Statement on the occasion of the opening of the 30th session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
5 May 2002
Discurso em ocasião da abertura da 30ª sessão do comitê de Direitos Econômicos, Sociais e Culturais, 5 de maio de 2002
Distinguished members of the Committee,
Representatives of specialized agencies, funds and programmes,
Representatives of non-governmental organizations,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure and honour to welcome you to Geneva, and to address you on the occasion of the 30th session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
I would like to extend a particularly warm welcome to the four new members of the Committee: Ms. Maria Virginia Bras Gomes (Portugal), Ms. Chokila Iyer (India), Mr. Azzouz Kerdoun (Algeria), and Mr. Alvaro Tirado Mejia (Colombia).
Since your previous session, there have been various developments, pertinent to your mandate, which I would like to bring to your attention.
The many conflicts in the world today, and in particular the war in Iraq, demonstrate clearly how the denial and violation of economic, social and cultural rights negatively affect a country and its people. Now, efforts are focused on bringing to the Iraqi people hope for a better future. My Office has devoted, and will continue to devote, considerable attention and as much resources as we can to the rebuilding efforts, and we hope to focus particularly on the economic, social and cultural rights. We should have an initial presence in Iraq by next week – perhaps a dozen human rights officers, mainly working with the initial humanitarian effort.
59th session of the Commission on Human Rights
The Commission on Human Rights just concluded its 59th session last week. A number of important resolutions were adopted under agenda item 10, on economic, social and cultural rights, which will be made available to you upon request. You can also, of course, find them on our website.
Particularly noteworthy among them is the resolution on the realization in all countries of the economic, social and cultural rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
With this resolution, the Commission has agreed to the establishment of an Open-Ended Working Group that will address the issue of the draft optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. I hope progress will finally be made on this important issue.
I am also pleased to inform you that the mandates of the Independent Expert on the impact of structural adjustment policies and foreign debt on the enjoyment of human rights, as well as those of the Special Rapporteurs on the rights to food and adequate housing, have been renewed for three years. This will allow them to continue their important work.
The treaty reform
At your previous session, I spoke to you about the second reform report of Secretary-General Kofi Annan and an evaluation of my Office by the Office of Internal Oversight Services. These reports targeted the need to reform the human rights treaty system. A third report on enhancing OHCHR effectiveness at the country level has also been submitted, at my request, by an independent consultant, Mr. Mukesh Kapila.
You may also remember that I am to submit a report to the Secretary-General on progress made with respect to the treaty body system. The Secretariat is organizing a number of activities at which the relevant actors, in particular treaty bodies, can exchange views and contribute their expertise. As we speak, a brainstorming session is taking place in Liechtenstein. The meeting was organized on the recommendation of Ms. Virginia Dandan in her function as Chairperson of your Committee, and I thank her for this excellent idea. I understand a member of your Committee, Mr. Yuri Kolosov, is in Liechtenstein, and I assume he will report back to you.
A followup inter-Committee meeting will be held here in Geneva from 18 to 20 June. I have been informed that members of your Committee have already been nominated to attend the inter-Committee meeting.
There will be a third occasion to address the topic of treaty body reform at the 15th meeting of treaty body chairpersons from 23 to 27 June.
Distinguished members of the Committee, I thank you for your initial letter of November last year responding to this request, and I look forward to receiving your more detailed comments in the near future. So far, we have received responses from CEDAW, the Human Rights Committee and CERD.
I am confident that your comments, together with the outcome of the three meetings I mentioned to you, will contribute significantly to the contents of my report for the Secretary-General.
I assure you that our Office is dedicated to exploring ways and means by which it can be improved to allow us to serve the treaty bodies better. We must continue to ensure the capacity of our Office to live up to the demands ensuing from the increasing centrality of human rights in the work of the United Nations. This process is a long-term one, and we hope to count on your cooperation.
FAO: Voluntary guidelines to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security
I am pleased to inform you that the FAO Intergovernmental Working Group for the elaboration of a set of voluntary guidelines to support the realization of the right to food in the context of national food security met in Rome last month. These efforts have received support from various quarters, including the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate food. As my Office is closely involved in supporting the Working Group, we will continue to monitor developments in this field.
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of the Committee, I would like to wish you a successful session. I can assure you that, as always, the Secretariat will strive to provide you with the best possible support and assistance.