The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this afternoon opened its sixty-eighth session virtually.
Renato Zerbini Ribeiro Leão, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said that for the first time in all its history, the Committee would hold its session virtually, applying means, procedures and technology that were still being tested. Despite the difficulties and contradictions inherent to this way of working, the Committee had decided to confront this challenge. The terrible COVID-19 pandemic had seriously affected various human rights emerging from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The situation brought great uncertainty for everyone and no one had answers. This had a direct impact on various human rights celebrated by States parties, like equality between men and women, health, education, work, housing and family.
Despite all these difficulties, the Committee had worked hard during the intersessional period. Since last March, the Committee had approved important documents, including the
statement of the Committee on the COVID-19 pandemic and economic, social and cultural rights. In addition, the individual communications and follow-up working groups had done valuable work in addressing the overwhelming number of cases that had been brought before the Committee.
Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said this was a very different setting from that on 17 February 2020 when he met the Committee at the opening of the sixty-seventh session at the Palais Wilson. Lives had changed profoundly with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and so had ways of working. In these very challenging circumstances, the holding of this session was remarkable, in particular in light of the time difference, up to 15 hours between Experts. The efforts and flexibility that Committee Experts were demonstrating in these exceptional circumstances to uphold their mandate were commendable. Among others, the
statement adopted by the Committee on COVID-19 and economic, social and cultural rights in early April 2020 was extremely timely, relevant and used widely.
Mr. Cissé-Gouro welcomed new Committee member Ludovic Hennebel elected on 21 July to occupy the seat vacated by Olivier De Schutter. He also welcomed Committee members who had been re-elected and whose mandate would continue on 1 January 2021, and new members who would start their mandate on 1 January. He thanked Mr. De Schutter for his exceptional contribution to the Committee, noting that his continued engagement for human rights could be felt in his new mandate as Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. Mr. Cissé-Gouro also thanked the Committee Experts whose mandates would end on 31 December 2020 : Shiqiu Chen, Zdzislaw Kedzia and Sandra Liebenberg, who had also contributed significantly to the work of the Committee.
Mr. Hennebel made his solemn declaration as a new member of the Committee.
Committee member Michael Windfuhr was elected as Rapporteur of the Committee to replace Mr. De Schutter.
The following non-governmental organizations took the floor : Abahlali baseMjondolo, South Africa, and Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, both members of the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The Committee will hold its meetings in private until the public closing of the session on Friday, 16 October at 4 p.m.
For use of the information media; not an official record