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Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concludes fiftieth session

Committee on Economic, Social  
  and Cultural Rights 

17 May 2013

ROUNDUP

Adopts Concluding Observations and Recommendations on Reports of Japan, Iran, Jamaica, Azerbaijan, Togo, Rwanda and Denmark

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its fiftieth session after adopting its concluding observations and recommendations on how Japan, Iran, Jamaica, Azerbaijan, Togo, Rwanda and Denmark comply with the standards of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations will be available on its website on the first working day after the closing of the Committee’s session.

During the session, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addressed the Committee on the occasion of the entry into force on 5 May of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on individual communications.  The High Commissioner said the entry into force of the Optional Protocol brought the United Nations full circle on the normative architecture of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  By allowing the Committee to receive individual communications, a historic gap had been closed and allowed the Committee to undertake inquiries to get to the root causes of violations.
 
Zdzislaw Kedzia, Committee Chairperson, speaking on the same occasion, said the introduction of legal remedies in cases of violations of economic, social and cultural rights benefitted rights holders.  The Optional Protocol becoming operational allowed victims that had exhausted domestic processes to submit a request to the Committee, and in doing this, allowed it to affect the development of economic, social and cultural rights.  Progress on this would depend on ratification of the Optional Protocol and civil society’s role in raising awareness of the protection mechanism could not be overstated. The Committee was aware of the enormous responsibility entrusted to it and would do its best to deliver objective, well-reasoned and legally sound decisions.

In a meeting with States parties on the last day of the session, the Committee Chairperson said that the aim of the meeting was to brief States about this present session, about steps to ensure the efficiency of the work of the Committee, and about the implications of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol.  He noted that in order to reduce the backlog with the country reports – 40 reports - the Committee had reduced the number of meetings it allocated per report so that it could consider more country reports per session, and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) had also allocated an extra two weeks of meetings to be covered by existing resources, without providing additional funds. 

Other Committee members said that the Committee dealt with extremely important issues like salaries and unions and education, and these issues were of primary concern during any elections; therefore honouring the provisions of the Covenant should be extremely important for all governments.  States parties were also urged to submit detailed statistics in their periodic reports on the budgets allocated to these important rights.  The Committee had previously sent States parties a letter concerning the global financial crises, and it regularly issued General Comments, and a Committee Expert asked States if these letters and General Comments were sent to their capitals and if there was any feedback on them.  Experts said that the list of issues that the Committee provided to States parties presenting their report was an indication of the issues that the Committee needed answers to.  Also, the calendar that was being discussed right now in the treaty body strengthening process would help create room for States parties to appropriately prepare themselves and avoid late submissions.

In response, States parties expressed their support for the Committee’s work, and said they understood the problem with the backlog of reports.  They said they approved of the ECOSOC decision to give the Committee an extra two weeks of meetings, and hoped that the next ECOSOC decision would also provide additional funds.  States parties said that General Comments providing guidance and reference on specific articles of the Covenant were very important to them.  One State said it would be very helpful if the Committee could prioritize the issues that needed to be provided in the country reports. 

Speaking in the meeting were representatives of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, China, Republic of Korea, Uruguay and Togo.

At its closing meeting this afternoon, Mr. Kedzia said that in addition to the consideration of country reports and the adoption of the concluding observations and recommendations, the Committee this session had welcomed three new members and seen the election of a new Chairperson and Bureau.  Meetings with stakeholders had taken place, as well as lunchtime briefings.  One most important day was 5 May, which marked the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant.  The Committee had a breakfast celebration and was also addressed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Committee also devoted considerable time to the discussion on working methods and significant adjustments had been put in place related to new or modified approaches concerning the adoption of concluding observations and recommendations, the roles of the rapporteurs and the country rapporteurs and others.  The Committee had also dedicated a considerable amount of time to the discussion on the strengthening of the treaty body system.  Today, the Committee had held a briefing for Member States to the Covenant and others, which had been attended by around 30 representatives.  The pre-sessional working group would meet next week to adopt the list of issues for the following 10 countries: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Norway and Uzbekistan.

The Committee’s fifty-first session will be held from 4 to 29 November, during which it will review the reports of Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Kuwait and Norway.
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For use of the information media; not an official record