On the 12/13 May, the UN Committee monitoring the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights examined the UK’s 4th and 5th periodic reports.
The UK signed the Covenant in 1968 and ratified it in 1976. All countries that are signed up to the Covenant are obliged to submit reports to the Committee every five years, on how the rights are being implemented in their own country. The UK’s preparations and delegation were led by the Joint International Unit in the Department for Work and Pensions.
A number of key WNC partners have submitted Shadow Reports towards the examination, including the Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform (NIWEP) and Engender, and the EHRC has also produced a Shadow Report. We look forward to reading the recommendations produced by the Committee.
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
History of CESCR
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights by its States parties. All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must report initially within two years of accepting the Covenant and thereafter every five years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”. An Optional Protocol will also be opened for signature at a signing ceremony in 2009.The Committee meets in Geneva and normally holds two sessions per year, consisting of a three-week plenary and a one-week pre-sessional working group. The Committee also publishes its interpretation of the provisions of the Covenant, known as general comments.
In accordance with the established practice of each of the United Nations human rights treaty monitoring bodies, representatives of the reporting States should be present at the meetings of the Committee when their reports are examined in order to ensure a constructive dialogue with the Committee. The Chairperson will normally invite questions or comments from Committee members in relation to each issue and then invite the State party representatives to reply immediately to questions that do not require further reflection or research.
The final phase of the Committee’s examination of the report consists of the drafting and adoption of its concluding observations. The concluding observations, once formally adopted, are generally made public on the final day of the session.
In all concluding observations, the Committee requests the State party to inform the Committee, in its next periodic report, about steps taken to implement the recommendations in the concluding observations.
In order to ensure that the Committee is as well informed as possible, it provides opportunities for non-governmental organisations to submit relevant information to it. They may do this in writing at any time prior to the consideration of a given State party's report. The Committee's pre-sessional working group is also open to the submission of information in person or in writing from any non-governmental organizations, provided that it relates to matters on the agenda of the working group. In addition, the Committee sets aside part of the first afternoon at each of its sessions to enable representatives of non-governmental organisations to provide oral information. Such information should: (a) focus specifically on the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; (b) be of direct relevance to matters under consideration by the Committee; (c) be reliable; (d) not be abusive. The relevant meeting is open and provided with interpretation and press services, but is not covered by summary records.
Selections from the Concluding Observations, following the 2002 examination
17. The Committee is deeply concerned that the incidence of domestic violence has increased in recent years.
18. The Committee reiterates its concern about the persistence of considerable levels of poverty, especially in certain parts of the country, such as Northern Ireland, and among certain sections of the population, such as ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities and older persons. Moreover, despite measures taken by the State party to combat poverty and social exclusion, the gap between the rich and poor in the State party has increased, according to information provided by the State party. The Committee also notes with particular concern the high levels of child poverty among certain groups of society in the State party.
35. The Committee recommends that the State party continue its efforts to combat domestic violence and, in particular, to ensure that there are sufficient refuge places to meet the needs of victims of domestic violence. The Committee requests that the State party provide information in its next periodic report on further measures taken by the State party in relation to domestic violence, as well as on the results and effectiveness of such measures.
37. The Committee urges the State party to continue to address the problem of poverty and social exclusion as a matter of high priority, with special focus on the needs of marginalised and vulnerable groups, and particular regions, such as Northern Ireland. When formulating its anti-poverty policies and programmes, the State party is urged to give the most careful attention to the Committee's statement on poverty and the Covenant (E/C.12/2001/10). See http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/cescrs42.htm for access to the UK Report and Shadow Reports.