Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights
4 October 2018
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its review of the initial report of Cabo Verde on its efforts to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Introducing the report, Janine Tatiana Santos Lelis, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, said that Cabo Verde considered that human dignity was an absolute value, and the national Constitution contained provisions that guaranteed fundamental freedoms and access to justice for all. The Government was committed to achieving social inclusion, and social policies focused on families and vulnerable groups, such as women, children and persons with disabilities. Accordingly, the Government had approved social tariffs for energy and electricity. In the area of gender equality, the authorities had passed legislation to combat gender-based violence and to provide victims with assistance, as well as the National Action Plan for Achieving Gender Equality in 2011. In April 2015, the Cabinet had adopted the National Action Plan for Gender Equality 2015-2018 with targets on the participation of women in all aspects of life. Women continued to have lower access to the labour market. The right to work was enshrined in the Constitution and it was up to the public authorities to ensure conditions for the right to work.
In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts noted with satisfaction that civil society had participated in the drafting of the State party’s report, and that the State party had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Covenant. They further inquired about the domestication and implementation of the Covenant, calculation of fair compensation, measures to combat discrimination against women, adoption of a general framework of anti-discrimination legislation, measures to address corruption, nomination and election of judges, independence of and funding for the National Human Rights Commission, migration policies, life expectancy, and dealing with climate change and natural disasters. Other issues that were raised included migrant workers, Cabo Verdeans abroad, the social security protection system, the right and duty to work, the rate of unemployment, liberalization of the labour market, the informal economy, employment of persons with disabilities, the minimum wage, equal pay for work of equal value, labour inspections, trade unions and the right to strike, children’s rights and child poverty, abuse and labour, unregistered children, access to social housing and healthcare, regional disparities in the provision of medical services, the right to safe drinking water, the net enrolment rate in education, the new school curriculum, protection of the Creole language, and recognition of same-sex marriages.
In his concluding remarks, Renato Zerbini Ribeiro Leão, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Cabo Verde, said that the dialogue had been very frank and that it had allowed for an exchange of views. He stressed that the Committee was at the disposal of the State party to continue providing further assistance to Cabo Verde.
On her part, Ms. Santos Lelis reiterated that the Government was deeply attached to the promotion of Covenant rights. Cabo Verde had weaknesses, but it was equally true that the authorities had a clear desire to work more and better to ensure the enjoyment of human rights.
Maria Virginia Bras Gomes, Committee Chairperson, encouraged the delegation to keep the dialogue with the Committee ongoing. She explained that the Committee would select three issues for Cabo Verde to answer in its follow-up report within a year.
The delegation of Cabo Verde consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Labour, the Ministry of Family and Social Inclusion, and the Permanent Mission of Cabo Verde to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 5 October, at 3 p.m. to hold a meeting with States.
The initial report of Cabo Verde can be read here: E/C.12/CPV/1.
Presentation of the Report
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, reminded that Cabo Verde had ratified the Covenant in 1993, adding that the initial report covered the period between 2010 and 2015. Cabo Verde defended the rule of law, national independence, equality between States, non-interference into internal affairs of States, multilateralism, and respect for international human rights law. For the State of Cabo Verde human dignity was an absolute value, and the national Constitution contained provisions that guaranteed fundamental freedoms and access to justice for all. The Constitution prohibited extradition for political, ethnic and religious reasons, except in cases of terrorism and other special circumstances, and it recognized the right of asylum. The Government was committed to achieving social inclusion, and social policies focused on families and vulnerable groups, such as women, children and persons with disabilities. Accordingly, the Government had approved social tariffs for energy and electricity. In the area of gender equality, the authorities had passed legislation to combat gender-based violence and to provide victims with assistance, as well as the 2011 National Action Plan for Achieving Gender Equality. In April 2015, the Cabinet had adopted the National Action Plan for Gender Equality 2015-2018 with targets on the participation of women in all aspects of life. Women continued to have lower access to the labour market. In 2016, 53.7 per cent of all unemployed persons were women. The severe drought in 2017 had reduced agricultural output by 22 per cent.
The right to work was enshrined in the Constitution and it was up to the public authorities to ensure conditions for the right to work. Cabo Verde had ratified 14 conventions of the International Labour Organization. The level of family income had increased due to the increase in employment, and consumer spending had increased in 2017 by 9.1 per cent. In order to stimulate employment, the authorities had carried out a number of measures to improve the skills of young graduates. There was a freeze on public sector recruitment. The Government had constant meetings with employers and employees to achieve a social dialogue agreement. As for social security, the country had some 227,439 persons enrolled. The authorities planned to increase pensions. They had achieved considerable success in education and were currently reforming the national curriculum to ensure that education was conducive to employability. The country had improved childhood and reproductive health indicators, with the child mortality rate decreasing. The Government had also conducted a successful public campaign aimed at increasing birth registration, and it had improved the criminal police laboratory so that they could carry out work regarding paternity. Despite figures on child labour, the country needed to change the mentality. It was a tradition that children helped with domestic and family work, but it was necessary to avoid school dropout because of that. The Government had been carrying out training for the prevention of trafficking in persons. Cultural rights were protected by the Constitution, as well as literary and scientific work. Culture was seen as a tool that would transform Cabo Verde and boost the tourism sector.
Questions by the Committee Experts
RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Cabo Verde, said that despite the late submission of the initial report, which was initially due in 1995, it was important to have dialogue. He was happy to note that civil society had participated in the drafting of the State party’s report. How had that process unfolded?
Mr. Leão congratulated the State party on the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant. How would it be domesticated? How could the Covenant be invoked and what was the interplay between the national Constitution and the Covenant? How many times had the Covenant been invoked and what was the existing jurisprudence?
How did the Government calculate fair compensation? Could the delegation elaborate on the claim that there were no ethnic groups and indigenous peoples in the country?
What specific public policies were in place to combat discrimination against women? What had been the main difficulties in preventing such discrimination? What were the most important achievements of the State party’s public policies in that respect? Was there any public policy to promote equal family responsibilities among women and men?
Had measures been taken to address corruption? Was there legislation in place to combat corruption? Out of seven magistrates of the Supreme Court, two were women. In the judiciary in general, women accounted for 35 to 37 per cent of all judges. How were judges nominated and how was judicial independence guaranteed?
How would the State party guarantee the independence of the National Human Rights Commission? What resources had been set aside for the Commission?
Cabo Verde had a high proportion of young people (about 40 per cent), and the increase in the population depended on migratory influxes. Between 1990 and 2000, migration had increased by 2.4 per cent. Could the delegation provide updated and disaggregated data on the population? What were public policies on migration?
Replies by the Delegation
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, explained that the Government had organized a workshop in which several non-governmental organizations had participated and on the basis of their comments many parts of the State party’s reports had been drafted. All international law was transposed in domestic law so that courts could apply them. The Government did not have statistics on how many such cases there were.
Fair compensation was calculated in line with the market value of expropriated property. As to why indigenous people’s property rights were not specifically protected, the head of the delegation explained that it had to do with the country’s history of colonialism. The Constitution did not distinguish peoples on the basis of their ethnic origin.
The Government was taking measures to fight various forms of discrimination. For example, the National Plan to Fight Poverty focused on free access to education for persons with disabilities. In addition, housing policies also took into account the needs of persons with disabilities. One way through which the interests of women were harmed was violence. The Government believed that it needed to adopt ordinary laws in various areas to fight discrimination, Ms. Santos Lelis explained.
As for public policies to encourage men to assume more domestic responsibilities, the authorities had conducted a public awareness campaign about responsible fathers. Fathers could take three days of leave after the birth of their child.
The Criminal Code stipulated severe penalties for corruption, and there were also public policies against corruption. The appointment of judges took place through an open public competition organized by the prosecution service. The judicial branch was completely separated from political functions. The Government’s role was to provide the necessary infrastructure for judicial activities. With a budgetary deficit, the Government did the best it could.
In 2012 the Government had adopted the National Migration Strategy and it was currently evaluating it. The authorities were concerned about migrant workers who required special protection.
Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts
An Expert observed that gender equality was sometimes only partial. He further inquired about the reasons behind the low life expectancy in Cabo Verde. What adaptation measures was the country taking to deal with climate change?
To what extent were the policy-makers of Cabo Verde familiar with the Covenant? Where did migrant workers come from? What was the role of Cabo Verdean migrants abroad in the economic development of their country of origin? How could they enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights back home?
MARIA VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Committee Chairperson, inquired about the independence and status of the National Human Rights Commission. She further asked whether the Government was considering adopting a general non-discrimination law. Had there been a debate about how to tackle austerity and ensure that the maximum available resources were devoted to economic, social and cultural rights?
Replies by the Delegation
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, said there was a long way to go for Cabo Verde to achieve gender parity because there were sometimes issues of mentality at stake. Women were sometimes inhibited from taking up important posts, while sometimes they did not want them.
As for life expectancy, the head of the delegation said she believed that 70 was not too bad because it represented an increase by 10 years. Basic conditions had been provided to people, namely education and healthcare. Investment in healthcare had to be repeated in all of Cabo Verde’s nine islands, which was a great effort.
People migrated to Cabo Verde in search of jobs. Cabo Verde was part of the Economic Community of West African States, which advocated the principle of free movement. There were more Cabo Verdeans abroad than at home and they played a key role in ensuring the country’s balance of payments with their remittances. Cabo Verde accepted dual nationality in order to help migrants, and it had social protection agreements with various countries, such as Portugal and Luxembourg.
Cyclical droughts were the main challenge for the country. In 2017, the rainfall was very low. Over the past years, the Government had had in place a water saving policy, which it was currently reviewing. Tourism was of fundamental importance for Cabo Verde.
On international cooperation, the head of the delegation reminded that Cabo Verde had only recently deemed to be a middle-income country, which opened up space for various funding programmes. The social security system had improved, which allowed the Government to extend it to those people who had not contributed to the budget, mostly women who cared for families.
The Government had prepared a statute to improve the independence of the National Human Rights Commission, but it lacked adequate budgetary resources. Ms. Santos Lelis noted that the Government could consider adopting a framework law on anti-discrimination, but it was important to create conditions that would allow its implementation.
Most of the budget went into education and healthcare. There were positive discrimination measures for persons with disabilities, such as free education.
Second Round of Questions by the Committee Experts
An Expert congratulated the Government of Cabo Verde on the determination to implement the Covenant. What was the meaning of the constitutional provision of the right to work and the duty to work? Could it mean that forced labour in some circumstanced was permissible?
What was the current level of unemployment? What was the impact of the various programmes to combat unemployment, particularly among youth? There was a significant gender disparity in the unemployment of the age group 15-24.
Experts inquired about the liberalization of the labour market, namely about the parallel pressure on the authorities to make the economy more competitive and remain socially just. It seemed that Cabo Verde’s Social Dialogue Committee suffered from insufficient financing.
Experts asked the delegation to explain the meaning of “informal economy” in Cabo Verde, which accounted for 12 per cent of the gross domestic product. Informal production units seemed to be captured in statistical data, and yet they were classified as informal economy. What sort of needs were met for self-employed persons and what kind of social security did they receive?
What was the impact of the measures to address the issue of employment of persons with disabilities? What were the obligations of employers to hire persons with disabilities? Was there a quota?
Turning to unequal access to the labour market, pregnant women, women with small children, and persons living with HIV/AIDS were reported to be discriminated against.
What was the percentage of employers who did not comply with the requirements of the minimum wage and what steps had been taken to enforce that requirement? How many adjustments of the minimum wage had taken place since 2014 when it had been introduced?
What was the procedure for obtaining compensation? What were the competences of the labour inspectorate? What was the level of trade unionization of the workforce? Were there any limitations in that respect? Had there been any reprisals against trade unions, for example in relation to whistleblowing? Had there been any cases of the violation of the right to strike?
Cabo Verde was one of the most advanced countries in Africa in implementing the social protection floor, according to the International Labour Organization. What steps had been taken to expand the coverage of social protection in the country, which currently stood at about one third?
What was the overall number of persons in the retirement age in the country? What measures had been taken to expand the contributory system and were the benefits commensurate with the requirements of an adequate standard of living?
Replies by the Delegation
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, explained that when a person had a job, she or he had an obligation to perform the work in a way that benefitted the country. Forced labour was prohibited and the Government had published a list of the worst forms of labour.
The rate of unemployment had decreased. Some 40,000 jobs were to be created in the course of the tenure of the current Government. Employability was vital for the country’s development and the private sector had to promote employment. Internship programmes were aimed to create bridges with the labour market.
Job insecurity was always a pressing issue which arose because the legal framework previously permitted fixed-term contracts ad interim and employees had always been subject to contract renewals. Such contracts were frequent in the tourism sector. Cabo Verde was currently analysing whether the law was being exploited to create job insecurity.
There were family businesses which did not pay social contributions, but they could pay a separate tax for that purpose. Self-employed workers made social contributions. Informal production units had an activity but did not pay taxes to the State.
The Government had put in place programmes that encouraged the employment of persons with disabilities and young people, with tax incentives for employers.
The minimum wage amounted to some 100 euros per month, and 150 euros was the average salary in the civil service. Social dialogue had set the amount of severance pay and it was set in proportion to the length of service. It was applicable to temporary and fixed-term contracts.
Everyone was free to join a trade union. No one was aware of reprisals against trade unions by public authorities. The Government had a strategic agreement signed with trade unions and employers, which would run until 2021. Domestic workers, private security workers, and gardeners were covered by social security. The non-contributory system covered 20 per cent of the basic subsistence needs, and it would be increased in 2019.
The 1993 Labour Law aimed at boosting the economy, whereas its 2007 and 2015 revisions grappled with the need to attract investments and to provide for the social security of workers, the head of the delegation explained. The Government thought it had achieved a happy balance. It had to give those unemployed an opportunity to work. The authorities needed to implement more monitoring, which meant that labour inspection services had to conduct almost continuous visits.
Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts
How many foreign workers were there in Cabo Verde and what was the percentage that enjoyed the same rights as Cabo Verde nationals? Did they have the same access to procedures to claim those rights?
RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Cabo Verde, asked whether the State party had some strategic plan to increase the minimum wage.
MARIA VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Committee Chairperson, inquired whether there had been any discussion about equal pay for the work of equal value. Speaking of the liberalization of the labour market, the Chairperson wondered whether the State had ways to soften the blow to more vulnerable groups of the society.
Replies by the Delegation
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, stressed that all foreign workers were subject to the same rules and rights. The Government planned to ensure the minimum wage by the end of its term. As for equal pay for the work of equal value, Ms. Santos Lelis explained that there was no differentiation between the salaries of women and men in the civil service. Private companies had their own requirements for career paths.
Employees and workers naturally had opposing views about the effects of the liberalization of the labour market. It was all about striking a balance of interests. Workers needed to have security of employment in order to grow professionally. The Government would analyse whether it needed to reform the Labour Law again, Ms. Santos Lelis said.
Third Round of the Questions by the Committee Experts
Children in Cabo Verde were mostly affected by poverty, abuse, violence, neglect and child labour due to the weak social protection measures for them. How did the State party deal with that problem?
There were about eight per cent of unregistered children between the age of 0 and 6. That rate was higher in rural areas. What were the results of the State campaign to improve birth registration?
About eight per cent of all children were involved in some kind of economic activity, some of which were deemed dangerous. What was the success of the initiatives to combat child labour? What other measures were contemplated to abolish the dangerous activities carried out by children?
Had there been an evaluation of the Government’s national programme to fight poverty? In terms of the right to adequate housing, it seemed that social housing was not accessible to the most disadvantaged. Had those housing programmes been evaluated? Was policy being adapted to the outcome of those evaluations? As for the right to safe drinking water, Experts reminded that 8.5 per cent of households in the country were still getting water from unsafe sources.
Persistent stigma and discrimination had been detected against persons living with HIV/AIDS. What steps had been taken to ensure access to healthcare without discrimination? Women with disabilities had not been able to fully enjoy their healthcare rights due to the absence of physical accommodation. In addition, women victims of gender-based violence also experienced difficulties in accessing adequate medical service.
Experts further remarked on regional disparities in the provision of medical services, such as the lack of inter-island transportation and evacuation between islands. What steps had the State party taken to address those problems? In addition, there was a lack of adequate mental health facilities. How was the right to the highest attainable standards of health guaranteed for persons with mental health issues?
Replies by the Delegation
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, said that the Government had adopted the National Plan to Combat Child Abuse and Exploitation, which focused on prevention, punishment and support for victims. The authorities had held a mock children’s parliament on how to detect signs of abuse and exploitation. There was constant monitoring of child labour and there was the Family Empowerment Programme, which aimed to protect children by integrating them in State pre-school education. Mothers were also given access to income-generating activities. However, it was traditional in Cabo Verde for children to contribute to the family’s livelihood. They were not involved in industrial work, and it did not affect their school attendance in any way.
As for unregistered children, the lack of birth registration had been practically eradicated because newborn babies could not leave the hospitals without being registered, and 97 per cent of children were born in health facilities. On social housing, five per cent of new units were destined for persons with disabilities.
The authorities were trying to increase the production of safe drinking water through desalinization, and to improve relevant infrastructure and water distribution in rural areas. Being an archipelago, the State had to multiply its health expenditure. There was always a shortfall in the number of medical specialists and nurses. The Government had adopted a law which stipulated that both the private and public sectors would be monitored in terms of physical accessibility for persons with disabilities.
As for medical transfers, there were two central hospitals, which had the greatest capacity and more specialized doctors. When people living on other islands needed to go there, the cost of transfers would be covered by the State.
Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts
Were there any plans to develop some kind of recognition of same-sex marriages? When it came to disaster risk reduction, what were the plans with respect to climate change?
How were babies born outside of hospitals registered? What was the procedure for migrant children?
Replies by the Delegation
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, clarified that there was no legal provision for same-sex marriages, but the authorities were considering it. People had had to be evacuated from the Fogo island due to a volcanic eruption, and since then the Government had been rebuilding the dwellings lost during the incident. Very often, the authorities held meetings with focal points in order to prepare prompt responses to natural disasters.
Ms. Santos Lelis noted that a very low percentage of babies were born outside hospitals, and the authorities stressed the importance of birth registration. Children born in Cabo Verde could opt to ask for Cabo Verdean nationality.
Fourth Round of Questions by the Committee Experts
RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Cabo Verde, asked for updated statistics on access to different levels of education. Had educational goals been realized in practice? What were the results of extracurricular activities? How was primary and secondary school education structured?
Were there public and private universities, and how did the State ensure the quality of education in both? Were there adequate resources for learners with special needs? How did the Government address the fact that most women mainly had only primary school education?
How was violence at schools dealt with? How did Cabo Verde implement the right to culture and access to scientific education? What was being done to protect the Cabo Verdean Creole language, the Country Rapporteur asked.
Replies by the Delegation
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, explained that there was a yearbook with all data on access to education. As of 2019, basic education would last nine years. There had been a blossoming of university education in the country recently. The Government had created in 2017 a regulatory authority to assess the quality of education at both private and public universities.
There were resource rooms available to learners with disabilities. It was mostly middle-aged women who had only had primary education. The situation had changed since then and Cabo Verde had achieved good results in terms of women’s education. There was policing to counter violence at schools when necessary. To promote access to scientific education, various grants were available. The Ministry of Culture and Creative Industries provided funds for artists invested in theatres, opened libraries and renovated cultural centres, and it promoted arts that could boost tourism, such as morna music.
The official language of Cabo Verde was Portuguese, while the Constitution stipulated that measures would be taken to make the Creole language an official language. However, there was an ongoing debate because there were many varieties of Creole. There had been teaching in Creole, but to make it an official language required investment and a certain amount of debate.
Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts
An Expert inquired about the falling net enrolment rate in education in Cabo Verde, which currently stood at 86 per cent. Had there been an increase in the school dropout rate in recent years? What strategies had the State designed to try to reverse the trend of school dropout?
Another Expert remarked that school dropout particularly affected girls because of early pregnancies, or because they needed to help their families with income generation. What education opportunities were given to such girls?
Did Cabo Verde receive international aid to fund its public education and healthcare? What was the nature of disabilities in the country?
MARIA VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Committee Chairperson, asked for information about the new school curriculum. Would it lead to new school textbooks? What was the link between developing culture and economic production?
Replies by the Delegation
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, clarified that the net school enrolment rate stood at 95 per cent. The Government had created conditions for girls to continue their education and be mothers at the same time. They attended regular classes with other students. The authorities worked to achieve better learning outcomes, namely that boys and girls stay in schools, and to improve school transport.
There were new approaches to the new school curriculum, including human rights, environmental, and sexual and reproductive rights education. As for the link between culture and economic development, Ms. Santos Lelis explained that the idea was to confer some value to culture so that people working in that domain were able to earn some income.
Before becoming a middle-income country, Cabo Verde had been receiving considerable international aid. As for the Creole language, the problem was deciding which variety should be used. Otherwise, Portuguese was widely used in education and media.
RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Cabo Verde, said that the dialogue had been very frank and that it had allowed for an exchange of views. He stressed that the Committee was at the disposal of the State party to continue providing further assistance to Cabo Verde.
JANINE TATIANA SANTOS LELIS, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cabo Verde, reiterated that the Government was deeply attached to the promotion of Covenant rights. Cabo Verde had weaknesses, but it was equally true that the authorities had a clear desire to work more and better to ensure the enjoyment of human rights. The State party was so late in reporting to the Committee because of the inability to submit its report in Portuguese, and translation was expensive. Ms. Santos Lelis thanked the Committee Members for their interest and support.
MARIA VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Committee Chairperson, encouraged the delegation to keep the dialogue with the Committee ongoing. She explained that the Committee would select three issues for Cabo Verde to answer in its follow-up report within a year.
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