Committee on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights
18 February 2020
Discrepancies between Living Conditions in Rural and Urban Areas also Noted by Committee Experts
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concluded today its consideration of the initial report of Guinea on measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Experts noted the impact of mining industries on human rights by underlining how they could create tensions in communities, foster child labour and prostitution, and generate pollution and poor health. Citing data, Experts also noted the discrepancy between living conditions in rural and urban areas.
Committee Experts, saying that the report was well structured and very precise, recalled that Guinea was rich in minerals. It had one third of the world's reserves of bauxite, as well as gold and diamonds. Tensions had arisen between mining companies and local communities due to mining companies' non-compliance with their commitments – as regard, for instance, job creation or economic benefits for communities. To address this issue, the Government could revitalize the Consultative Committees in mining localities, which had been created in 2012 as fora for dialogue and negotiation, and which mining companies did not seem to take seriously. It could also activate the Local Economic Development Fund, which had been created at the end of 2017 but was not operational yet.
In addition, pollution from mining constituted a serious environmental threat, Experts said, citing the exposure of the population to cyanide and caustic soda used in the treatment of exploited mines, amongst other issues. What was more, mining affected children's rights. For example, children used machines called "mobile power" to blow oxygen into gold wells, which exposed them to diseases stemming from the inhalation of dust, as well as the risk of landslides.
Experts also underscored the difference between rural and urban areas, the former fairing relatively poorly as regard early marriages, maternal mortality rates, poverty rates, access to water and sanitation, and nutritional problems.
The delegation explained that, since the advent of the third Republic, with the election of President Alpha Condé in 2010, Guinea had resumed planning for the improvement of the population’s living conditions. This had led to visible changes in all sectors of socio-economic life. The Government had put in place a single framework for all development work, namely the Economic and Social Development Plan 2016-2020. With a total cost of $14.6 billion, the plan included 267 ongoing projects.
Mining companies made contributions to local development, said the delegation. Some Governors’ Offices acted as witnesses monitoring the transfer of funds and their use. There were also local community committees that were in place to ensure that local needs and communities’ interests were defended. The Consultative Committees in mining localities and the Local Economic Development Fund also played an important role in that context. All local communities in mining areas received a royalty directly from companies. Mining companies also paid a royalty to the State, which ensured that communities that were not near mining sites also benefitted from mining activities. Despite all these efforts, the Government was cognizant of the numerous challenges that the country faced in implementing all programmes to the benefit of the population. That was why Guinea was aiming to be a textbook case of the right to development being implemented in a manner that encompassed economic, social and cultural rights.
In his concluding remarks, Olivier de Schutter, Committee Rapporteur for Guinea, said that while the Committee had waited a while for the report, it had met its expectations on several fronts. There were still sizeable challenges faced by the country, such as the Ebola pandemic. A number of legal reforms had been launched, which now needed to be followed by measures to ensure their effective implementation. The Committee would be happy to receive additional information in writing, including references to legal texts and data.
Mamadou Taran Diallo, Minister of Citizenship and National Unity of Guinea and head of the delegation, concluded by thanking the Committee Experts for their questions which showed they had closely read the report and were most familiar with the situation in Guinea. The Government attached great importance to economic, social and cultural rights. If support was provided to developing countries, Guinea would like to be considered. If the Committee had the ear of donor countries and Bretton-Woods institutions and were able to draw their attention to the issues discussed today, Guinea would be grateful.
Renato Zerbini Ribeiro Leão, Committee Chairperson, concluded the dialogue by thanking the delegation.
The delegation of Guinea consisted of the representatives of the Ministry of Citizenship and National Unity, and the Permanent Mission of Guinea to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 19 February, to consider the fifth periodic report of Belgium (E/C.12/BEL/5).
The Committee has before it the initial report of Guinea (E/C.12/GIN/1).
Presentation of the Report
MAMADOU TARAN DIALLO, Minister of Citizenship and National Unity of Guinea, introducing the report, said that Guinea’s presence here today was a testament to the fact that economic, social and cultural rights were at the heart of the Government’s concerns. Guinea was eager to obtain advice and support to reinforce these rights.
Since the advent of the third Republic, with the election of President Alpha Condé in 2010, Guinea had resumed planning for the improvement of the population’s living conditions. This had led to visible changes in all sectors of socio-economic life. The Government had put in place a single framework for all development work, namely the Economic and Social Development Plan 2016-2020, which was comprised of four pillars: the promotion of governance to achieve sustainable development; sustainable and inclusive economic transformation; inclusive development of human capital; and sustainable management of natural resources. With a total cost of $14.6 billion, the plan included 267 ongoing projects.
The promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights were amongst the general obligations of the State. Within Guinea’s legal system, human rights encompassed the principles of equality and non-discrimination. This implied equal treatment, equal protection under the law, equal opportunity, and effective equality, as per the Constitution. Since 2019, reforms had been put in place which the Committee should consider, such as the creation of the Local Economic Development Fund, and the National Local Development Fund which stemmed from the 2011 Mining Code. These funds took into account the development of communities using resources from local resources extracted by mining companies. The Local Economic Development Fund was funded with 0.5 per cent of the turnover of each mining company for the benefit of the local authorities concerned.
The National Local Development Fund represented 15 per cent of the State's mining revenues. These funds were transferred to all the local authorities in the country, on the basis of an equalization formula. The purpose of this fund was to finance investments, operations and local development actions in accordance with accessibility criteria. The fund also helped finance actions to strengthen local authorities’ institutions and capacities. The effective application of the National Local Development Fund in 2019 had made it possible to release an amount of 517.81 billion GNF for all the local authorities of the country.
Despite all these efforts, the Government was cognizant of the numerous challenges that the country faced in implementing all these programmes, as well as those mentioned in the report, to the benefit of the population. That was why Guinea was aiming to be a textbook case of the right to development being implemented in a manner that encompassed economic, social and cultural rights.
First Round of Questions by the Country Rapporteur
OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Rapporteur for Guinea, thanked the delegation for their presence and for presenting the report. He noted that it had been submitted with a 29-year delay and asked if civil society organizations had been involved in the drafting of the report.
The Rapporteur requested information on the manner in which the courts in Guinea interpreted the Convention. Did they consider it when dealing with relevant complaints? Did the courts consider that it could effectively be enforced by them?
Turning to the national human rights institute, the Rapporteur noted that 14 of its members were from the public administration whereas the Paris Principles required that representatives of the executive branch only have a voice but no vote. Was Guinea planning to work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to improve the functioning of the national human rights institute?
The Committee had received information about the difficult conditions in which human rights defenders worked. They sometimes faced forms of intimidation or reprisals. Furthermore, their working conditions were hampered by the legal framework. In particular, the preliminary draft bill aiming to modify the Law L/013 of 2005 relating to associations contained very questionable provisions. No follow-up had been given to a proposal since the preparation of a preliminary draft law in 2008-2009 on access to information, which hindered civil society from exercising its role in monitoring human rights. What steps could Guinea commit to in order to improve the environment in which human rights defenders worked?
Guinea was rich in minerals: it had one third of the world's reserves of bauxite, as well as gold and diamonds. Tensions had arisen between mining companies and local communities due to mining companies' non-compliance with their commitments – as regard, for instance, job creation or economic benefits for communities. This had resulted in acts of violence including in the region of Boké in Lower Guinea, where Bauxite was mined, and Siguiri in Upper Guinea, where gold was mined. It seemed urgent to strengthen the control of mining companies and ensure that their presence benefitted local communities. The Government could revitalize the Consultative Committees in mining localities, which had been created in 2012 as fora for dialogue and negotiation, and which mining companies did not seem to take seriously. It could also activate the Local Economic Development Fund, which was created at the end of 2017 but was not operational yet.
In addition, pollution from mining constituted a serious environmental threat, Mr. de Schutter said. In that regard, he cited the exposure of the population to cyanide and caustic soda used in the treatment of exploited mines, access to water for local communities, pollution of the air by dust in the dry season and the sludge invading the plantations in the rainy period, which made the fields unusable as soon as they were contaminated. This seemed to be in clear contradiction of article 5(2) of the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. What was more, mining affected children's rights. For example, children used machines called "mobile power" to blow oxygen into gold wells, which exposed them to diseases stemming from the inhalation of dust, as well as the risk of landslides. The presence of large amounts of cash in these areas had also caused the development of prostitution networks, including some involving underage girls.
The Committee was pleased that the Penal Code of October 26, 2016, revised with the collaboration of the United Nations system, included corruption, money laundering and the misappropriation of public goods, which were all obstacles to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights. However, regulations related to the application of the law against corruption were still pending.
While the Committee understood that Guinea had been severely tested in 2014-2015 by the Ebola epidemic, there were still glaring needs, which the State report admitted, notably by evoking the insufficient capacity of its health care services. Homosexual relations between consenting adults remained criminalized in Guinea. This was an issue that several States had emphasized during the Universal Periodic Review in January 2020. Was there an institution such as civil partnership or a form of civil union that allowed unmarried couples to benefit from a certain form of protection in the absence of access to the institution of marriage?
The Committee was pleased that on 2 May 2019, the parity law had been adopted, providing that women must constitute 50 per cent of the electoral lists. Was this legislation enforced in the lead up to the upcoming 1 March elections? What was the process for the adoption of the gender equality law?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation explained that, just like the report submitted in the context of the Universal Periodic Review, this report took stock of the input of all relevant ministries, such as the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Mine and Geography, the Ministry of Education and the Budget Ministry. Civil society organizations working on human rights had been represented in that process. Increasingly, all stakeholders could attend meetings to voice their opinion.
On the national human rights institute, the delegation stressed that it was working well, thanks to the budget provided by the State. The Government took note of the recommendations that had been submitted regarding the functioning of the institute.
When engaging with civil society organizations, the Government assessed their effectiveness and their representativeness in the field, amongst other criteria. There were no systematic blockages, merely processes that had to be followed.
A law had been adopted on the protection of human rights defenders. Additional information regarding its scope and provisions would be provided to the Committee.
There was a line Ministry for the Environment, as well as an Environment Code. Relevant texts and articles would be submitted to the Committee.
When Alpha Condé became President, civil society organizations had requested that all mining contracts entered into by the State of Guinea be released and published on a website, and had called for the revision of the contracts that existed at the time. This had been done by the Government. The Government had also adopted a Mining Code, with the involvement of civil society organizations and mining companies.
Regarding the impact of mining projects on local populations, when populations had to be moved, systematic assessments of housing and property in the areas affected were conducted. In the past, people affected had been consulted and had accepted the new site to which they had been transferred. Families were provided with housing, such as apartments, the size of which varied based on their needs and the size of their previous dwellings.
Mining companies made contributions to local development. Some Governors’ Offices acted as witnesses monitoring the transfer of funds and their use. There were also local community committees that were in place to ensure that local needs and communities’ interests were defended. The Consultative Committees in mining localities and the Local Economic Development Fund also played an important role in that context.
All local communities in mining areas received a royalty directly from companies. Mining companies also paid a royalty to the State, which ensured that communities that were not near mining sites also benefitted from mining activities.
Child prostitution and child labour took place in small-scale artisanal gold exploitation, the delegation explained. They stressed that there were also issues related to the presence of migrant workers in some mining sites.
The Government stood ready to adopt a general law on discrimination.
Following up on answers provided by the delegation, Experts noted that prior to elections, there seemed to be an uptick in public spending. Public spending should be harmonized with economic cycles, not electoral ones. What mechanisms were the Government planning to implement to ensure that public spending and revenue reflected the economic reality? They also requested information about sexual orientation.
The delegation said that spending variations reflected electoral cycles. In Africa, much more time was spent voting than working on development. Elections were source of tensions in Africa, and were sometimes marked by violence leading to wounds, deaths and destruction of property. That was why such countries grouped elections, as had been done in Sierra Leone, for instance. The Government had considered grouping elections, to hold them all at the same time, and create long periods where tensions were lower. This would also generate savings, reducing the budget allocated to elections, and allow the Government to allocate additional resources to development.
On sexual orientation, the issues broached by the Experts had several layers that should be considered. The mindset in Guinea would not allow a general law on this matter to be adopted. However, there was no harassment of people due to their sexual orientation in Guinea, the delegation assured.
Second Round of Questions by the Committee Experts
Committee Experts noted that the report was well structured and very precise.
OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Rapporteur for Guinea, said that the State report described in detail the measures taken to promote employment and thereby guarantee the right to work, but to what extent were social partners, and workers in particular – including rural workers and workers in the informal sector – involved in defining these employment policies? It would be interesting to know to what degree employees had to accommodate persons with disabilities.
Noting that the minimum wage stood at 440,000 GNF per month, or approximately 42 euros, he requested information on how it was established, and the role played by the National Social Dialogue Council in that regard.
Turning to union rights, the Rapporteur drew the delegation’s attention to the arrest of a union leader who had led protests that had resulted in shutting down activities in a mine in 2016, asking delegates to comment on this matter. On the use of arbitration, it seemed that the Council of Ministries could unilaterally interrupt strikes. Taking into account concerns expressed by International Labour Organization experts, was the Government considering amending the legislation granting the Council of Ministers such powers?
The Government itself acknowledged that informal or family solidarity mechanisms, such as the tontine, were insufficient. What steps was the State party taking to foster the transition to the formal sector of informal work, in a manner that fully respected human rights? Labour laws should apply to both the formal and informal sectors. Otherwise, employers would have an incentive not to declare their employees and continue operating informally.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation recalled that the first President of Guinea had been a trade unionist, stressing that trade unions were very strong in the country. For years, the Government had put in place reforms imposed by the Bretton-Woods institutions. Now, the Government was concerned about the right to development. Guinea sought to go back to the values upheld at the outset of the establishment of the Republic.
The informal sector was very difficult to regulate. Work in the public and private sectors was nevertheless closely inspected by Government authorities.
On union rights, the delegation cited the case of the town of Fria, where a strike had shut down a factory. This had had a significant impact on the local economy. Russia had been brought in as a mediator to convince the company to come back. While union freedom had to be respected, for a strike to be launched, information had to be provided. Extrapolations on a single case were not deemed sufficient.
Third Round of Questions by the Committee Experts
Committee Experts addressed the issue of early marriage, noting that they were still widespread, particularly amongst girls in rural and poor areas – there were fewer early marriages in Conakry than in remote regions. This practice amounted to a human rights violation, and it perpetuated poverty. If prohibited by the Civil Code, why was it so widespread? Was it due to customary law? How was the Government addressing this issue?
There was a high rate of adolescent pregnancy – it stood at 28 per cent. What did the Government plan to do to provide for family planning services? The maternal mortality rates were also a source of concern. For this issue as well, there was a marked difference between rural and urban areas. How was the Government ensuring women’s equal access to antenatal health care services? Experts also highlighted the issue of spousal rape, which was not criminalized.
Turning to poverty, Committee Experts noted that it was an overarching problem. While there had been a significant decrease in the poverty rate in the past few years, it still stood at 30 per cent according to the World Bank. Again, there was discrepancy between people living in rural and urban areas. While there were poverty reduction plans in place, there seemed to be no strategy to evaluate their impact.
Access to water and sanitation was insufficient. Only 15 per cent of rural people had access to sanitation. Why were the results of the Government’s legal framework on this matter so weak?
Guinea had adopted an accelerated programme with a multi-sectoral strategy for food security, which sought to improve farming. Was State support to famers subject to their growing certain crops? Was subsistence farming eligible for State support?
Children in rural areas faced substantial nutrition problems that led to anaemia, amongst other health issues. What concrete strategies were in place to address food security and malnutrition in rural areas and poor regions of the country? What were the strategies in place to address children’s right to health?
Experts underscored that the report failed to mention any strategy to tackle contagious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. They inquired about how the Government intended to increase access to health care and the number of doctors available to provide care. In the forest areas, there was a high prevalence of paediatric HIV/AIDS transmission and a low level of access to retroviral medication, they noted.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said that the legal texts mentioned by Committee Experts testified to the will of the Government to put the practice of early marriages to rest. Further education and awareness-raising efforts were necessary, however, to put an end to this practice, which could not be eradicated overnight.
On teenage pregnancies, it brought dishonour to the family when a daughter had a child outside of wedlock. On domestic violence and spousal violence, there was a law in place, and the few cases that had been reported had gone to court. Details of the legislation would be provided in writing to the Committee.
On poverty, agriculture and food, the delegation said the State’s ability to act was limited; the Bretton Woods institutions, such as the World Bank, had their eyes riveted on expenses to avoid macroeconomic imbalances. While health and social programmes were important for the Government, it only had access to modest resources. Additional information on these matters would be provided in writing.
On the right to health, there had been an increase in the budget, but it was still insufficient to meet the need for more doctors, more training and additional hospitals. The same went for access to retroviral medication and children’s health: the delegation agreed with the Committee Experts, but while there was the political will to address these issues, available resources were limited.
Following up on the answers provided by the delegation, OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Rapporteur for Guinea, requested information on birth registration. The acceleration of the digitalization of the birth registry and other options could be envisaged to address challenges faced by the Government. The Rapporteur also asked about child trafficking and child labour.
Given the widespread teenage pregnancies, had there been a study into illegal abortions? The Committee advocated for women’s autonomy in making decisions related to their sexual and reproductive health, the Rapporteur recalled. Was the Government considering expanding access to abortion?
The delegation explained that the necessary regulations on birth registration were in place. While it would be useful to deliver them prior to the mother and child leaving the maternity ward, it should be noted that not all children were born in maternity wards.
On child trafficking and child labour, it was notably a problem in the Siguiri region, in artisanal exploitation sites. The delegation would look into the data, and find out if any cases had been brought before courts. There were no marabou koranic teachers exploiting children, delegates assured.
On early marriages, parents did not realize that it posed a threat to health. More education was needed. People and villages had to understand that this practice was harmful to health, and that it was a restriction on freedom of choice.
Fourth Round of Questions by the Committee Experts
Committee Experts thanked the delegation for the detailed and structured report, which provided a strong basis for the constructive dialogue.
On education, they flagged the high level of illiteracy, which stood at 68 per cent for people over the age of 50 and was even higher for women. What was being done to improve school attendance and thus reduce dropout rates? They inquired about plans to build additional schools equipped with drinking water and sanitation facilities.
Turning to gender disparity, Experts flagged the prioritization of boys to the detriment of girls, as well as the lack of security for girls, who were at risk of sexual violence, amongst other violations, in school environments. What measures had been taken to address these problems?
Experts also requested data on technical and vocational training, as well as on higher and tertiary education. They noted that 95 per cent of pre-schools were private and mostly located in urban areas. Were there any policies in place to foster access to pre-primary education? Were there any efforts being made to provide children with disabilities with adequate education and foster their professional integration?
The Experts inquired about efforts made by the Government to create an enabling environment for all persons, in both rural and urban areas, to enjoy their cultural rights. What steps had been taken to protect the country’s rich linguistic heritage and increase Internet access?
Replies by the Delegation
On education, the delegation said that data provided by Guinea gave the Committee Experts an idea of the reality on the ground. There were laws in place to ensure equality, and while there were a few cases of discrimination, it was not the prevailing reality. Primary school was considered the main door to knowledge, and as such it was an area of focus for the Government.
On the discrepancies between the rural and urban areas, it should be noted that there were only private schools in urban areas.
There was no discrimination on the ground of disability or impairment: no one was refused or discriminated against on the basis of having disabilities.
State schools were accessible to everyone, including the poorest. Perhaps the Committee should dialogue with Bretton Woods institutions, who told countries they had to privatize everything, and make a profit out of everything. Private education was only for one segment of the population.
Turning to cultural development, the delegation said Guinea’s cultural policy was a driving force.
Access to the Internet was not a huge problem, although there was a cost to accessing the Internet.
OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Committee Rapporteur for Guinea, said that while the Committee had waited a while for the report, it had met its expectations on several fronts. There were still sizeable challenges faced by the country, such as the Ebola pandemic. A number of legal reforms had been launched, which now needed to be followed by measures to ensure their effective implementation. The Committee would be happy to receive additional information in writing, including references to legal texts and data.
MAMADOU TARAN DIALLO, Minister of Citizenship and National Unity of Guinea, concluded by thanking the Committee Experts for their questions which showed that they had closely read the report and were most familiar with the situation in Guinea. The Government attached great importance to economic, social and cultural rights. If support was provided to developing countries, Guinea would like to be considered. If the Committee had the ear of donor countries and Bretton-Woods institutions and were able to draw their attention to the issues discussed today, Guinea would be grateful.
RENATO ZERBINI RIBEIRO LEÃO, Committee Chairperson, concluded the dialogue by thanking the delegation.
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