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Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights opens sixty-second session

Committee on Economic, Social  
  and Cultural Rights 

18 September 2017

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights opened its sixty-second session this morning, hearing a statement by Simon Walker, Chief of Section, Human Rights Treaties Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda and programme of work for the session.

In his opening statement, Mr. Walker noted that the session was taking place at a time of serious human rights concerns, marked by violence, discrimination and poverty, protracted conflicts, such as that in Syria, and in some cases persecution on a massive scale, such as that currently being experienced by the Rohingya people of Myanmar.  The denial of economic, social and cultural rights was at the heart of such crises, he stressed.  Mr. Walker briefed the Committee on the preparations for the 2020 review of the General Assembly resolution 68/268 on treaty body strengthening, recalling that the General Assembly had adopted a range of measures in 2014 to strengthen the treaty body system, including to grant additional meeting weeks to enable the committees to eliminate the backlog of reports and individual communications. 

There were several tracks leading to the 2020 review; firstly, the formal track had led to a proposal to reallocate meeting times and staffing to each treaty body, with a considerable increase in resources to be allocated to bodies examining individual communications.  It was expected that the General Assembly would decide on the proposal in December; if adopted, the number of weeks allocated to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would reduce from ten to eight per year, with the expectation that the Committee would review 14 country reports in 2018.  Secondly, the Geneva Academy was coordinating a global academic reflection on the treaty body system that would contribute to the 2020 review.  This process had resulted in a number of proposals, including ways to encourage non- and under-reporting States to submit reports, and holding treaty body meetings in different regions.  The Geneva Academy had also studied proposals for a unified case-handling system and the creation of a separate chamber to handle individual communications.   The academic process would hold its final meeting in December 2017 with a view to preparing a final report in 2018. 

The third track of the 2020 review was being led by non-governmental organizations, said Mr. Walker.  The International Service of Human Rights, co-sponsored by Costa Rica and Switzerland, had held a consultation about a political strategy ahead of the 2020 review with the aim of making the treaty body system more accessible, inclusive, efficient, effective and rights-oriented.  In addition, a civil society working group had considered this issue in the lead-up to the 2020 review.  Finally, Mr. Walker highlighted that a group of States, led by Costa Rica and Switzerland, met periodically to share information on the treaty body system and that the role of this group would increase in importance as the 2020 review approached, and wished the Committee a fruitful and enjoyable session.

Maria Virginia Bras Gomes, Committee Chairperson, welcomed all those gathered and their interest in the work of the Committee, and thanked Mr. Walker for his comments.

The Committee then adopted the provisional agenda and organization of work for the sixty-second session, during which it will review reports presented by Colombia, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Russia, and Mexico.  All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties can be found at the session’s webpage.

The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. today to hold a public meeting with national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations with respect to Colombia, Republic of Korea and the Republic of Moldova, whose reports the Committee will review this week.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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