Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights
27 April 2005
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has reviewed the initial report of Zambia on how that country implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Introducing the report was G. M. K. Imbwae, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice of Zambia, who said although the Government was faced with major constraints and a declining economy, it remained committed to the implementation of the rights enshrined in the International Covenant. Among the measures taken by the Government to meet its obligations in economic, social and cultural rights were the Poverty Reduction Programme, especially aimed at women, social security measures, and the Food For Work Programme. The Government was also committed to the implementation of the principle of affirmative action as a means of improving women's participation in decision-making processes, she added.
Ms. Imbwae noted that the Government of Zambia had been increasingly concerned with the scale of domestic violence, which was quite widespread with a number of cases being recorded primarily on women and girl children; and occasionally boys and men. To address this issue, the Government had begun the process of introducing legislation to prohibit gender-based violence in all its forms.
During the discussion, which was held over three meetings, Committee Experts raised questions pertaining to, among other things, property rights for women; the State's plans to reduce poverty; customary and traditional law practices; discrimination against vulnerable groups in society; social security and labour standards, in particular child labour; education; and the State's efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Zambia at the end of its three-week session on 13 May.
Other members of the Zambian delegation included Representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Finance and National Planning, the Central Statistical Office and the Permanent Mission of Zambia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it will begin its consideration of the initial report of China (E/1990/5/Add.59). The Committee will spend five meetings reviewing the report - which includes the initial report of China, the initial report of the Macao Special Administrative Region, and the second periodic report of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region - and a press release will be issued on Friday, 29 April after 6 p.m.
Report of Zambia
The initial report of Zambia (E/1990/5/Add.60) outlines the administrative, legislative and policy measures the State party has put in place in order to bring its national laws and policies in line with the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and outlines the various challenges and difficulties that the State party has experienced in implementing the Covenant. It comprehensively captures the developments that have taken place in the field of economic, social and cultural rights since Zambia's accession to the Covenant in April 1984. The State party has acknowledged that, while it has the obligation of ensuring the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by its citizens, there are several constraints which hinder the satisfactory dispensation of these provisions. These major constraints include: the HIV/AIDS pandemic whose negative effects permeate human resource distribution, create orphanage syndrome, and diminish the ever-inadequate health resources; high rates of unemployment which have contributed to many families being deprived of essential economic and social services; economic decline, that is mainly due to the diminishing mining industry, which has contributed to the unsatisfactory enjoyment of economic and cultural rights; and rapid population growth which has contributed to inadequate resources in housing, education, health and other social services which include water and sanitation.
In its efforts to ease the harsh impact of growing economic and social hardships, the State party has embarked on a reform programme, the report states. This, however, has yielded very little result and the State party has had to be included on the donors' relief programme for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries. Within the report, the State party has also stressed the measures it intends to embark on as a step to fully realize economic, social and cultural rights. Some of the measures recognized are: Policies - Child Labour Policy, National Housing Policy, and HIV/AIDS and Labour Market Policy; Acts – Employment Act, Factories Act, and Workers Compensation Act; Programmes – Promoting reproductive health campaigns programmes, application of ILO/WHO guidelines which prohibit discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS in workplaces; and Treaties – the State party has ratified, in addition to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ILO Conventions and major United Nations human rights conventions.
Presentation of Report
G.M.K. IMBWAE, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice of Zambia, said although the Government was faced with major constraints and a declining economy, it remained committed to the implementation of the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Zambia’s economic performance had shown an improvement through economic reforms and improved policy implementation. The economy recorded positive economic growth in 2004, with preliminary data placing estimated real Gross Domestic Product growth at 5.0 per cent. There were also notable improvements in the financial sector with commercial banks average lending rates declining to 29.8 per cent in December 2004 from 37.7 per cent in December 2003. The Government also undertook reforms of its fiscal policies, which began in 2003 under the Public Expenditure Programme. The programme aimed at improving pubic expenditure and financial management.
During the period under review, the Government continued to implement Poverty Reduction Programmes in all the nine provinces, she said. The focus of these programmes was on infrastructure development, land resettlement and industrial development. Moreover, the Government had put in place social security measures aimed at alleviating the poverty situation in Zambia. One of the important programmes in this regard was the Food For Assets Programme, formerly known as the Food For Work Programme. The Food For Assets Programme was concerned with creating assets in rural areas such as roads, dams and conservation farming in areas where there were food shortages. In addition, the Food Security Pack aimed at increasing food productivity and household food security among female-headed households, child-headed households and households headed by the terminally ill.
The Government had also taken several steps with regard to issues of poverty among women, among them was the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and Transitional National Development Plan, which formed the national framework for poverty reduction, and the provision of subsidies to small scale farmers, who in the majority were women, through community-based organizations. The Government was also committed to the implementation of the principle of affirmative action as a means of improving women’s participation in decision-making processes. Furthermore, the Government was increasingly concerned with the scale of domestic violence which was quite widespread with a number of cases being recorded primarily on women and girl children; and occasionally boys and men. To address this issue, the Government had begun the process of introducing legislation to prohibit gender-based violence in all its forms.
In closing, Ms. Imbwae said Zambia was faced with huge financial constraints and had limited resources available which were shared in varying proportions by competing and needing social sectors. The Government was of the view that it had created adequate legislative, judicial and administrative procedures capable of realizing economic, social and cultural rights albeit its financial situation.
Questions by Experts on Non-discrimination and Equality Between Men and Women
An Expert asked why it took so long for the State party to submit its report to the Committee and how the Government proposed to give effect to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights so that the rights in the Covenant could become justiciable and more applicable. He also asked for examples where there had been references made to the Covenant in legal proceedings and to what extent the National Commission of Human Rights of Zambia observed the Paris Principles and to what extent did it address economic, social and cultural rights.
Another Expert asked why the rights in the Covenant were not directly applicable in the Courts of Zambia and what steps had been taken by the Government to ensure that the justice system was available in rural areas.
Several Experts asked questions pertaining to inheritance and property rights for women in the context of customary and traditional laws. Information was also sought on the measures taken to deal with discriminatory customary laws in general. Experts also asked for clarification on the measures being undertaken or planned by the State party in dealing with discriminatory customary or traditional laws against women.
Referring to a World Bank report dating back some 20 years, an Expert said the report indicated that Zambia had been one of the most developed States in the region, whereas now the country was one of the poorest. Moreover, poverty, crime and unemployment were on the rise and had a detrimental impact on all the rights covered in the Covenant. He asked how the situation had declined to this level and what measures the State party was taking to address this reality. He also asked for more information on measures taken for people with disabilities.
Another Expert asked the delegation what measures were being taken by the State to deal with discrimination against older persons.
One Expert asked the delegation what measures had been taken to promote shared responsibilities in terms of equal opportunities for men and women and to what extent had they been successful.
An Expert asked how the Government planned to involve the poor in programmes for structural adjustment and in the State’s Poverty Reduction Programmes.
Response by Delegation
In response to a question on preparing the report, the delegation noted that the report was prepared in line with new reporting procedures set by the Government. The Government was also in the process of preparing reports for all the other United Nations treaty bodies to which it owed reports.
Concerning the applicability of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Zambia’s legal system, the delegation noted that the Covenant had not been declared in the Constitution since there were no resources adequate to monitor effectively economic, social and cultural rights. However, this was not to suggest that these rights were not being implemented. The Constitution was currently being reviewed and in that context several petitions had been forwarded to those responsible with his process to have the Covenant directly applied in the new Constitution.
With regard to the Zambian Government’s efforts to implement the Covenant, the delegation referred to the various poverty reduction programmes undertaken to ensure economic, social and cultural rights of persons. The Government was also undertaking the Living Conditions Monitoring Survey, which would provide insight on the poverty reduction programmes.
Regarding the duality of customary and statutory laws, the delegation said there was a realization in Zambia that certain customary laws were discriminatory. The Government was attempting to codify existing customary laws to ensure that they met basic human rights standards. Various local court justices were also being trained in issues such as inheritance rights and children's rights.
As to the inheritance rights of women, the delegation said there was currently a policy being formulated which would allow women and vulnerable groups to obtain 30 per cent of the land. This was a deliberate move to empower women to own land.
On the issue of equality among women and men, the delegation said the Constitutional Review Commission had looked at over 150 proposals on this issue. The delegation added that at present, Zambia’s Constitutional Review Commission was examining several issues pertaining to human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.
Concerning older persons, the delegation noted that there was a non-governmental organization, receiving support from the Government, dealing specifically with older persons. Persons above 60 years of age received free medical treatment.
Regarding discrimination against persons with disabilities, the delegation said the Government had set aside certain provisions for the enrolment of children with disabilities into school. Special measures were also taken to grant them preferential health treatment. The delegation further noted that there was no institutionalized discrimination against persons with disabilities in Zambia, however, the Government acknowledged that there were disadvantages as regards to specific infrastructural needs in most Zambian schools.
As to the Human Rights Commission, the delegation noted that the Commission was created in 1988 following a Commission of Inquiry after which the public recommended that there was a need to establish a permanent institution. In response to a question, he noted that the Commission did conform to the standards set in the Paris Principles. Recently, the President of Zambia had asked the Chief Justice to constitute a committee to look into the powers of the Human Rights Commission in order to make it more effective in dealing with issues of human rights. Moreover, the Commission did deal with the rights enshrined in the International Covenant.
Questions by Experts on the Right to Work, Conditions of Work, Trade Union Rights, Social Security, Protection of the Family, Mothers and Children, the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living and to Physical and Mental Health
While noting that some sources had put the figure of unemployment in Zambia at over 50 per cent, an Expert asked what the general policy in Zambia was to combat joblessness. The Expert also asked for clarification on information provided in the report on suggested child labour as per disaggregated data presented. He also asked for information on the minimum wage standards in Zambia and on limitations to forming trade unions and to hold labour strikes. Information was also sought on discrimination faced by trade unionists. Moreover, another Expert asked for penalties applied to those who were charged with participating or organizing labour strikes. Yet another Expert asked what other professional sectors were prohibited from forming trade unions.
An Expert asked the delegation to provide an example of a measure taken by the State party to eliminate child labour. Information was also requested for forms of child labour which existed in the country and, specifically, how child labourers were compensated for their work.
A Committee Expert asked for information on social security coverage and unemployment benefits and provisions in Zambia. The delegation was also asked to provide information on measures being taken to provide social security for agricultural workers and women. The Expert asked for information on privatization schemes being undertaken in the State party.
Another Expert asked for additional information on the Food For Work Programme in terms of concrete results.
An Expert asked for information on measures taken by the State party to combat trafficking in human beings, particularly children.
One Expert asked what sectors were expected to be revised in the proposed codification of certain customary laws.
While indicating that there was a reported figure of 1,500 cases of child abuse in Zambia, another Expert asked for information on what measures were being taken by the State to address the abuse of children, including worst forms of child labour and sexual abuse. Another Expert asked for information about street children as well as children who were the head of households and the support provided to them by the Government.
The Expert also asked for information on prison conditions given reports of overcrowding which had led to poor health conditions.
While mentioning that there were reportedly 1.2 million orphans in Zambia, half of which were the result of AIDS, an Expert asked the delegation what steps the Government was taking to address this dilemma. He also asked for information on widows in Zambia.
Several Experts asked the delegation for additional information on results achieved form the State’s programmes to address the problem of HIV/AIDS. An Expert asked what steps were being taken to make health care accessible to those most needy, in particular those living with HIV/AIDS.
Concerning the right to health, an Expert asked what results had been achieved by the State in terms of its health legislation. He also asked what the Government was planning to do in the future to address the right to water. Another Expert asked for information on the effects of environmental pollution on the population and what steps had been taken to address that issue.
Response by Delegation
Concerning minimum wage, the delegation said that the set minimum wage was not sufficient to meet most of the needs of the average person.
As to the questions raised on trade unions, the delegation said that under collective agreements employees were able to indicate the conditions of service that they wished to be bound by.
On the right to strike, the delegation said the Government was not aware of any person who was persecuted for taking part in or organizing strikes.
Regarding child labour, the delegation referred to the Employment of Young Persons and Children’s Act to implement the International Labour Organization Convention on the Minimum Age and its Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. However, under the Apprenticeship Act, a child between 13 and 15 could be engaged in light work, which was not likely to harm the child’s health or development.
Among the measures taken to improve social security for women was the Food For Assets Programme, the delegation noted in response to a question. In addition, the Food Security Pack aimed at increasing food productivity and household food security among female-headed households. Statistics indicated that approximately 150,000 vulnerable persons benefited from this programme.
As to efforts taken to combat child trafficking, the delegation said the Zambian Penal Code prohibited child trafficking and engaging children in illicit sexual activities.
On harsh prison conditions, the delegation noted that the State through its Prison Service System had embarked on a number of interventions to improve prison conditions which included new open air prisons; an amendment to the Prisons Act to provide for a health service within prisons; and an amendment to the Penal Code providing alternative community service sentences.
Concerning the State party’s measures to deal with the crisis of widows, orphans, child-headed households and street children, the delegation drew attention to the Micro Bankers Trust which was created in collaboration with the Government and other partners to provide small loans to poor but viable groups of people in order to support their various businesses or income generating activities. The Public Welfare Assistance Scheme assisted the most vulnerable groups of persons in society in order to meet their basic needs, particularly in health, education, food and shelter. The Government’s support to street children was provided through District Street Children Committees that implemented street children’s activities.
On the subject of clean water and sanitation, the delegation noted that the Government had embarked on a programme to improve access to water and sanitation in rural areas in all its nine provinces. In addition, boreholes were being drilled to provide water supplies.
In response to a question on the acceptance of the public to the Government’s policy to provide contraceptives, the delegation noted that there had been a notable increase in the use of condoms.
As for measures to deal with environmental pollution, the delegation noted that the Government had established the Community Environment Management Programme, which aimed to encourage community ownership and management of the environment through the promotion and funding of community-based micro-projects for poverty reduction.
In response to a question on employment rates, the delegation referred to a Government-run survey conducted in 2003, which indicated that the employment rate in Zambia, among working age people, was 70 per cent. Moreover, the survey indicated that there were some four million people in the labour force and an overall unemployment rate of 11 per cent.
Questions by Experts on the Right to Education and Cultural Rights
While noting that at present there was no legislation in Zambia providing for free, compulsory, primary education and that the State party had submitted a reservation to the Covenant on the subject, an Expert asked whether the State’s plans to make primary education free and compulsory, in the form of its National Strategy Plan on education, had been reached. He also asked for information on Zambia’s intention to improve the situation of teachers, in terms of wages and whether there were any statistics on school dropout rates. Information was also sought on the State’s education budget and on the reasons why there was no free education in Zambia, especially given the high rate of poverty in the country.
Another Expert asked whether the State party had made use of the flexible facility provided for in the Doha Convention concerning the public health system. He also asked what percentage of the national budget was allocated by the Government for cultural matters and what resources had been earmarked.
Response by Delegation
As to school enrolment rates, the delegation noted that the country had only two universities, however, there were tertiary institutions where people could pursue other trades. Moreover, there were grant-aided colleges of education.
With regard to the questions raised on resources and funding in terms of education, the delegation said the Government had set aside adequate resources to continue improving the education sector in each financial year. The position of the girl child in the education system in Zambia was one of special concern. The Government had designed programmes such as the Programme for the Advancement of Girl Child Education to encourage girls in the schooling system. To further increase enrolment and reduce drop out rates, the Government introduced the Academic Production Units, which were set in secondary schools allowing schools to enrol twice the number of pupils they could absorb.
In terms of assisting orphans, the Government in 2003 absorbed into its school system over 350,000 orphans and over 25,000 physically challenged children were enrolled into the basic school level.
In response to a follow up question by an Expert on how the Government prioritized areas in economic, social and cultural rights which were in need of assistance, the delegation said the Government had prepared a study which set out indicators which gave priority to certain sectors in the areas covered by the Covenant.
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