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Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Opens Seventy-Second Session

26 September 2022

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today opened its seventy-second session, hearing opening remarks from Todd Howland, Chief of the Development and Economic, Social Issues Branch, Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Representative of the Secretary-General. The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session, during which it is scheduled to review the reports of El Salvador, Guatemala, Italy, Luxembourg, Mongolia and Tajikistan.

Mr. Howland noted with deep regret that 60 years since the Covenant’s entry into force, it had not been possible to eradicate the exploitative conditions that allowed the existence of the “working poor.” The increasing international focus on climate change had finally brought a spotlight onto a subject that was, until recently, divorced from human rights. The establishment of a new Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change by the Human Rights Council in October 2021 was a turning point in that regard.

A project in the Sahel examined the interlinkages between climate change, economic, social and cultural rights and migration, Mr. Howland continued, highlighting that existing violations of those rights were significantly exacerbated by climate change. The Office of the High Commissioner had decided to strengthen its capacity to investigate economic crimes and facilitate improved levels of respect for economic, social and cultural rights, he added. Toward that end, the Office was pursuing a surge initiative which supported and engaged human rights-based budget analyses in nine countries and supported the Office in-country presences with analytical content and operational advice.

With regard to the treaty body strengthening process, Mr. Howland noted that the Chairs of the treaty bodies had endorsed a comprehensive proposal at their 34th annual meeting in June. They had unanimously agreed to establish a predictable schedule of State reviews, with an eight-year cycle for full State reviews and follow-up reviews in-between. That demonstrated the commitment of the treaty bodies to work together to develop a treaty body system based on States’ full compliance with their reporting obligations.

Mohamed Ezzeldin Abdel-Moneim, Chair of the Committee, explained that the context in which the Committee met during the last two years had been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had undermined the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights. Nowadays, another pandemic was happening: growing inflation which eroded the right to an adequate standard of living. The situation was complex and negatively affecting the equality of enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and had to be immediately addressed. The Committee had a responsibility to look into several articles of the Covenant and review its general comments, such as the one on the obligations of States parties. New developments needed to be considered, such as whether article 17.2 applied to situations of armed conflict.

Thanking Ms. Bachelet for the support she gave to the Committee, Mr. Abdel-Moneim welcomed the new High Commissioner and called on him to collaborate with and support the Committee.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the meetings of the session can be found online.

The Committee will next meet in public a 3 p.m. this afternoon, Monday 26 September, to begin its consideration of the sixth periodic report of El Salvador (E/C.12/SLV/6).