Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights
28 April 2014
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this afternoon heard from representatives of national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations on the implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Ukraine and Indonesia, whose reports will be considered by the Committee this week. The Committee will also consider the report of Monaco this week but there were no speakers on the situation in that country.
On Ukraine, issues drawn to the Committee’s attention included the inadequacies of the new anti-discrimination law, the continued rights violations suffered by the Roma people and other national minorities, and the under-representation of women in the public sphere. Combating corruption and violations of labour and trade union rights were also highlighted, as were the high levels of morbidity and mortality in Ukraine.
On Indonesia, areas of concern raised included violations of the rights of indigenous populations, contested land claims over customary land and forest development policies. The Government of Indonesia’s efforts to provide nationwide healthcare coverage for all Indonesian people was commended, but challenging areas included lack of facilities and healthcare workers. Non-governmental organizations also drew to the Committee’s attention discrimination faced by domestic workers, gender-based violence suffered by women, and the situation of indigenous peoples in Papua.
In a general statement, a non-governmental organization spoke about the right to social security for all globally, urging the Committee to issue a statement on the right to social protection and to work to make sure it was included in the post-2015 agenda.
The following national human rights institutions took the floor: Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, National Commission on Human Rights of Indonesia and the National Commission on Violence against Women of Indonesia.
The following non-governmental organizations took the floor:Indonesian Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition, International NGO Forum on Indonesia Development and Franciscans International. The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors also took the floor.
The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 29 April, when it will begin its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Ukraine (E/C.12/UKR/6). The initial report of Indonesia (E/C.12/IDN/1) will be considered at 3 p.m. on Wednesday 30 April. The Committee will also review the combined second and third periodic reports of Monaco (E/C.12/MCO/2-3) this week, starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, 2 May.
National Human Rights Institution
A representative of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights said that in 2013 the Office of the Commissioner received almost 40,000 complaints on human rights violations, of which 30 per cent concerned issues covered by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Parliament of Ukraine adopted a law titled ‘Prevention and Combating Discrimination in Ukraine’, which entered into force on 4 October 2012. However, that law did not fully ensure effective access to justice for victims of discrimination, provide means of redress for them nor make perpetrators accountable. The Commissioner regretted continued problems suffered by the Roma population in Ukraine, exacerbated by the lack of demographics. The Commissioner welcomed the approval of the strategy for the protection and integration of the Roma national minority into Ukrainian society, but had doubts about the effectiveness of that national plan.
The under-representation of women was a further concern, with the example given that only 9.7 per cent of Members of the Parliament of Ukraine were women. The Commissioner had observed systematic problems and massive violations of labour rights, and restrictions of the rights of trade unions to initiate collective labour disputes. The Commissioner also noted a high number of violations regarding the right to a decent standard of living. The high levels of morbidity and mortality, and World Health Organization statistics which showed that Ukraine held one of the lowest positions in the European region with regard to public health, were highlighted. Of particular concern was the lack of treatment for socially dangerous diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis. All Ukrainians hoped that the new Government which started work two months ago would pay full attention to all of the problems outlines.
Questions from Committee Experts on Ukraine
Questions were raised about the lack of statistical data on national minority groups and about the implementation of the new anti-discrimination law. The representative of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights said the only statistics available were for all Ukrainian citizens, they were not disaggregated by minority groups, although he would send more detailed data to the Committee following the meeting. The largest national minority populations in Ukraine were the Tartar and Roma, he noted. The problem with the implementation of the new anti-discrimination law came down to a lack of funding for its accompanying action plan. Of course there were many problems in Ukraine, he said, but he hoped that a second reading of a draft law to provide for legislative amendments would address some issues.
An Expert noted that the problem of corruption and its impact on the implementation of the Covenant was not mentioned and asked what steps the new Government was likely to take in general. The representative replied that the annual report of the Ombudsman of Ukraine was released two weeks ago, containing almost 600 pages on violations of rights, a fifth of which was on violations of economic, social and cultural rights. Of course those violations could not be remedied in one year, it would take several years of work, but the Ombudsman would do everything within its mandate to push the Government into real reform. Corruption was a problem in all areas, the representative said, but combating it was indeed beyond the mandate of the Ombudsman.
National Human Rights Institutions
A representative of the National Commission on Human Rights outlined several areas of concern that were mentioned in the Committee’s list of issues. The free disposal of natural wealth and resources, especially concerning violations of the rights of indigenous populations, was discussed. Specific problems raised included contested land claims over customary land and the forest development policy. Anti-discrimination policies developed by the Government were commended, especially efforts to support persons with disabilities, but more needed to be done, the representative said. The Government of Indonesia’s efforts to provide nationwide healthcare coverage for all Indonesian people was appreciated, but there were three main challenging areas: the lack of facilities and healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses; membership; and socialization and coordination. The lack of health and medical services for people with mental health problems, including the use of physical restraints due to limited facilities, was also highlighted.
A representative of the National Commission on Violence against Women highlighted six key issues. First, women’s loss of their capacity to support themselves due to violence, which forced them to work in unsafe environments, such as plantation labourers, sex workers or entering into unregistered marriages. Second, the 342 discriminatory policies identified in the name of religion and morality in the post-autonomy era. Third, the discrimination faced by women with disabilities, such as polygamy being permitted if a wife was disabled. Fourth, violence and discrimination as a consequence of sexual orientation and gender identity, and stigma suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Fifth, the situation of approximately 1,300 Papuan women who were marginalized, impoverished and suffering various forms of violence was raised. And sixth, exploitation and discrimination suffered by migrant workers, particularly migrant domestic workers. The Government neglected the National Commission’s report on discrimination faced by women by claiming that cases of violence against women, particularly the sexual abuse of women workers, had decreased. However, the number of complaints had actually increased, and any data fluctuation was due to the lack of victims reporting complaints.
Indonesian Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition, speaking on behalf of over 60 non-governmental organizations, made several key recommendations which it hoped the Committee would take into account when drafting its concluding observations. Their subjects included the exclusion of various social groups, including the poor, women, migrant workers, indigenous people, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and people living with HIV/AIDS. They also included people with disabilities, refugees and asylum seekers and religious minorities such as the Ahmadiyah and Syiah communities who had been displaced from their villages. The improvement of social protection services, particularly maternity services and services for persons with disabilities was badly needed. The Government was urged to adopt the bill on the protection of domestic workers and ratify International Labour Organization Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. Other areas of concern highlighted included the violation of the rights of women, indigenous peoples and the need to ensure the right of all children – girls and boys – to formal education. A lack of access to food security, clean water and adequate sanitation, especially in rural areas, as well as the preservation of cultural heritage by ensuring old buildings were preserved, not demolished, were also raised.
International NGO Forum on Indonesia Development, representing more than 50 organizations, highlighted the situation of religious minorities in Indonesia who had persistently been on the receiving end of multi-layered discrimination, including Ahmadiyah followers in West Nusa Tenggara who had been languishing in refugee camps for the last eight years, the representative said. On 1 January 2014 Indonesia launched a universal health insurance programme, which was a significant breakthrough. However, health services had been unable to cope with the sudden influx of patients and the system suffered from weak coordination. Poor informal-sector workers were left were virtually no form of social protection under the current tariff system. The high maternal mortality rate of 359 per 100,000 live births, which translated to up to four women in Indonesia dying during pregnancy or childbirth every hour, was also discussed.
Franciscans International, in a joint statement with several other non-governmental organizations, made recommendations to the Government of Indonesia on areas including the rights of indigenous peoples, including the recognition of customary land by law, and implementation of the principle of free, prior and informed consent in a meaningful manner for the development and extractive projects in Papua. The Government was urged to provide awareness-raising programmes and human rights training to women at village levels, and provide shelters and other specialized services to women suffering from all forms of gender-based violence. Disaggregated data on health service statistics in Papua was needed, in order to show existing health inequalities and form a basis for a specific provincial Papuan health strategy. The quality of education in disadvantaged areas, especially rural and mountain areas, had to be improved. Finally, on cultural rights, the Papuan Customary Council should be recognized as a legitimate representative body of the Papuans, the organization said.
Questions from Committee Experts on Indonesia
Questions were asked about the number of indigenous peoples living in Indonesia, and in what ways their rights were violated. An Expert expressed concern about the forestry laws, and said forests were being burned down and destroyed in Indonesia, which not only violated the rights of indigenous persons but also environmental rights. He also asked about the definition or concept of women.
The representative of the National Commission on Human Rights replied that there was no statistical data on how many Indonesian people were indigenous. The term ‘indigenous’ did not exist in Indonesian law. It was controversial and not widely used, as the Government had stated that ‘all Indonesians were indigenous’. The term ‘Masyarakat Adat’ was used instead, meaning ‘customary communities’. However, civil society estimated that 25 to 30 per cent of the Indonesian population could be considered indigenous using criteria including lifestyle, such as living on ancestral land, the maintenance of tradition to manage land resources differently from the rest of the population, and some communities had their own systems of economics and governance. A law to protect the rights of those people – known as the Adat communities - was currently being discussed by the Government. The representative said transgender people – namely men who felt that they were women – was not well recognized or supported, mainly because of traditional attitudes.
Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors, a coalition of 80 organizations demanding the right to social security for all globally, took the floor and said the right to social security was one of the foundations for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. The Coalition appreciated the work of the Committee in holding Member States accountable to the right to social security obligations. It appealed to the Committee to issue a statement recognizing the International Labour Organization’s Social Protection Floors Recommendation 202 as instrumental to the realization of the right to social security, and urge that social protection floors be included in the post-2015 agenda. It also recommended the Committee call on States to take appropriate steps to protect and fulfil the right of social security for all individuals, regardless of their social, economic or religious backgrounds.
For use of the information media; not an official record