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Opening Address by Ms. Kyung-wha Kang Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights at the 14th session of the Committee on Migrants Workers

Geneva, 4 April 2011

Distinguished members of the Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the High Commissioner, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the fourteenth session of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Since your last session in October 2010, some new and important developments of interest to the Committee have taken place.  Allow me to review these briefly as they relate to this Committee.

Treaty body strengthening

2011 will be a challenging year for treaty bodies, as it will be for OHCHR.  Following the High Commissioner’s call in the autumn of 2009 to reflect on ways and means to strengthen the treaty body system, an intensive process of consultations has been taking place which will continue in the coming months.  These events aim at bringing together individual groups of stakeholders to solicit their views and concrete suggestions on strengthening the treaty bodies system and making it more efficient and effective for rights-holders worldwide.

As you know, the Dublin Statement, adopted in November 2009, paved the way for the current treaty body strengthening process.  It was followed in June 2010 by the Marrakech Statement containing recommendations for enhanced cooperation between national human rights institutions and treaty bodies.  Last September, the Poznan Statement was adopted.  In addition, a meeting of the working group on follow-up set up by the Inter-Committee Meeting (ICM) took place in January 2011 in Geneva and was attended by Ms. Cubias Medina and Mr. Sevim from the Committee on Migrant Workers.  This working group focused on the follow-up procedures relating to concluding observations, decisions on communications, visits and inquiries, including an assessment of their effectiveness.  You have in your files the points of agreement of the working group, which will be placed before the ICM and the Chairpersons meeting in June.  A consultation among States parties, co-sponsored by Chairs of all treaty bodies and the High Commissioner, is scheduled for 12 to 13 May in Sion.  Consultations for United Nations entities and civil society actors are planned for later in the year.  Finally, a meeting in Dublin this autumn is expected to mark the end of the consultative process.  These consultations will be reflected in a report to be issued by the High Commissioner in early 2012, in which all the recommendations emanating from this process will be presented.  It is our expectation that 2012 will be the year for action, with the High Commissioner’s report serving as the basis for taking concrete measures to strengthen the treaty bodies. We count on your continued constructive engagement and support to this process.
            In this regard, OHCHR has been organizing a series of one-day consultations involving the eight treaty bodies’ which have a reporting procedure.  As you are aware, a retreat for the members of this Committee and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is scheduled for this coming weekend.  It follows a series of retreats organized over the past few months, covering treaty bodies with overlapping sessions.  The objective has been to provide opportunities for members of the treaty bodies to discuss in advance topics selected for the next Inter-Committee Meeting in June; and to provide a space for creative thinking with a view towards strengthening the treaty body system.

General Assembly

You may be aware that at its 65th session last year, the General Assembly session adopted various resolutions on the treaty bodies, including two approving requests for additional meeting time for two Committees.  Several other Committees have also or will soon present requests for additional meeting time.  Faced with such continuous requests – as contained in the resolutions for CERD and CAT, and the ECOSOC resolution for CESCR - the General Assembly has requested the Secretary-General to “submit to it at its 66th session concrete and tailored proposals to rationalize the work of the treaty bodies.”        

Status of new instruments and treaty bodies

The need for rationalisation becomes clearer when observing the continuous growth in the size and workload of the treaty body system.  On 23 December 2010, the 20th instrument of ratification to the Convention on Enforced Disappearances was deposited, thus fulfilling the argument for the establishment of a new monitoring Committee.  The elections for the Committee on Enforced Disappearances are due to take place on 31 May 2011.

In a few days, on 19 April, a new Open-Ended Working Group will meet in New York, established by the General Assembly “for the purpose of strengthening the protection of the human rights of older persons …, including by considering, as appropriate, the feasibility of further instruments and measures …” This welcome attention to a gap in the human rights framework may well result in a new instrument and monitoring body.

In addition, on 17 February of this year, the open-ended Working Group on an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child of the Human Rights Council adopted a draft Optional Protocol to establish an individual communications procedure under that Convention.  This draft will be placed before the Human Rights Council for formal adoption next June and subsequently before the General Assembly for approval during its 66th session.

OHCHR Activities related to promote the ratification of the Convention

OHCHR continues to serve as convener of the Steering Committee on the Promotion of the Ratification of the Migrants Rights Convention.  This year, the Steering Committee has focused attention on nine States where it considers national developments in favour of ratification would benefit from international support.  The High Commissioner is similarly continuing her efforts toward the same end.  Building on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Convention commemorated last year, the High Commissioner has written to the fifteen signatories of the Convention that have not yet ratified, encouraging them to do so.

Mr Chairperson,
Distinguished members of the Committee,

Turning to the task at hand, you have indeed a busy week ahead of you.  Later today you will start your dialogue with a State party delegation from Mexico.  Later in the week, you will discuss and adopt lists of issues for the three States parties, which are due to be reviewed at your next session: Argentina, Chile and Guatemala. Since your last session, Tajikistan and Paraguay have submitted their initial reports.

During this one-week session, you will also meet with different partners with the view to organizing a day of general discussion on issues related to the Convention and to improving their collaboration with the Committee, as well as discuss your working methods to advance the harmonization process.

Concluding remarks

The protection of the migrants’ rights is currently facing major challenges.  The upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa, while breaking through the right the wall of oppression that had denied the people their rights and freedoms for decades, has demonstrated the particular vulnerabilities of migrant workers.  We note with concern the repercussions of recent events on the rights of migrants, including unlawful and often dangerous interception practices, at sea and land borders, violence, racism, and xenophobia.  Thousands of migrant workers and members of their families have suffered violations of their economic social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights.  The statement issued last month by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Libya highlights the urgency of addressing disproportionate impact of the crisis on African migrant workers in particular.

The critical situation in this region has demonstrated once again the importance of continuing to promote the international human rights standards relating to migration, the High Commissioner, when chairing the Global Migration Group last year, brought particular attention to bear upon the protection of migrant workers in irregular situations. Migration remains as one of the priority areas for OHCHR. It is the focus of several OHCHR activities, including a roundtable on alternatives to immigration detention, which will be held in May this year.  We hope to count on the participation of a member of the Committee.
We remain committed to supporting the work of the Committee.  Allow me to conclude by wishing you a very successful and productive session.  

Thank you for your attention.