Friday, November 29, 2013

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: the third week of its 51st session

November 18
In the morning, the Committee met with NHRIs, NGOs (in public) and UN partners (in private) with respect to the State party reports being considered this week (Gabon, Austria and Norway - in that order). The Committee discussed with stakeholders, including the Austrian Ombudsman Board and non-governmental organization representatives, the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Austria and Norway, whose reports will be considered by the Committee this week. The report of Gabon will also be reviewed by the Committee this week, but there were no civil society representatives from that country present.
On the situation in Austria, speakers said the reception conditions for asylum seekers in Austria were insufficient and in some cases in violation of basic human rights principles, and their access to the labour market was extremely restricted. Other issues raised included the direct application of the Covenant in Austrian courts, poverty levels, the right to food, the right to freely choose work, and the need to ban genetically modified food and crops in Austria. Speaking on Austria were representatives of the Austrian Ombudsman Board, Fian International on behalf of the Austrian Forum for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Active Unemployed Austria, FIAN International and Forum WSK-Rechte and Aktion GEN-Klage.
Concerning Norway, speakers said Romani migrants were subject to ill-treatment by the police and security guards. There was an uncovered need for free legal aid for low-income people. Speakers raised issues concerning access of immigrants to the labour market, the social housing system, the employment rate for women from ethnic or minority communities, and the forced treatment of persons with psycho-social disabilities.
Speaking on Norway were the Norwegian NGO-forum for Human Rights, Legal Advice for Women, We Shall Overcome and FIAN International, FIAN Norway and the Norwegian Forum for Environment and Development. Committee Experts asked follow-up questions which were answered by civil society representatives.
The next public meeting of the Committee took place at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, when it started its consideration of the initial report of Gabon (E/C/GAB/1). […]
To read the full press release:

November 19
The Committee concluded, on November 19, the review of the initial report of Gabon (E/C.12/GAB/1). The State party's delegation, headed by Eric Dodo Bounguendza, General Director of Human Rights, Ministry of Justice, comprised representatives of the  Ministry of Justice (two Directors of the Promotion of Human Rights), and of the Caisse Nationale d’Assurance Maladie et de Garantie Sociale), and one member of the Permanent Mission in Geneva.
In his opening statement, the Head of the delegation briefed the Committee on recent developments in the State Party related to the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights.
The dialogue between the Committee and the delegation focused on the following:
Ÿ   Direct applicability of the Covenant and training on the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights;
Ÿ   Mandate, resources and independence of the national human rights institution;
Ÿ   Involvement of civil society organizations in policy-making and national debates on human rights;
Ÿ   Measures taken to fight corruption;
Ÿ   Legal protection against discrimination;
Ÿ   Economic, social and cultural rights of refugees;
Ÿ   Information and data on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups;
Ÿ   Legislative provisions which are discriminatory against women;
Ÿ   Women's access to the labour market, gender pay gap;
Ÿ   Prevention of harmful traditional practices;
Ÿ   Unemployment among young persons;
Ÿ   Trade unions and right to strike;
Ÿ   Minimum wage;
Ÿ   Application of the labour law and exercise of union rights;
Ÿ   Social security system: universal  health insurance coverage;
Ÿ   Informal economy;
Ÿ   Trafficking of persons;
Ÿ   Child labour;
Ÿ   Effectiveness of poverty reduction efforts;
Ÿ   Housing policies and social housing;
Ÿ   Food insecurity and malnutrition;
Ÿ   Access to safe drinking water;
Ÿ   Access to affordable medication; prevention and treatment of HIV AIDS;
Ÿ   Access to education for boys and girls, school drop-out and repetition rates;
Ÿ   Teaching of national languages and teaching of human rights;
Ÿ   Protection of cultural self-identification and of traditional knowledge of the indigenous population.

Thereafter, the Committee continued in closed meeting and began adoption of the concluding observations of Albania.

To read the related press release:

20 November
The Committee examined the fourth periodic report of Austria (E/C.12/AUT/4). The State party's delegation, headed by Ms. Anna Sporrer, Deputy Director General of the Federal Chancellery, comprised representatives from the Women and Gender Equality Division of the Federal Chancellery, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection, Ministry for European and International Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture, Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth, Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment, and the Ambassador and three representatives of the Permanent Mission in Geneva.

In her opening statement, the Head of the delegation briefed the Committee on recent developments, such as the introduction of a legal obligation for companies to submit reports on the income of women and men, increase in the representation of women in State-affiliated businesses, introduction of paternity leave in public institutions and increasing investment in child care facilities.
The dialogue between the Committee and the delegation included the following issues:
·           Direct applicability of the Covenant and lack of examples of cases where the provisions of the Covenant have been invoked;
·           Lack of uniform protection of economic, social and cultural rights among the nine Länders;
·           Mandate, appointment procedure and independence of the Austrian Ombudsman Board;
·           Consultation with civil society organizations in the process of preparation of the State party report and follow-up to the Committees' recommendations;
·           Lack of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation;
·           Retrogression in ODA contributions;
·           Human rights impact assessment, monitoring and complaint mechanisms for projects supported through development assistance;
·           Situation of ethnic minorities, including non-autochthonous minorities such as the Polish community and the Jenische;
·           Women's access to the labour market, gender pay gap and gender stereotypes;
·           Youth unemployment and long-term unemployment;
·           Asylum-seekers' lack of access to work and sub-standard accommodation;
·           Means-tested minimum income scheme and its inadequacy in providing an adequate standard of living;
·           Increasing number of persons living in manifest poverty;
·           Social security benefits for persons working in the informal economy;
·           Homelessness and access to affordable housing; 
·           Rights of persons with disabilities, in particular the rights to work, education and culture;
·           Situation of migrants, including access to healthcare, work and education;
·           Increasing number of persons in need of food donations;
·           Violence against women;
·           Consent to medical treatment.

To read the related press release:

21 November
The Committee examined the fifth periodic report of Norway (E/C.12/NOR/5). The State party's delegation, headed by Mr. Petter Wille, Ambassador, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, comprised representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development and two representatives of the Permanent Mission in Geneva.
In his opening statement, the Head of delegation gave a brief overview of recent developments. These included the ratification by Norway of the CRPD on 3 June 2013, the amendment of the Child Welfare Act, as well as amendments to the Children Act. The Head of delegation also mentioned that the State party will soon start the work on a universal anti-discrimination bill, replacing the current discrimination legislation.

The dialogue between the Committee and the delegation included the following issues:

·           Position of the State party on ratification of the OP-ICESCR
·           Lack of application of Covenant by courts or invoked by parties to a case
·           Plans of the State party regarding the establishment of a new national human rights institution
·           Guarantees in place to ensure responsible investments abroad by the Norges Bank Investment Management
·           Discrimination faced by persons with an immigrant background with regard to access to housing, employment, education and public health care services
·           Long-term unemployment
·           Unemployment of persons with an immigrant background, in particular women
·           The persisting gender wage gap
·           Minimum wage levels established through collective agreements
·           Sufficiency of child allowances in ensuring a decent living
·           Insufficient level of social assistance benefits paid to individuals who are not participants in the “individual qualification programme”
·           Shortage of social housing and long waiting lists
·           High number of homeless persons
·           Discrimination in the housing sector, in particular against persons with an immigrant background
·           Availability of medical care in remote and rural areas
·           Lack of professional interpretation services in the health sector
·           Insufficient availability of mental health care services for prisoners with serious mental health problems
·           Provisions allowing for compulsory treatment and confinement in the mental health care system
·           Insufficient availability of child and adolescent psychiatric services for children living in reception centers
·           Lack of access to health care services for irregular migrants
·           Drop-out rate of students with an immigrant background, in particular in upper secondary education
·           Restrictions on the access to education of asylum-seeking minors who are over the compulsory school age
·           The degree to which measures to preserve and promote sami culture guarantee the right of the sami people to enjoy their traditional means of livelihood. 

To read the related press release, visit:

November 22
The Committee met in closed meetings throughout, and adopted concluding observations on Albania, Belgium and Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the subsequent week, the Committee is scheduled to continue the adoption of concluding observations.