
26. The Committee
regrets the lack of comparative statistical data on the State party's
implementation of the right to health, as well as the fact that it did
not receive replies to a considerable number of questions on the right
to health in the list of issues.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
27. In light
of paragraph 71 of the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
and the conclusions of the Eighth Workshop on Regional Cooperation for
the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region
(Beijing, March 2000), the Committee recommends that the State party
prepare a comprehensive national plan of action in relation to the implementation
of its obligations under international human rights treaties, including
the Covenant. The Committee requests the State party to annex a copy
of its national human rights plan of action to its fourth periodic report
and to provide information on its implementation.
28. The Committee
encourages the State party to establish as soon as possible a national
human rights institution which conforms to the 1991 Paris Principles.
29. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party's obligations under the Covenant
be taken into account in all aspects of its negotiations with international
financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, the
World Bank and the World Trade Organization, to ensure that economic,
social and cultural rights, particularly of the most vulnerable groups,
are duly protected.
30. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party take effective measures to
combat discrimination in practice against minority groups, in particular
the Kurds. Such measures should be aimed especially at improving birth
registration and school attendance and allowing for the use of their
languages and other expressions of their culture.
31. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party take effective measures to
incorporate a gender equality perspective in both legislation and in
governmental policies and administrative programmes, with a view to
ensuring equality of men and women and addressing in particular the
problems of the low legal age of marriage for girls, more severe punishment
of women for adultery and "honour crimes", and the unequal treatment
of women insofar as personal, property, succession and social security
laws are concerned. The Committee also encourages the State party to
ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
32. The Committee
recommends that the State party take legislative and administrative
measures to ensure the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights
by refugees and stateless persons. The Committee urges the State party
to ratify the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the
1967 Protocol thereto, and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status
of Stateless Persons.
33. The Committee
requests the State party to provide more detailed information and specific
statistical data - including comparative data - on the real situation
of unemployment and of child labour in the State party and on the measures
it has taken to address these problems.
34. The Committee
recommends that the State party take measures to prohibit the practice
of forced labour in prisons, including by minors and those incarcerated
for vagrancy and other petty crimes.
35. The Committee
urges the State party to adjust the minimum wage from time to time,
so that it provides for an adequate standard of living for workers and
their families, in conformity with articles 7 and 11 of the Covenant.
36. The Committee
recommends that the State party request technical assistance from the
ILO for the training of labour inspectors in order to ensure better
implementation of labour legislation.
37. The Committee
urges the State party to take all effective measures to address the
problem of child labour in family enterprises and in the agricultural
sector, which runs counter to protection of the rights of the child
to health and to education.
38. The Committee
strongly urges the State party to ensure that the right to establish
free and independent trade unions is respected, and that the right to
strike can be exercised without any form of intimidation.
39. The Committee
recommends that the State party take all necessary measures to guarantee
- to the maximum of its available resources, as stipulated by article
2 (1) of the Covenant - that an adequate system of social security is
maintained, in particular with regard to the payment of unemployment
benefits. The Committee also requests that more detailed information
and statistical data, including comparative data, are provided on the
State party's pension system in its next periodic report.
40. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party adopt legislation and other
measures to combat domestic violence and spousal rape, and vigorously
implement such legislation and other measures in order to provide adequate
protection for victims of such practices.
41. The Committee
requests the State party to provide detailed statistical data on the
level of poverty in its territory, as well as more detailed information
on measures taken to reduce poverty.
42. The Committee
urges the State party to provide detailed information about the housing
situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, including the provision of social
housing for lower income, disadvantaged and marginalized groups, the
number of forced evictions and whether those evictions comply with the
guidelines set out by the Committee in its general comment No. 7.
43. The Committee
also requests the State party to provide replies to the written and
oral questions raised by the Committee in the list of issues and during
the dialogue which were left unanswered, and in particular requests
comparative statistical data on the implementation of the right to health,
thereby taking into account the Committee's general comment No. 14 on
the right to health.
44. The Committee
urges the State party to implement its comprehensive National Education
For All Plan, as anticipated by paragraph 16 of the Dakar Framework
for Action, taking into account the Committee's general comments Nos.
11 and 13 on the right to education and general comment No. 1 of the
Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee also urges the State
party to ratify the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education
45. The Committee
strongly recommends that the State party make sure that minority groups,
such as the Kurds, are able to enjoy their right to use their own language
and to live in accordance with their own culture without impediments
in the form of legislative or administrative arrangements imposed by
the State party.
46. The Committee
recommends that the State party avail itself more actively of technical
assistance and cooperation from the Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights and the relevant United Nations specialized agencies
and programmes, such as UNDP and UNESCO, particularly in relation to
the preparation of its fourth periodic report on the Covenant, a national
human rights plan of action, the creation of a national human rights
institution, and the preparation and implementation of the National
Education For All Plan in accordance with the Dakar Framework for Action.
47. The Committee
requests the State party to disseminate the present 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 fourth periodic report.
the Committee requests the State party to submit its fourth periodic
report by 30 June 2006, and to include in the report detailed information
on the steps it has undertaken to implement the recommendations contained
in the concluding observations.