8 November 2013
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today considered the second periodic report of Bosnia and Herzegovina on how the country implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Introducing the report, Saliha Duderija, Deputy Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that Bosnia and Herzegovina had been progressively implementing the provisions of the Covenant since the presentation of its previous report. This included the setting up of a human rights ombudsman’s office. The State had been active in stamping out anti-Roma discrimination in areas such as education. The rights of refugees and displaced people were an additional area of activity, particularly with respect to housing and infrastructure needs. Bosnia and Herzegovina believed in principles of tolerance, diversity and equal rights protections under the law and was willing to work with the United Nations to this end.
The Committee said that the complex structure of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a result of the Dayton Accords following the Bosnian War, was unwieldy when it came to the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant and other human rights instruments. It raised concerns about the rights of Roma and other ethnic minorities, as well as the housing, healthcare and educational needs of returnees, refugees and internally displaced people. The establishment of an human rights ombudsman was to be welcomed, but the Committee was concerned that this was not enough to enable Bosnia and Herzegovina to overcome its human rights challenges.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Duderija thanked the Committee for asking difficult questions to help focus efforts to improve human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Heisoo Shin, Committee Member and Rapporteur for the report of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said she had mixed feelings with regard to the human rights situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its ability to uphold the provisions of the Covenant, given the difficulties caused by the country’s constitutional structure.
Zdzislaw Kedzia, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation from Bosnia and Herzegovina for its frank and open approach, and wished it all success in implementing the Committee’s recommendations in the future.
The delegation of Bosnia and Herzegovina included representatives of the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Gender Centre of Republika Srpska, the Ministry of Civil Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Government of the Republika Srpska and the Permanent Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 3 p.m. on Monday, 11 November, when it will start its consideration of the initial report of Djibouti.
The second periodic report of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be read here: E/C.12/BIH/2.
Presentation of the Report
SALIHA DUDERIJA, Deputy Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that Bosnia and Herzegovina had been progressively implementing the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights since the presentation of its previous report. This included the setting up of a single human rights body – the ombudsman’s office - as well as a parliamentary committee for human rights. A law on the prohibition of discrimination was adopted in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2009 and covered all areas of life and all forms of discrimination. Public institutions were charged with removing discriminatory barriers in their activities. This was particularly relevant to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Roma minority; the State had been active in stamping out anti-Roma discrimination in areas such as education. The rights of refugees and displaced people were an additional area of activity, particularly with respect to housing and infrastructure needs. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina had not resolved this problem according to the action plan, and appealed for international aid in this area.
In general Bosnia and Herzegovina believed in principles of tolerance, diversity and equal rights protections under the law. To this end it was willing to work with United Nations bodies and mechanisms in an open and constructive way.
Questions by Experts
HEISOO SHIN, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for the report of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that she was sympathetic to the challenges faced by Bosnia and Herzegovina 18 years after the end of the war there. The second report, while timely, did not unfortunately follow the structure laid out in the guidelines. The ratification of most of the Optional Protocols of the Covenant was to be welcomed, and there were many positive developments such as the establishment of a human rights ombudsman’s office and the attention paid to the problems of the Roma.
However, the complex structure of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its two constitutions, 10 cantons, and the presence of 176 ministers, including 14 education ministers alone, greatly hampered peoples’ enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights because of lack of coordination. The structure of the State must be reformed if rights were to be properly advanced. The Covenant was consequently “invisible” in the judicial structures and institutions. The domestic non-discrimination law mentioned in the presentation was not being implemented sufficiently. Why not?
An Expert added that the new ombudsman’s office was, by the delegation’s own admission, underfunded. What would be the budget for it in 2014? Secondly, despite what the delegation had said, there was no evidence of a national human rights action plan. Would it not be a good idea to have one? Thirdly, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers had sat on its own gender equality legislation since 2001. How could the Committee be assured of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s commitment to gender equality with a record like this?
Another Expert noted that once the Covenant was ratified it became a part of domestic legislation so judges had to be fully conversant in it. Could the delegation show that they were?
Questions raised by another Expert included an inquiry about levels of police training vis a vis the Covenant, the high number of refugees and internally displaced people still housed in camps, the progress of a hate crimes bill in the legislature, and the number of non-governmental organizations active in women’s rights in the country.
Another Expert noted that the Committee’s previous recommendations were now almost eight years old. What was being done to apply them “consistently” and what did this mean? The Strasbourg court’s recent decision about levels of discrimination in Bosnia and Herzegovina reflected a problem which, in the delegation’s own words, would be “resolved soon”. How could this be achieved?
Did Bosnia and Herzegovina envisage establishing a national human rights commission to support the work of the ombudsman? Could the delegation shed light on the participation of non-governmental organizations and civil society in their efforts?
An Expert, referring to the Dayton Accords which had framed the conditions of its post-war existence, recognized the difficulties faced by Bosnia and Herzegovina. If a country could not successfully rebuild its economy, a progressive rights-approach to improving conditions of citizens would be difficult. What could the delegation add to the Committee’s understanding of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s post-war reconstruction efforts and its relationship to European Union and United Nations bodies?
Figures indicated that 80 per cent of internally displaced persons and returning refugees were living in poverty, and an Expert asked the delegation what was being done in Bosnia and Herzegovina to address this. What protections were in place for pregnant women? The delegate had been frank about the failure of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s social protection and assistance programmes, but this was because the system was badly targeted. What did the delegation have to say about that?
It was clear that the unemployment situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was grave, standing at 43 per cent according to official figures (other figures indicated it was in fact much worse than this, particularly with regard to women and people with disabilities). Could the delegation provide a more detailed picture of employment, broken down into social categories?
An Expert asked for more hard facts about the labour inspection regime in Bosnia and Herzegovina because the problem of non-payment and broken contracts appeared to be intractable. The lack of progress on the minimum wage, trade union reform and workers’ rights was problematic. What could the delegation say about the Government’s intention to reform union regulations? How many people in Bosnia and Herzegovina were entitled to pensions?
With regard to women’s rights, an Expert said the delegation had been frank about the levels of discrimination in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but one way to tackle this would be to introduce equal pay laws. Was this something being considered? In addition, while victims of war in various categories had been recognized by Bosnia and Herzegovina, why had war-rape victims not been included?
In 2006, Bosnia and Herzegovina chose the road of privatization for its economy; how had this impacted labour rights and the right to work? How had problems in the European economy since then impacted on the rights agenda in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Responses by the Delegation
Responding to the questions asked by Committee Experts, the delegation made reference to the Dayton Accords and the complexity of the structure of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All sides were equally unhappy about the Paris peace treaty of 1995 at the time, but it had brought peace and in this sense it was a balanced document. If all sides wanted to change it they would. Many countries in the world had complex constitutional structures, including even Switzerland, which functioned quite well.
However, the complexity of the State meant that the application of international instruments was mostly through the court system. All such human rights obligations were applied in this way and cantons and municipalities had inquired into their applicability at the local level. It was difficult but Bosnia and Herzegovina aspired to apply all international instruments in its systems.
In answer to the assertion that it did not have a human rights action plan, the delegation assured the Committee that Bosnia and Herzegovina did indeed have an operational action plan for human rights although it was proving difficult to implement. Meanwhile, measures had been taken to improve the situation of vulnerable categories of people in line with the recommendations of this Committee and others.
With regard to the Strasbourg judgement, the European Commission was assisting the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in making sure that nobody would be barred from standing for elections.
Turning to budgets, it must simply be said that all budgets were at present frozen and that meant that the ombudsman’s office would be funded as before. However, funds would be found to provide the minimum standard of its operations.
With regard to labour rights and the employment of returnees, the delegation considered this to be a sensitive issue. However, alongside youth and women, this was a target category of employment programmes. The problem was that returnees often did not have adequate housing and this was an impediment to their participation in the agricultural workforce. As for pregnant women and their employment rights, maternity leave with compensation was guaranteed although it was fair to say that the application of this right was applied differently in cantons and the Republika Srpska.
The delegation did not have with it employment data by year or category but the headline unemployment figure was 44 per cent, although it was fair to call this an administrative figure and International Labour Organization figures were calculated differently. In any case unemployment was unacceptably high and the authorities were active in attempting to bring it down through programmes, particularly with respect to persons with disabilities. Furthermore a questioner asked about the operation of labour inspectorates. It was true that the structure of the State made this a complex issue and that it was a modest outfit with just eight inspectors at the federal level. Despite this their success rate in handling employment disputes was impressive. In Republika Srpska the inspectorate was also working well. Stamping out informal employment was a priority across all entities of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Minimum wages, which differed in the constituent entities because they were arrived at by collective agreement, were far from sufficient and it had been proposed to centralise the setting of the minimum wage.
The constitutions at all levels of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the labour laws respected union rights but it was up to labour unions themselves to organise their activities; there was nothing in legislation to prevent this. Turning to the right to strike, the delegation said that workers in important service sectors, for example healthcare and water supply, had to announce their intention to strike in advance.
Pension provision also differed across the constituent parts of the State but it was true to say the amounts were insufficient while remembering that retirees were given some community privileges. Privatisation had led to a negative impact on employment and union activity.
Concerning gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the delegation pointed out that the report contained information on the Council of Ministers’ deliberations about the application of the gender equality laws, and this included consideration of equal pay rights. However, the diffuse structure of the State meant that equality laws were submitted to the centre from the constituent parts in a collaborative process. Cooperation with women’s non-governmental organizations increased each year and while there was no central register of them it was true to say that they were active in gender equality work. The Committee had noted that not all institutions applied gender equality standards, and this was true, but bodies such as the Gender Centre of the Republika Srpska were trying to encourage data submission from institutions about women’s employment rates.
The general law on the prohibition of discrimination was applied and monitored through the ombudsman’s office and this held data on discrimination cases. In 2012, 81 mobbing cases were recorded, 30 cases of national discrimination cases, 13 gender discrimination cases, four sexual orientation discrimination cases, one case of discrimination based on skin colour, and zero sexual harassment cases. The largest amount of cases in 2011 concerned ethnic or national discrimination. Discrimination cases concerning employment and working conditions had been recorded in the dozens in each of the last few years. The Ministry of Human Rights and other entities in the structure of the State would have to establish their own database of discrimination cases according to legislation, and this would help provide a better picture in the future. Harmonisation of legislation across ministries and with international obligations was progressing. Racial discrimination was a criminal offence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and new crimes, including hate crimes, were being added to the criminal code. The rights of pregnant women were subject to the labour, social security and healthcare laws and this was further complicated by the diffuse entities of the State which all had their own laws. The federal law was but a framework document and each canton and the Republika Srpska and the Brcko District applied their own laws.
The reconstruction of houses for returnees, according to estimates by the Ministry of Human Rights, would require a large loan. A strategy was in place to close some 80 per cent of the remaining collective centres where the returnees were currently housed and there were loans available from Saudi Arabia to apply to the improvement of housing infrastructure for vulnerable categories of internally displaced persons and returnees. Applications for return to Bosnia and Herzegovina by tens of thousands of people living in other countries in the region were being accepted and housing projects were initiated for them in anticipation of their return.
Further Questions from Committee Experts
An Expert wondered about collective centres where internally displaced persons were living and why, if they numbered just 8,000 or so, they had not yet been re-housed two decades after the war. Had the poverty rate increased or decreased in response to the poverty reduction programmes put in place? Had the claims of the Roma been settled yet? Had the implementation of the housing plan for the Roma improved their lot or not?
Another Expert addressed three issues: human trafficking, poverty and access to safe drinking water. What had been the effectiveness of the Third National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking? What were the origins of trafficked people and was the phenomenon linked to organized crime? Bosnia and Herzegovina had an usually high rate of poverty for a European country, so was the country seeking international assistance to alleviate this? The lack of access to safe drinking water was alarming in Bosnia and Herzegovina; was Bosnia and Herzegovina seeking international assistance on this?
Turning to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s strategies to prevent family violence, an Expert asked whether these programmes had been assessed and monitored given that their timelines had now elapsed?
Could the delegation provide more information about the situation regarding street children in Bosnia and Herzegovina? How often were living standards measured?
An Expert pressed the delegation about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s application of sexual health programmes for young people and what it could say about the outcome of these measures. What was being done to guarantee basic healthcare for vulnerable groups? A recommendation made by the Committee in 2006 on healthcare for returnees had yet not been applied according to the report, why not?
An Expert wanted to know more about the children who had resulted from sexual violence during the war; where were they and what was their status? Another Expert inquired about early marriage in Bosnia and Herzegovina and asked the delegation elucidate this problem?
Turning to the right to education, an Expert noted that in 2006 the Committee had recommended ending the practice of “two schools under one roof” in an effort to lessen ethnic tension, but this practice remained in place. When would it be ended? The rate of non-attendance in school by Roma children was also raised in 2006 and this issue remained unsolved; how did Bosnia and Herzegovina intend to resolve this issue?
With respect to cultural questions, one Expert quoted a non-governmental organization as saying that culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina was considered a “luxury”. What was the Government doing to promote cultural rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina? An Expert pointed out that many promised actions with regard to minority cultural rights had not taken place, and that cultural life appeared to have been effectively shut down in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Committee appealed to the State party to be sensitive to its obligations toward economic, social and cultural rights.
Further Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the European Commission was taking a leading role in the transitional administration and economic management of Bosnia and Herzegovina in anticipation of its accession to the European Union. To say that development resources were not being used adequately was right, but this was because the country was still suffering from the effects of the war.
However, as regards to international instruments, these were applicable across the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Turning to women who had been victims of sexual violence during the war, like all the victims of the war, they were covered by social protection mechanisms. Bosnia and Herzegovina was awaiting a transitional justice system which would later address their specific needs. The services available to all victims of war were available but inadequately funded; Bosnia and Herzegovina awaited financial assistance to make improvements. Law enforcement and judicial officers were trained in the provisions of international instruments, including the Covenant, and its provisions were applicable in all relevant parts of the public administration of the State. Although non-governmental organizations had demanded the creation of a human rights commission, the Government had felt that the creation of the ombudsman’s office was enough to cover this need. For the meantime the non-governmental organizations could perform the role of an independent human rights commission themselves. Non-governmental organizations were fully involved in the preparation of human rights treaty reports and were able to participate in the consultative process. In response to the question of how Bosnia and Herzegovina monitored the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant, the delegation hoped that the Committee could see from its report and this answer what efforts were being made in this respect.
Turning to problems of allocation and equality in the social security system, it was worth pointing out that Bosnia and Herzegovina was suffering from the effects of the general European economic crisis. The diffuse structure of the State and the high level of decentralization it implied meant that there were great differences in the levels of social protection across the country. The World Bank said that in 2011 social assistance spending in Bosnia and Herzegovina was 7.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product, putting it in the mid-rank of European countries. About three-quarters of this allocation was taken up with so-called war-related categories. Non-war related categories of social protection was a very low figure and the pressure that had been applied was to reduce war-related benefits in favour of non-war related benefits, but this would be a fraught process in the current conditions of economic difficulty. As had been said, the federal government set the framework for the social security system which was then elaborated at the cantonal level. Reforms were however underway with a view to ironing out the discrepancies and inequalities across the system.
With respect to the problems of the Roma minority, the delegation stressed that Bosnia and Herzegovina had devoted significant attention to including the Roma into society by adopting strategic documents and actions plans. Funds to the value of 1 million euros had been funnelled into building or reconstructing housing units for the needy, including the Roma. This improvement had been recognised by Member States of the Roma Decade, of which Bosnia and Herzegovina would be the chair in 2014/15. The low educational level of the Roma was a brake on their employment opportunities and the State was aware of the need to improve this through targeted funding plans. A needs assessment census had been carried out and this meant it was much easier for Bosnia and Herzegovina to understand the Roma’s requirements in housing, employment and healthcare. The measures undertaken had had a positive impact on the living conditions of national minorities including the Roma and it was important to continue with these action plans since this was simply the beginning of a resolution of their problems.
Questions from Experts
In a follow-up clarification, an Expert pointed out to the delegation that a national human rights commission could not be substituted by an ombudsman’s office under the Paris Principles because they had completely different functions.
Another Expert, responding to remarks made about the legality of trade unions by the delegation, said it was the responsibility of the Government under the terms of the Covenant not merely to have laws allowing the work of trade unions but to actively promote their existence.
Commenting on the fact that the gender equality law seemed to remain in abeyance in the Council of Ministers, an Expert wanted to know specifically if the Council of Ministers was going to enact its own law and when.
Could the delegation address the matter of occupational safety? Was this data collected and could the delegation share it with the Committee?
The Committee Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina added her voice to the unease expressed earlier about the apparent misunderstanding the delegation had shown on points concerning trade union membership and equal pay for equal work.
Returning to gender equality and discrimination, an Expert asked what sanctions were contained in the relevant laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina. What efforts were there to promote women to high office?
Responses from the Delegation
Responding to these questions and comments and others, the delegation said that as for the national human rights commission, an additional body would be created in the future to adhere to the Paris Principles but in the meantime the focus was on building capacity in the ombudsman’s office. As part of its Universal Periodic Review, Bosnia and Herzegovina was obliged to master the methodology of human rights law and it was slowly learning these lessons, hence the lack of a national human rights action plan.
The Government had passed laws to allow the establishment of trade unions and they were prominent in the Republika Srbska and the Brcko District as here they were responsible for collective bargaining. In the public sector, unions were active but not in all parts of it. As for occupational safety, it should be understood that improvements in this area were expensive; the statistics showed that indeed accidents and fatalities at work were increasing and this was a cause for concern.
Turning to equal pay for equal work, the principle of establishing like-for-like rates across differently gendered occupations was something the delegation would turn its attention to later. The outcome of the story of the gender equality law languishing in the Council of Ministers would depend on reforms to the work of the Council of Ministers itself. However the criminal law provided for various sanctions for crimes with a gender element such as domestic violence. As for women in public life, there were indeed quotas in place and such mechanisms as mentoring programmes and data collection to monitor and analyse this matter existed.
Turning to the question of the number of internally displaced persons being housed in collective centres, it was true to say that at least 50 per cent of such people were living below the poverty line. Bosnia and Herzegovina was obliged to meet the minimum social and housing needs of vulnerable groups and measures had been undertaken by the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees. Collective centre residents were of particular concern and the Return Fund was being deployed to address this concern. Social housing supported by the Government, non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental bodies had been built and there were a number of positive examples. A set of new laws was in the pipeline to reform both the public and the private housing sectors, and harmonisation of laws between the cantons and other entities was envisaged. As regard to the returning Roma, the problem was that before the war the Roma often resided in illegal or temporary accommodation, and while their rights were to be respected under the terms of the Dayton Accords, many thorny problems had arisen as to how to accommodate this housing right.
In addressing domestic violence, the delegation said that there were a number of plans, strategies and laws aimed at tackling the scourge. A study had been prepared in compliance with United Nations and World Health Organization standards to build a detailed picture of the problem. One statistic showed that 40 per cent of women over the age of 15 had experienced at least one act of violence against them. Moving on to reproductive health, both constitutional entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina (that was, including the Republika Srpska) had programmes to address this matter.
The delegation explained that the healthcare system in Bosnia and Herzegovina was highly decentralised and it was organized at the cantonal level. In general, however, the basic healthcare package gave free care to children under 18 and people over 60. The Republika Srbska was slightly different with free coverage for children up to 15 years.
A member of the Committee had asked about early marriage and the delegation said that the law prevented minors under 18 from getting married unless a court gave its permission based on a judgement. Data collected about early marriages in the Roma population showed that while the phenomenon existed, it was not statistically significant, and Bosnia and Herzegovina had been active in analysing and monitoring this situation.
Bosnia and Herzegovina had improved its success rate in tackling human trafficking through its regional approach. There was a very small number of internationally trafficked women in Bosnia and Herzegovina – just three to five identified individuals – and the problem mainly centred on forced prostitution and forced marriage in the domestic population.
As for street children, it was true to say that begging, either organised or individual, was seen on the streets of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Government had undertaken research in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund into the problem and had developed social protection and care programmes to attempt to eliminate the problem. Day-care centres operated in six major towns to support street children. A large number of this population were Roma and they were compelled to work this way because of poverty.
Access to safe drinking water was not a big problem for Bosnia and Herzegovina as the country had abundant reserves of pure water. However some sources had been contaminated because of the war and where this was the case, environmental protection programmes had been put in place.
Turning to the elimination of the practice of operating “two schools under one roof” it had to be remembered that education was devolved to the cantons and entities, so that there were actually twelve separate ministries of education; coordination between these was therefore difficult. Since the establishment of the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2003, five framework laws on education had been published. Responding to the recommendation put to Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2012 that ethnic segregation in schools be immediately ended, the delegation said that it hoped that this reform would be carried out by the end of this year.
Tackling the problem of school drop-out and non-attendance rates among the Roma, Bosnia and Herzegovina had set up a monitoring group and established an action plan; since that time the number of Roma children attending school had been creeping up. Last year 30 Roma children completed their secondary education and this had never happened before.
Unfortunately, several key cultural institutions remained shuttered in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Government was well aware that this was a huge problem which it hoped to resolve at a future date.
Questions from Experts
An Expert wondered what role schools were playing in the post-war healing process, while another pressed the issue of enforcing the desegregation of schools; how would this be done?
Another Expert asked about the opportunities ethnic minorities had to participate in public life; how could this be promoted?
Responses from the Delegation
Following the Strasbourg case, the delegation said, the proposal was that there would be a constitutional reform – now being negotiated in Brussels – to change the electoral law in order to tackle the issue of the participation of ethnic minorities in public life. The complications of the constitutional arrangements of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina made this problem, as with almost every problem facing the country, especially difficult. The Government understood that Bosnia and Herzegovina had problems and it was sincerely looking for solutions.
SALIHA DUDERIJA, Deputy Minister for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thanked the Committee for asking difficult questions to help focus efforts to improve human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Major challenges remained but the Government – that was the Council of Ministers and the entity governments - was determined to improve human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
HEISOO SHIN, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said she had mixed feelings about the presentation of the delegation because although she could see how hard Bosnia and Herzegovina was trying to live up to its human rights obligations, it was hampered by the complicated constitutional arrangements made for the country by the Dayton Accords. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina had the right to self-determination so it could address this systemic problem. Ms. Shin urged the delegation to press for the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations.
ZDZISLAW KEDZIA, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for its sincere efforts to report the difficult human rights scenario in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nobody was perfect and a basic principle of human rights was hope that things could always be improved. Due to the continuous nature of the Committee’s work, the delegation was urged to keep in touch and share as much written information as it wanted as soon as possible within the 48 hour deadline. The leadership of the delegation was praised for its efficient handling of the meeting.
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