Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights
19 November 2012
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this afternoon met with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that briefed it on the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Equatorial Guinea and Bulgaria.
On the situation in Equatorial Guinea, which will be considered in the absence of a report, an NGO representative expressed concern about violence against women and children, trafficking in human beings and exploitation of children coming from West Africa. A lot remained to be done to ensure the implementation of the national policy for the improvement of the situation of women and the 2004 action plan to combat the exploitation of children. The existence of customary and civil legal systems side by side enabled persistent discrimination against women and the Government should double efforts to increase the participation of women in political and public life.
Turning to the situation of economic, social and cultural rights in Bulgaria, whose report will be reviewed this week, NGO representatives raised issues of unemployment, particularly among the youth, feminization of poverty and gender inequality in the country. In terms of maternal mortality, it was noted that the Government failed to recognize the specificity and nature of birth-related deaths and that there was no consistent system of care for women giving birth. The public health system did not cover the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and there was no national strategy aiming to ensure adequate financial and social support and policy measures for patients and their families.
Iceland will also present a report to the Committee this week and the Committee will review the situation in the Republic of the Congo in the absence of a report. There were no NGOs present to speak about the situation in those countries.
Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations took the floor this afternoon: OCAPROCE International, Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation and Foundation Compassion Alzheimer Bulgaria.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 20 November, when it will begin its consideration of the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of Bulgaria (E/C.12/BGR/4-5).
OCAPROCE International expressed concern about violence against women and children, trafficking in human beings and exploitation of children coming from West Africa in Equatorial Guinea. The NGO commended the Government for the adoption of the national policy for the improvement of the situation of women and the 2004 action plan to combat exploitation of children, but noted that a lot remained to be done in the implementation of those programmes and policies. The Government had failed to ratify a number of international human rights instruments, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The existence of customary and civil legal systems side by side enabled persistent discrimination against women and the Government should double efforts to increase the participation of women in political and public life.
Experts asked OCAPROCE International whether they had any knowledge about national programmes to combat poverty in Equatorial Guinea and about the cooperation of the Government with civil society in the area of economic, social and cultural rights.
In response, the NGO said Equatorial Guinea had not provided any reports since 2009, which meant that all the information had been sourced from 2009 reports submitted to the Universal Periodic Review. There was a mechanism to combat poverty in the country and the national plan existed; what was important for Equatorial Guinea to explain was whether those plans were being implemented. Nothing seemed to be done on the ground according to the non-governmental organizations in the field.
Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation and Foundation Compassion Alzheimer said that the Government was continuously overlooking the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of the citizens in Bulgaria. Government and court officials were not receiving continuous education in human rights and the Government had not yet signed and ratified the Optional Protocol to the Covenant. Bulgaria had not yet implemented its Universal Periodic Review recommendations to adopt a special Law on Gender Equality, and the gender pay gap was still wide. Unemployment was a serious problem, over 11 per cent in 2011, particularly for the youth, while poverty was on the rise, especially among women. The Government failed to recognize the specificity and nature of birth-related deaths and there was no consistent system of care for women giving birth. The right to study one’s own religion in schools was violated as there was no obligatory religious education in public schools. The public health system did not cover the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and there was no national strategy aiming to ensure adequate financial and social support and policy measures.
Committee Experts asked about the impact of the financial crisis in Europe on unemployment, particularly of women and youth; gender inequality in the private sector in terms of careers and wages; protection of women from all forms of discrimination in the absence of a special law; and religions in the country, including the official religion of Bulgaria.
Responding, the NGO representatives said that national statistics indicated a rise in poverty among the women and the youth and the economic crisis had had an impact on employment in Bulgaria. There was the Law on Discrimination and the Committee on Anti-Discrimination existed, but not too many complaints were filed. Bulgarians were majority Orthodox Christian and other registered religions included Islam, Judaism and Catholicism. There was a consensus between them concerning compulsory religious education in schools. Public health services were available upon payment for dementia or Alzheimer patients, but not many could afford the cost and many people affected by those diseases did not enjoy any medical treatment.
For use of the information media; not an official record