Issued twice a year, this Newsletter aims to share news about the sessions of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (CESCR) with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and the ESCR related activities of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
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Latest news from the United Nations Committee on economic, social and cultural rights
OVERVIEW OF THE CESCR 53rd SESSION
During its 53d session held from 10 to 28 November 2014, the United Nations Committee on Economic, social and cultural rights (CESCR) reviewed the national implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights and adopted Concluding Observations and Recommendations on Viet Nam, Portugal, Finland, Montenegro, Guatemala, Slovenia, Nepal and Romania.
If you have missed the public dialogues, you can watch the archived videos at www.treatybodywebcast.org.
ADOPTION OF LISTS OF ISSUES ON UGANDA AND SUDAN
During the 54th pre-sessional Working Group of the CESCR held from 1 to 5 December 2014, List of Issues that will constitute the principal focus of the CESCR’s dialogue with the representatives of States were adopted on Chile, Ireland, Kyrgyzstan Mongolia, Sudan, Thailand, Uganda and Venezuela.
In relation to Uganda, the Working Group took into account main concerns raised by our Ugandan partner, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, which submitted information to the CESCR, with the support of Human Dignity, on the implementation of articles 3, 7, 12 and 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
In the List of Issues adopted in relation to the initial report of Uganda, the Committee notably asked the State party to provide information in relation to Article 3 of the International Covenant (equal rights of men and women) on the progresses made to bring into force the Marriage and Divorce Bill, which would improve women rights. The Bill, which has been shelved for years, would notably outlaw a number of traditional practices such as the widow inheritance (the practice of marrying off a widow to her deceased husband’s relative) and make marital rape illegal.
The CESCR will consider the initial report of Uganda during its 55th session (1 to 15 June 2015). Parallel reports by NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions should be transmitted to the CESCR Secretariat by mid-April 2015. For more information, please refer to this information note.
The second period report of Sudan will be reviewed by the CESCR during its 56th session from 21 September to 9 October 2015. Parallel reports should be submitted to the CESCR Secretariat one month and a half before the beginning of the session.
NB: Cabo Verde and Niger have respectively ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (OP-IESCR) on 23 June 2014 and 7 November 2014.
Overview of the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
56th SESSION POSTPONED
The 56th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) was scheduled from 1 to 17 December 2014 in Banjul, the Gambia has been postponed due to the prevailing situation in West Africa (Ebola outbreaks in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and now Mali), as part of the Commission’s own contribution towards the containment of the virus, and also to avoid putting the Commission's gracious Host Country at any risk.
New dates will be communicated in due course.
16th EXTRAORDINARY SESSION OF THE ACHPR
From 20 to 29 July 2014, the Commission held its 16th extraordinary session in Kigali, Rwanda. Read the final communiqué of the session.
The Second and combined report of the Republic of Niger, which included information on economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR), was considered by the Commission during the session. Concluding observations are not yet available.
Resolutions were adopted notably on:
- Resolution on the need to conduct a study on child marriage in Africa
Concerned by the common practice of child marriage in many countries, in violation of the rights and welfare of the child, denying their basic rights to education, health, the right not to be separated from parents against their will, right to dignity, right to life, and protection against all forms of abuse and exploitation, including sexual exploitation, the Commission tasked the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa to conduct the study with the support of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Centre for Human Rights of the University of Pretoria.
The study will cover the following countries: Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, the Gambia and Uganda.
The Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa will submit a report to the ACHPR during its 57th session in 2015.
- Resolution on the need to conduct a study on HIV
The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV and those at Risk, Vulnerable to and affected by HIV will conduct the study present a report, for consideration and adoption, during the 57th session of the ACHPR in 2015.
- Resolution appointing an Expert Member for the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV), and Those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV in Africa
Ms. Ann Strode was appointed for 2 years. She is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where she teaches constitutional and human rights law.
- Resolution on the food crisis in Somalia
The Commission reaffirmed the importance of the right to food which is implicitly included in the right to life and the right to health guaranteed in Articles 4 and 16 respectively of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
The Commission notably urged the Somali authorities to take the necessary measures to address the crisis and achieve self-sufficiency and food security.
Enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and regional mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights
On 8 and 9 October 2014, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organised a workshop entitled “Enhancing cooperation between United Nations and regional mechanisms for the promotion and protection of Human rights” in Geneva.
The objective of the workshop, organised pursuant to a request of the Human Rights Council, was to develop proposals of cooperation between UN and regional human rights mechanisms in promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights including economic, social and cultural rights of persons with disabilities and women. A report summarizing held during the workshop will be prepared by the OHCHR and presented to the Human Rights Council at its 28th session in 2015.
This event is the fourth of a series of workshops aiming at strengthening the cooperation between regional and UN human rights mechanisms. It gathered numerous participants including NGOs, Member States and various expert members of regional and UN human rights mechanisms including the Chairperson of the CESCR and the Chairperson of the Working group on ESCR in Africa of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Presentations made by the panellists are available here.
In relation to ESCR in Africa, Mr. Mohammed Bechir Khalfallah, Commissioner of the African Commission of Human and Peoples' Rights and Chairperson of its Working Group on ESCR, reminded the participants of the several activities held with the participations of UN human rights mechanisms. For instance, from 27 to 29 November 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Mr. Kishore SINGH, participated in a regional workshop on the right to education for all organised by the African Commission’s Working group on ESCR.
He noted that the implementation of the Addis Ababa Roadmap on cooperation between the Special Procedures of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and of the UN Human Rights Council, adopted in January 2012, has so far given little attention to the ESCR and ask all the mechanisms to exploit the opportunities offered by the Roadmap for strengthening the awareness and implementation of the rights recognized by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
He also made several concrete proposals to enhance the cooperation between the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the African Commission’ Special Mechanisms including:
- Increasing the exchange of information on the activities planned in advance by each mechanism to give the opportunity to the others to join and develop their programs accordingly ;
- Organising annual consultations between the special procedures of the two entities in order to regularly assess the implementation of the Addis Ababa road map;
- Strengthening joint activities and expand to other special procedures;
- Developing and operationalizing a permanent meeting framework among similar mechanisms in the form of inter-mechanisms meetings to define common strategies and activities schedules;
- Increasing the exchange of information on the activities planned in advance by each organ to give the opportunity to the other to join it and to develop its program accordingly;
- Developing a framework for the two entities to develop joint activities programs;
- Allocating a specific budget for implementation of the Addis Ababa Roadmap.
Upcoming events and opportunities
54th SESSION OF THE CESCR: 23 FEBRUARY to 6 MARCH 2015
The CESCR will meet in Geneva to consider the reports of the Gambia, Paraguay and Tajikistan.
Deadline for submission of parallel reports by NGOs and NHRIs is a month and a half before the session.
55th PRE-SESSIONAL WORKING GROUP OF THE CESCR: 9 to 13 MARCH 2015
Lists of issues will be adopted on Burundi (initial report due in 1992), Canada, France, Greece, Guyana, Iraq, Italy and Morocco.
Deadline for submission of information is two months before the session.
56th SESSION OF THE ACHPR: date and location to be announced
The periodic reports to be reviewed will be announced in due time.
 See A/HRC/RES/24/19, 8 October 2013.
 The OHCHR previously held three workshops in November 2008, May 2010 and December 2012 with the participation of UN experts from the human rights treaty bodies and the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, representatives of regional human rights mechanisms, National Human Rights Institutions and non governmental organisations.
 Dialogue between Special Procedures Mandate-Holders of the UN Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Adopted at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 18 January 2012. See also the Outcome Review of the Addis Ababa Roadmap adopted in June 2014.