10 May 2012
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the combined initial to third periodic report of Ethiopia on that country’s implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Introducing the report, Fisseha Yimer, Special Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, said the Government aimed to have people-centred, accelerated and sustainable economic growth and social development. Ethiopia had achieved remarkable progress in poverty reduction, food security, education, healthcare and employment, and had reduced urban poverty from 38.7 per cent in 2004/5 to 29.6 per cent in 2010/11. Improvements had been made to infrastructure, including the construction of roads, irrigation canals and electricity projects. As Ethiopia was rich in historic and cultural heritage tourist numbers were increasing and recently the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) registered nine World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was still burdened with poverty, illiteracy, drought and backward traditional malpractices, but like all developing countries, many of those stemmed from underdevelopment, poverty and lack of capital at the national level.
Committee Experts asked in-depth questions about new legislation preventing international non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia receiving more than 10 per cent of their funding from abroad, voluntary and involuntary relocation of people under the ‘villagisation programme’, employment and child labour, education and access to healthcare, particularly maternal and reproductive, and about HIV/AIDS care. Reduction of the poverty rate and violence against women were also discussed. Experts referred to a lack of statistical data in the report, the substantial delay in its submission, and also enquired into the impact of the Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric dam.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Yimer said the concluding observations and recommendations would be of immense value to the Government in improving access to economic, social and cultural rights in Ethiopia and apologised for the late submission of the report.
In concluding remarks, Ariranga Govindasamy Pillay, Committee Chairperson, congratulated the State party on progress made, especially with regard to economic growth and the reduction of poverty. However, many challenges existed, especially gaps between rural and urban areas.
The delegation of Ethiopia consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Ethiopia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. on Friday, 18 May 2012 for the closing of the session. Concluding observations and recommendations for all countries reviewed: Slovakia, Peru, New Zealand, Spain and Ethiopia, will be published after that meeting.
Report of Ethiopia
The combined initial, second and third periodic report of Ethiopia can be read via the following link (E/C.12/ETH/1-3).
Presentation of the Report of Ethiopia
FISSEHA YIMER, Special Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed appreciation to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for its technical support in the preparation of the report. Since it ratified the Covenant in 1993, Ethiopia had taken measures towards its implementation within the country’s limited resources. The Constitution of Ethiopia enshrined all key human rights and included a separate section with detailed provisions on economic, social and cultural rights. Those rights could only be fully realised through economic development and strengthening of democratic and judicial institutions, thus the ambitious five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (2011–2015) had the objective of realising people-centred, accelerated and sustainable economic growth and social development. Government policies had enabled Ethiopia to achieve remarkable progress in poverty reduction, education, healthcare and employment. Poverty had markedly declined, albeit with a larger decline in urban areas, from 38.7 per cent in 2004/5 to 29.6 per cent in 2010/11. In rural areas, over the same time period, the head count poverty rate fell from 39.3 per cent to 30.4 per cent. Ethiopia was on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and reduce poverty by half by 2015.
Agricultural policies to eradicate poverty in rural areas included the provision of micro-loans and the re-settlement of communities to fertile areas on a voluntary basis, while the National Development Plan on Food Security was expected to bring a sustainable solution. There had been improvements to infrastructure, education and healthcare, and construction of roads, irrigation and electricity projects. The Constitution guaranteed the right of social security, particularly to persons with disabilities, the elderly and children left without parents or guardians. Women’s participation in political, social and economic affairs was considered paramount to development, and had increased. There had also been an increase in the enrolment of girls in higher education, a decrease in the drop-out rate of girls from school, and legal measures to curb malpractices such as female genital mutilation, early marriage, forced marriage and other harmful traditional practices. New legislation promoted women’s rights in relation to equal pay, property (particularly after divorce), inheritance and their control over resources. In collaboration with non-governmental organizations a series of protection measures had been taken for street children in urban areas, such as micro-financing for youth and mothers living on the streets and reunification of street children with their families elsewhere in the country; so far 16,100 street children had been rehabilitated and had begun attending school.
Ethiopia was a country of extraordinary cultural diversity, of over 80 nationalities and peoples. Under the Constitution every nationality and people in Ethiopia had the right to speak their own language, express their own culture and preserve their history. As Ethiopia was rich in historic and cultural heritage the number of tourists was increasing and recently the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) registered nine World Heritage Sites in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was still burdened with poverty, illiteracy, drought and backward traditional malpractices. Like all developing countries, many of those shortcomings stemmed from underdevelopment, poverty and a lack of capital at the national level. The Government recognized the value of international cooperation in ensuring the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, and also understood that the contribution of civil society groups was vital.
Questions by the Experts
JUN CONG, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for the Report of Ethiopia, welcomed the distinguished delegation on their first visit to the Committee but noted that the Committee usually expected a larger delegation representing various ministries. The Rapporteur regretted that the replies to the written questions were submitted so late that Committee members had no time to read them, and hoped that in future the replies would be submitted on time. The Rapporteur commended Ethiopia for its 2005 Criminal Code which criminalized harmful traditional practices, most forms of trafficking in persons and specified 18 years as the minimum age for marriage. Furthermore, the poverty rate, although still very high, had been reduced by 11 per cent. However, the Rapporteur said that Ethiopia was still one of the most food insecure countries in the world and discrimination against women remained a dire problem. There were big regional discrepancies in the provision of food, healthcare and education. In addition, did the State provide human rights training for officials at all levels, from the police to the armed forces? How did the State party ensure that civil rights law did not constrain the functions of human rights organizations operating in the country?
It was noted that the report lacked data to back up actions. An Expert said that without detailed statistics the Committee could not judge whether the State party had fulfilled its obligations, and asked that disaggregated figures were provided in future reports.
An Expert regretted that all members of the delegation were from the Foreign Ministry, so it was not possible to have a dialogue with representatives of different ministries. She referred to the new law on the activities of non-governmental organizations in Ethiopia, which banned certain civil society organizations from receiving more than 10 per cent of their funds from overseas donors. Other United Nations treaty bodies, including the Committee against Torture, the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Human Rights Committee, had also raised concerns, and all recommended the law be amended and that assets of non-governmental organizations frozen by the Government be released. Was the Government considering acting on those treaty body recommendations, as the new law affected not only economic, social and cultural rights but also women’s and children’s rights?
An Expert said that the delegation said they had made progress in the rights of women, but unless exact statistics were provided to show a reduction in, for example, female genital mutilation, rape or forced marriage, it was difficult for anybody to say they had made progress. What was being done to train judges, especially judges of the Sharia courts? What was the relationship between Sharia courts and ordinary courts, were there any examples of a Sharia court ruling being appealed in an ordinary court? What was being done to make women and girls aware of their rights, so they could bring law suits? The legal system in Ethiopia was truly discriminatory towards women; it was very hard for women to bring a case to trial there. It seemed the Government had achieved remarkable process in countering harmful traditional practices, including practices which allowed HIV/AIDS transmission, so could the delegation please provide statistical data to back up those achievements?
Was there any particular reason why the State party’s report was so late? The delegation was asked about the status of the Covenant in terms of the policy-making process. Ethiopia was a very large country with nine regional, almost independent, states. How did the central Government ensure that the Covenant was respected – it seemed to be a Herculean task to make those vast areas of the country even aware of it, let alone respect it. The independence of the judiciary was queried, as was the application of the Covenant by the judiciary. At what school level did children start to receive human rights education, and how was the subject taught?
The Committee asked whether Ethiopia’s penal code would be amended to decriminalize homosexuality, as it seemed there were no plans to do that. What was the consideration behind that stance? Ethiopia received foreign aid from donor countries. To what extent was that aid human rights based, and could the delegation give an example of that?
Ethiopia was a very large country with an impressive history and culture which coped with a lot of difficulties. It faced droughts, floods and armed conflict. The report dealt primarily with voluntary relocations of affected people who were suffering from hunger, drought, desertification and floods. But in areas of armed conflict, such as the Somali region, there have been involuntary relocations particularly of nomadic peoples. There were reports of the forced relocation of people, especially from the western Gambella region, to other regions which had no infrastructure, schools or health services. Those forced relocations especially affected people from marginalized minority ethnic groups. Could the delegation please comment on this.
Response by the Delegation
The Government deeply regretted submitting its written replies just the day before its presentation, a delegate said. It took a long time to put together all of the information received from different ministries, but most of the questions had been answered. Ethiopia had ratified almost all basic human rights instruments, including regional ones. Collating information from the nine regions had been a very difficult exercise, exacerbated by a lack of expertise and resources. Reporting to treaty bodies was burdensome, as were the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and visits from Special Rapporteurs, although Ethiopia was open to inviting Special Rapporteurs. The delegate pledged to improve on the provision of statistical data in the next report.
As to ensuring consistency between customary law and domestic law, most customary law cases related to family matters. The Constitution provided a broad framework on family law, which provided, for instance, that customary practices should not be harmful. The Covenant could be defended in court, as people could invoke any international instrument ratified by Ethiopia in a court because they were a law of the land.
Human rights training was provided both by Governmental organizations and by the National Human Rights Commission. In collaboration with the United Nations a conference had been convened on best practices in human rights from around the world. The National Human Rights Commission was independent from the executive, and would soon open regional offices, and it had also initiated a legal aid process. It was hoped that the Commission would soon process its accreditation under the Paris Principles.
There was no ban of any civil society or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or their activity. The proclamation provided an enabling environment for exercising freedom of association in Ethiopia and for a transparent and accountable system of accreditation and functioning of organizations in every field. The requirement for 10 per cent was for NGOs who wanted to be considered as local NGOs and meant that they must be able to operate on funds raised locally, and help create a conducive and enabling environment domestically. The 10 per cent allowance would complement those locally-raised funds. The courts were currently considering the question of unfreezing of funds, specifically regarding two NGOs that received funds after the proclamation, which were then frozen. In addition, the National Human Rights Commission took upon itself to give resources to affected NGOs in order to help them to continue to function.
It was true that the Government had differences with an organization functioning in the Somali region, a delegate said, but generally the Government continued to work closely with all relevant organizations who continued to have full access to all areas of the country, including the Somali national state.
In terms of drought, measures to allow water harvesting and storing, water management issues and environmental protection had enabled most farmers to withstand difficult years with an absence of rains. Most importantly, early warning systems of drought had been established. In the last two decades there had been no famine in Ethiopia, even though there had been droughts. People had not died because of a lack of food. Instead the Government responded in time, sent food and kept food stocks in vulnerable areas. The most vulnerable areas to drought were the lowlands in eastern Ethiopia. The land bordering Sudan was not currently used for cultivation but following commercial investment in agriculture would be available for large-scale farming.
Displacement was a related issue, and the Government sought to prevent it. In the past people would move when there were food or water shortages. Now Government policy had greatly changed, it allowed for food distribution to be conducted within the villages, which lessened the suffering of people who needed assistance. As well as meeting the needs of the people, the Government also sought to ensure that cattle had access to water and food. The Government did not conduct forced relocations, although there had been allegations of this from different sources. There were no involuntary relocations. Ethiopia did not need to force people from their homes: it had 83 million hectares of arable land which was not inhabited or cultivated and had water. When such significant and abundant amounts of land were available, why would Ethiopia force people to move? Voluntary relocation programmes provided services to communities that had been denied basic services such as electricity and drinking water. If there was a need to relocate people, for example to build a dam, there would be due-process and consultation with local people, who would be provided with compensation.
Concerning the leasing of Ethiopian land to foreign investors for agricultural development, around 300,000 hectares of land has been leased so far, mainly to people of Ethiopian origin, and others from abroad. The Government sought more investment in agriculture in order to provide food security and foreign capital, foreign technology and machinery. The Government solicited foreign investment via embassies and continued to try to interest people in investing.
Ethiopia was the fifth fastest-growing economy in Africa and the tenth in the world. It aimed to be a middle-income country by 2025. To do that poverty had to be reduced, and the Government was not doing too badly on that score. The economy was projected to grow over 11 per cent over the next five years. The Ethiopian economy was basically agrarian, so the focus continued to be put on agriculture, followed by industry.
The provision of safe drinking water was a critical problem for the country, as was access and infrastructure development of roads and power and telecommunication links. The voluntary ‘villagisation programme’ of resettling people into one area had helped children and mothers to access healthcare and reduced the maternal mortality rate, and gave rural citizens access to more fertile land. The villagisation programme was instituted in accordance with the constitution, involved consultation processes and was entirely voluntary. Nobody had ever been forcibly resettled.
The fact was that despite significant progress there was still a long way to go in implementing equality between women and men, as in other countries. However the legislative procedure did not discriminate upon gender. No law discriminated between men and women. Women had benefitted from the last two decades of economic growth, as seen through some educational statistics. In 1995 only 469 girls attended technical colleges, but today that number was 171,546 girls. In 1995 only 871 girls were enrolled at public university. Today 123,706 girls were enrolled at public universities.
It was very important to educate a person into accepting their human rights and responsibilities. The Government provided human rights education at all levels, and had seen remarkable success in educating students to be aware of their human rights so that they could become responsible citizens who knew their rights and duties. Regarding the provision of foreign aid, a delegate said that Ethiopia’s developmental direction was rights based, in terms of devolution of power, empowering communities and meeting human rights.
At this point in the dialogue a Committee Expert intervened with a follow-up question, as he was troubled by the delegation’s response on the issue of forced relocations. He referred to the report of international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch on forced relocations in western Gambella region. The report said that the Ethiopian Government, under its ‘villagisation programme’ was forcibly locating approximately 70,000 indigenous people from the region to new villages that lacked adequate food, farmland, healthcare and educational facilities. Human Rights Watch was a credible organization well-regarded around the world. The Government denied that the report was true, so did that mean they believed Human Rights Watch was lying?
A delegate again confirmed there had been no forced relocation from the state of Gambella. It was one of the largest and most sparsely populated regions in Ethiopia. Whether the Committee believed the delegation or Human Rights Watch was for them to decide. Human Rights Watch made a habit of compiling reports on Ethiopia that were completely incorrect and unfounded. The Government had shown them how the way they compiled reports was wrong. The facts on the ground did not support the allegations.
The Head of Delegation said that Ethiopia was fed up of non-governmental organizations lecturing them for decades, telling them how to behave. So-called ‘major reputable organizations’ were not always so, and may have their own agenda. Whether the Committee believed African Rights, or Human Rights Watch, or Amnesty International, was up to the Committee – for Ethiopia they were not relevant.
Returning to the issue of non-governmental organizations who had to raise 90 per cent of their funds within Ethiopia, in answer to a follow-up question from an Expert on exactly how much capital was available in Ethiopia, a delegate said that Ethiopians did not consider themselves to be poor. There were poverty levels that were unacceptable to the Government, but the country had significant resources that were more than adequate for non-governmental organizations. If anybody thought there was not enough money available in Ethiopia for NGOs to raise funds there then they had inaccurate information about the country. An NGO could raise however much money it wanted within Ethiopia. The question was how much money was needed for human rights advocacy? Advocacy was one of the least capital-heavy activities, so why was an infusion of money from abroad needed for advocacy work? If two or three persons set up an organization that received millions of dollars from abroad, money begged by using pictures of poor Ethiopian children, then that system had no transparency and could be corrupt. How did such organizations then dispense their money?
Questions from the Experts
The State party had seen impressive growth of its gross domestic product in recent years which created a good basis for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. The micro-development programme, the urban-youth development package and policies to help unemployed women were commendable. However, what was the proportion of informal work against formal work, and unemployment rates divided by gender? A high percentage of women worked in the informal sector. Many worked for families and were not paid at all, because of tradition. Sexual harassment at work was still widespread. The report indicated that women’s access to senior jobs, higher education and technical training had been enhanced, and there were goals to have 30 per cent of senior and 50 per cent of middle-ranking positions filled by women. Child labour was an issue and admittedly inescapable when there was a high rate of poverty and unemployment, but an Expert expressed deep concern that children were known to have started working as young as five years old, which was unusually low for child labour.
International Labour Organization figures linked child labour to high school drop-out rates and low primary school enrolment rates. Ethiopia had one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, only 36 per cent, although that was an improved figure. Only 52 per cent of children completed primary school. What was being done to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education? There was no law to make primary education free and compulsory, although as a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other treaties, Ethiopia accepted their obligations in that regard. What was being done? Furthermore, could the delegation comment on reports that girl students suffered high rates of sexual abuse and harassment at schools, which was a factor in their drop-out rates.
According to reports, the independent Ethiopian teachers’ association had been dismantled. The International Labour Organization’s Committee on Freedom of Association had queried the right of civil servants to join an association of their choosing and negotiate their terms of employment through collective bargaining. Was the Government planning to institute additional guarantees to protect the right to join a trade union? The list of workers who could not strike was unusually broad, and included Government staff, civil servants, people who worked in public offices, and even people working on transport.
What steps had been taken to improve accessibility to safe drinking water, particularly in rural areas, as well as sanitation? What were mental healthcare provisions and the treatment of mentally ill people in places of detention and prisons? The considerable decline in the maternal mortality rate and the prioritising of maternal healthcare as a key area of reform were commendable, but was sexual and reproductive health taught in schools? Given the criminalization of homosexuality, which should be a free act between adults, it was difficult to address all areas of sexual health, including HIV/AIDS, in schools.
Regarding violence against women, observations from the Committee against Torture noted that rape was not deemed to be a crime under the Criminal Code, while the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said rape cases were very rarely reported by victims who had a systematic lack of confidence in the court system. As the judiciary was supposed to be independent, why was it that victims had no confidence in it? Was domestic violence defined as a specific crime in Ethiopian law?
Around 70 per cent of people living in urban areas lived in slums, and forced evictions were a problem. Ethiopia’s annual growth rate was impressive, but how much budget was allocated to improve housing in the cities? There was a lack of information on housing in rural areas, although reports said there was an emergence of slums and homelessness in rural areas.
Response from the Delegation
A quarter of the State budget was spent on education, 6.7 per cent on health, 8.8 per cent on agriculture, 20 per cent on building roads and 5.9 per cent on improving water and sanitation. Almost 10 per cent of the budget was allocated to agriculture, a sector that received significant Government attention as it was a mainstay of the economy and 85 per cent of Ethiopians lived in rural areas. Around 60,000 agricultural extension workers had been employed to work with farmers, enhance productivity of small-scale farming and share new techniques. Those measures yielded significant results as production had doubled over the last two years.
Trade unions were recognized as important in the industrial function and played an essential role in empowering employees and sharing the fruits of social development in the country equitably. Freedom of association, the right to organize trade unions, and the right to strike and to engage in collective bargaining were upheld both in domestic law and in the Constitution. Ethiopia could not be a democracy unless it provided free and unfettered operation of freedom of association. The right to strike was there but had to be exercised in accordance with the law and was regulated in the public sector.
In 2007 a survey was conducted to find out how many persons had disabilities. Out of the total population, which in 2007 was 73 million, although it could be much larger now, 400,016 women and 400,000 men were considered to have disabilities, while 235,585 children were registered as having a disability. Ethiopia had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but much remained to be done. The Government was committed to working closely with all stakeholders, both domestically and externally.
To help school children and students who were living with HIV/AIDS, guidance and counselling services had been set up in schools, which included groups aimed specifically at supporting girls. To tackle the stigma about HIV/AIDS, awareness raising was carried out in the media and schools. There was an action plan to integrate mental healthcare into regular hospitals, and Ethiopia was working in partnership with the World Health Organization to implement that plan. New psychiatric hospitals and treatment centres had been opened across the country.
Unemployment stood at 18 per cent for 2010/11. During the same period female unemployment was 25.3 per cent, and for men 11.4 per cent. Although still high, unemployment rates had been reduced and youth unemployment had declined from 24.5 per cent in 2009 to 23.7 per cent in 2011. The introduction of a minimum wage was given a high priority and was included in the National Action Plan for Human Rights.
Sexual harassment was a criminal offence, but remained a problem, as did violence against women in general. The Penal Code criminalized violence committed within a family. Rape was a serious offence but there were aggravating circumstances. Domestic violence was not defined in law, but was an offence for which again there were provisions for aggravating circumstances.
There was no denying that child labour was a serious problem. The National Plan of Action against the Worst Forms of Child Labour was in place, and there was no way that a child of five years would be allowed to work. Ethiopia had ratified the International Labour Organization Convention on Child Labour, which set the minimum working age at 15, protected children younger than 14 years and provided for working conditions for children between the ages of 14 and 18 – that they could not be employed in hazardous work environments such as underground mining, sewerage or heavy transport. Younger children living in rural areas may help out with their family businesses, but that should not affect their education. In 15 years, primary school enrolment had increased from between 20 and 30 per cent to 90 per cent.
Regarding new housing, 164,937 houses were under construction today, and of those 110,000 had already been given to owners; 30 per cent of the houses were automatically allocated to women owners. In broad terms there had never been a single forcible eviction in Ethiopia, although there may have been isolated instances which did not count. Homelessness did exist in Ethiopia. The Government was working to provide thousands of portable water supply schemes, wells, irrigation schemes and other means to provide safe drinking water. So far drinking water coverage had been extended to 71.3 per cent of rural areas and provided access to a further 49 million people.
Questions from Experts
One third more women were infected with HIV than men and Aids was the second highest cause of death for females. Many infants were born infected with HIV as well. Was the reason related to polygamy or rape, could the delegation say?
An Expert asked about the sexual exploitation of children and child prostitution, and for details on the national action plan. He also asked how polygamy was handled, as it was permitted for Muslim communities but forbidden by federal law. The same problem stood for child marriage, where it could be practised without the knowledge of the federal Government, as some areas were so remote it could be hard to identify.
Were there any campaigns to prevent smoking, and to promote a healthy lifestyle? Were there any campaigns to combat pollution in the capital and other cities?
Considering it had so many ethnic groups, did Ethiopia have a mainstream, overriding culture and values, an Expert asked, and to what extent did the different cultural and ethnic groups co-exist harmoniously?
The Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric dam on the Omo river at the border of Ethiopia and Kenya would create a 150km long reservoir with many excellent purposes such as irrigation and drinking water. However, the construction would affect around 150,000 people living in the area who relied on flood retreat agriculture, and endanger not only their food security, but also the environment of Kenya’s populated Lake Turkana region. Much discussion had already taken place in the Human Rights Council on the issue, but in relation to the Covenant and the right to food, and without criticizing the internationally-financed project, an Expert asked what steps the Government was taking to ensure people affected by the dam were ensured their traditional husbandry?
The Chairperson said that according to the rules of natural justice the Committee needed to put certain questions to the delegation and draw out their answers. He returned to a previous issue of poverty rates, and quoted 2011 World Bank figures that conversely showed that 39 per cent of the Ethiopian population lived under the international extreme poverty line of $1.25 per day, and 77 per cent lived under the international poverty line of $2 per day.
Response from the Delegation
Regarding the conflict between traditional and State law, an Expert said that bigamy was in principle prohibited in Ethiopia under the Family Law, but it did exist in marriages convened under Sharia Law. The Constitution provided that customary and traditional marriages were treated as an exception under the Penal Code.
There was legislation to protect the environment and prevent pollution, in terms of safeguarding human health, managing hazardous waste and radioactive substances and so forth. Inspectors had significant powers to enforce environmental powers, and there was an appeal process for businesses affected by decisions made by inspectors. It all fell under Ethiopia’s progressive environmentally-friendly laws, and its recent Climate-Resilience Green Economy Strategy, which focused on sustainable small-scale agriculture. Re-forestation was another key area: millions of trees had been planted across the country, to serve as carbon sinks for climate change. There were plans to build public transport such as light electric trains in cities, and to run trains across the region. Overall 200,000 kilometres of rail track was envisaged to be built.
The Gilgel Gibe III dam was a result of the Climate-Resilience Green Economy Strategy to enhance Ethiopia’s capacity to generate reusable energy and would produce an immense amount of electricity. The Government did not take the Committee’s points as criticism: they were important issues. A very large Environmental and Social Impact Study was carried out, which was publicly available on the internet, while consultations were held with local populations: papers had been signed by the elders of communities living downstream of the dam. The vast majority of the population would benefit, and communities would no longer be washed away by the annual floods. The dam’s design was altered, at a very significant cost, to take account of some concerns. Discussions had been held both in Addis Ababa and at the site with Kenyan experts about possible adverse effects on Lake Turkana. Unfortunately Lake Turkana, the northern end of which was in Ethiopia, had suffered from overuse so Ethiopia had a history of working with its neighbours on that. Kenya would also benefit from the project as it would be able to purchase a significant amount of electricity generated by the dam. As an African country abundant in sunshine, solar energy was a key area to investigate using in the future, but hydroelectricity was currently the cheapest source. Wind power was also being studied.
Ethiopia had very friendly laws towards ethnic minorities in its far-reaching Constitution, in terms of accepting diversity. In terms of a dominant religion or culture, many had passed over the years. For example Orthodox Christianity used to be the dominant religion, but a page was turned when the Constitution was drafted in 1991 and Ethiopia now had unity in diversity; Ethiopians all lived on equal terms. Each of the nine regions had the power to choose their own principal language and dominant culture.
The school curriculum was uniform across the country and was managed by the Minister of Education, although the teaching language could vary from state to state. Human rights education was taught from high school to university level. Free primary education had been introduced, but was not compulsory. In 1995 there were only 8,434 primary schools in Ethiopia, with 2,063,635 students enrolled. In 2011 the number of primary schools had increased to 28,349 with 60,757,608 students enrolled, of which a growing proportion were girls, and also located in rural areas. Education for girls was very important.
Regarding maternal and reproductive healthcare, the Government had implemented several strategies, one being to empower and educate women and men about pregnancy and ensuring access to a core package of maternal healthcare, particularly in rural areas that had limited facilities. More midwives had been trained, and in addition 34,000 Government-employed health extension workers had been posted around the country. Substantial achievements had been registered in improving access to healthcare. The provision of family planning services at a community level was being implemented and provided a wide range of free contraception methods, including condoms, the contraceptive pill and injections. Hospital deaths resulting from abortion significantly declined from 32 per cent in 2005 to 6 per cent in 2008. Early marriage rates had also dropped, namely because of better access to education and awareness-raising which caused behavioural changes at a grassroots level. Ante-natal care coverage increased from 67 per cent in 2008/9 to 71.4 per cent in 2009/10. The proportion of all births attended by a skilled midwife or birth attendant increased from 5.7 per cent in 2005 to 10 per cent in 2011.
There were higher numbers of HIV positive women in rural areas than in urban areas, but not because of rape. The reasons were deep-rooted attitudes and backwards thinking, lack of awareness, the biological factor that women were more likely to become infected than men, and reluctance to receive preventative healthcare because of taboos. The Government had distributed condoms and other awareness-raising methods, and today 97 per cent of women and 99 per cent of men in Ethiopia were aware of HIV/AIDS. As a result the infection rate had declined, more HIV positive mothers received treatment, and the number of pregnant women with HIV/AIDS also decreased.
There were programmes to tackle social drug abuse, including tobacco and alcohol. Parliamentarians, healthcare professionals, social workers, journalists and youths had attended special training workshops, while campaigns promoting healthy lifestyles – such as preventing diabetes and other non-communicable diseases – ran on national television channels.
Funding for cultural events and programmes was allocated at a regional level. An example of legislative efforts was draft legislation to protect traditional knowledge and folklore, such as that of small-scale farmers. Ethiopia was very proud to be known as ‘the cradle of humanity’ and invested great importance in protecting its rich and varied culture.
FISSEHA YIMER, Special Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, said he had had a fruitful, wide-ranging and comprehensive dialogue that had been an enriching experience. The concluding observations and recommendations would be of immense value to the Government in improving access to economic, social and cultural rights in Ethiopia. Mr. Yimer apologised for the late submission of the report and written answers and the inconvenience caused, and said next time it would be delivered on time.
ARIRANGA GOVINDASAMY PILLAY, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the useful and frank interactive dialogue, and hoped that in future the State party would present its report on time to enhance future cooperation. Mr. Pillay congratulated the State party on progress made, especially with regard to economic growth and the reduction of poverty. However, many challenges existed, especially gaps between rural and urban areas. Mr. Pillay assured the delegation that the Committee would, as it usually did, check again all of its sources, which included civil society and non-governmental organizations, so that all observations were fully substantiated on all pertinent issues affecting the State party, including the specific issue of whether or not forced evictions took place resulting in the displacement of people from their lands and properties, against their will, in breach of human rights standards and against the Committee’s guidelines. It was encouraging to note that the delegation would take the Committee’s recommendations seriously, and it was hoped they would be implemented.
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