Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today opened its seventy-fifth session. The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session, during which it is scheduled to review the reports of Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Mauritania, Romania and Sweden.

Laura-Maria Craciunean-Tatu, Chair of the Committee, said human dignity was the solid ground for the indivisibility, interdependence, and equality of all human rights, be those civil and political, but also economic, social and cultural. Human dignity was truly respected and protected only if and when economic, social and cultural rights were no longer considered as mere aspirations, but instead, as legal standards that needed to underlie policy choices.

The challenges posed by the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, the fact that today 2 billion people lived in conflict regions with armed conflicts diverting resources away from financing rights-based sustainable development, the fact that more than 750 million people lived in extreme poverty, or the need to place human rights in the centre of all policies that tackled the world’s drug problem were just a few of the areas in which the Committee’s current work could really make a change.

Ms. Craciunean-Tatu said the Covenant and its Optional Protocol were acceded to on 5 February by South Sudan, which became the one hundred and seventy-second State party to the Covenant, and the twenty-ninth State party to the Optional Protocol, and the Committee welcomed this.

Marcella Favretto, Chief, Sustainable Development Section, Development and Economic and Social Issues Branch, Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said 2024 was a critical year for human rights and for the work of the Committee. As States discussed the acceleration of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and prepared for the Summit of the Future, it was clear that the guidance emanating from the Committee was crucial.

Last year, the High Commissioner launched the vision of a human rights economy, which aimed to anchor budgets, taxation and other aspects of economic and social policy making in human rights norms and standards. It recognised economic, social and cultural rights as part of the legal framework and obligations, not mere aspirations, and called for a new concept and new metrics based on human rights to achieve progress in society. The human rights economy was gaining growing support among Member States and would be one of the strategic directions in the new Office Management Plan guiding the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights over the next four years.

Ms. Favretto said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was stepping up its capacity to provide context-specific and tailored technical assistance to States, United Nations country teams and other stakeholders. The Committee’s recommendations proved to be key entry points for the country engagement to open space for technical cooperation and catalyse opportunities for change.

The budgetary constraints coupled with a prolonged liquidity crisis would have an adverse impact on the proper functioning of the treaty bodies. The urgency for States to provide the essential resources needed to overcome these challenges was underscored by the High Commissioner in November. Effective from 22 January 2024, the United Nations Office at Geneva had ceased servicing all hybrid or virtual meetings on any platform, system, or tool. It was regretful that no other treaty body meetings going forward would be serviced in hybrid mode.

Ms. Craciunean-Tatu said during the session, the Committee would review the reports of Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Mauritania, Romania and Sweden, and would be discussing follow-up assessments for Belgium and Kuwait. It would also discuss its draft general comment on sustainable development and the Covenant. All delegations were expected to participate in reviews of periodic reports in person. Since the last session, the reports of North Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Australia, Tunisia, Cabo Verde, Republic of Korea and Germany were received. While there were still many long overdue reports, the Committee had now established a backlog of reports pending review, including due to postponements related to the pandemic.

Also during the session, the Committee would consider matters relating to the Optional Protocol to the Covenant and would consider the Working Group’s proposals regarding individual communications.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Webcasts of the meetings of the session can be found here, and meetings summaries can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 February, to begin its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Romania (E/C.12/ROU/6).

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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