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Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights opens sixty-seventh session

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

ESC/20/01
17 February 2020

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this morning opened its sixty-seventh session, hearing a statement by Ibrahim Salama, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda and programme of work for the session.

In his opening statement, Mr. Salama recalled that the outcome of the 2020 Review would define many of the parameters of the Committee’s work in the coming years and, ideally, help improve its positive impact on human rights.   The third report of the Secretary-General on the status of the treaty body system was one of the most important ingredients of the Review.  It dealt with the challenges related to providing sufficient regular budget funding for all mandated activities of treaty bodies, in particular required meeting time and staff resources.  2018-2019 had witnessed another significant increase of 80 per cent in the number of individual communications registered but without sufficient resources to process them in a timely manner. 

In the context of 2020, treaty bodies were seeking innovative solutions, such as coordinating State party reviews, including the lists of issues prior to reporting across Committees to reduce unnecessary duplication, upgrading the current system through technology, and further simplifying the reporting process.  Mr. Salama noted that the Committee was reaching out to States with long overdue initial reports, and said the Office of the High Commissioner would be considering how the capacity-building programmes could further support these efforts.  Although decision-making was in New York, the substantive knowledge and expertise was here in Geneva.  He therefore urged Committee members to take an active role in the 2020 review and continue to support the Chairperson by considering innovative ways to strengthen their work, improve working methods, and make the system more accessible and visible.

Turning to the regular budget recently adopted by the General Assembly for 2020, Mr. Salama noted that it provided some relief to treaty bodies but the main budgetary challenges remained.  On the positive side, the General Assembly had put the webcasting of treaty body sessions on a more solid foundation with the allocation of regular budget resources for this purpose, permitting webcasting in more languages.  It had also supported multilingualism by re-allocating an additional working language for the work of treaty bodies.  However, the General Assembly had not addressed the shortfall in resources to support the human rights mechanisms.  Both resources for the travel of mandate holders and staffing resources to support the preparation of documents for the treaty bodies’ Review remained inadequate.  Despite continuing financial difficulties, the Office of the High Commissioner planned to organize the same number of sessions this year as in 2019.  For the first time, it was seeking voluntary contributions from Member States to pilot innovative ideas, including those of the vision of the Chairs.  This, however, was not a viable option in the long term, Mr. Salama said, expressing hope that the 2020 intergovernmental Review would look at this situation carefully and result in a fully resourced and sustainable system going forward.

The Committee then adopted the agenda and programme of work for the sixty-seventh session, which is taking place at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 17 Februakry to 6 March 2020.  During the session, the Committee will review the reports of Guinea, Belgium, Ukraine, Benin and Norway.  All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found at the session’s webpage.

The Committee will next meet in public today at 3 p.m. to hold a meeting with national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations with respect to Guinea, Belgium and Ukraine, whose reports will be considered this week.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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