5 November 2009
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today considered the combined initial to third periodic report of Chad, on how that country implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in the absence of a delegation.
Marchan Romero, Chairperson of the Committee, in opening remarks, said that Chad had ratified the Covenant in 1995. According to the Committee’s initial programme of work, the delegation of Chad should have been present as of yesterday. The Committee had received information from the Permanent Mission of Chad in Geneva informing the Committee that the delegation would not be able to attend due to difficulties they were facing. The Committee would consider the report in the absence of a delegation, on the basis of the submitted report, the written replies provided by the State party to the list of issues, and other sources of information, such as from civil society and non-governmental organizations.
In their discussion on the report of Chad, Experts said that it was a great pity that the State party’s delegation was not present today. The process would have been more successful with the presence of a delegation. Also, the Committee had already made a compromise when it had allowed Chad to present a combined report, 12 years after it had ratified the Covenant. In light of this, it was deplorable that there was no delegation present today especially as a United Nations meeting like this cost a lot of money.
A positive point was the existence of a National Human Rights Commission in Chad. However, the State recognized that the Commission was not in conformity with the Paris Principles. How independent was this Commission? A major problem in Chad was the discrimination against women; 89 per cent of the women were illiterate. Additional issues that were discussed were, amongst others, the applicability of the Covenant; the measures taken to protect the environment and to combat desertification; the exploitation of natural resources by foreign companies and the negotiation of contracts with them; the dumping of toxic waste; the status of the pending draft family code; measures to combat the perpetuation of discrimination in the family environment; the status of the judiciary; social security and social welfare; and female genital mutilation.
At the end of the meeting, the Chairperson of the Committee stressed once again how disappointed the Committee members and he himself were over the absence of the State Party’s delegation. They had not received any sufficient explanation for this absence. They had reserved three meetings to consider the report and they could have discussed many more issues and received more important information, if the delegation had been present.
On Friday, 6 November at 10 a.m., the Committee will take up the fifth periodic report of Poland (E/C.12/POL/5). It is scheduled to consider the report over two meetings, concluding at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Report of Chad
The combined initial to third periodic report of Chad (E/C.12/TCD/3) notes that in the interests of the future of its population, Chad has begun to exploit its natural resources. In exercise of the right of Chad to freely dispose of its natural wealth and resources, the Petroleum Code made it mandatory to obtain a Permit in order to conduct any exploration in its subsurface. Of its own free will, Chad launched negotiations that led to the conclusion of the petroleum agreements of 1988 and 2004 with the petroleum consortium which today consists of ExxonMobil, Petronas and Chevron. Chad adopted an Act in 1999 on the management of petroleum revenues in order to ensure the proper and efficient management of its resources. The Act grants 5 per cent of such revenues to the petroleum-producing region. The advent of petroleum exploitation has led to a slight increase in the standard of living of some young people, but it has not lived up to the population’s expectations.
Chad recognizes that men and women have the same rights. This also applies to economic, social and cultural rights. Under article 13 of the Constitution, “Chadians of the two sexes have the same rights and the same duties. They are equal before the law.” Article 14 goes further, stating that the State guarantees everyone equality before the law regardless of origin, race, sex, religion, political opinion or social status. In practice, however, some social and cultural constraints prevent women from enjoying certain rights on an equal footing with men. Paradoxical though it may seem, women themselves share in the perpetuation of the stereotypes that marginalize them, particularly by educating daughters to be obedient and sons to assume leadership roles. This is due to the internalization of models of learned behaviour passed on from generation to generation through school, the family, religion and many other diverse channels. The illiteracy rate is higher for women than for men. While the gap between boys and girls is not very significant in primary school, it widens considerably towards the final year of secondary school. It should also be noted that a significant number of adolescent girls become pregnant between the ages of 15 and 19.
MARCHAN ROMERO, Chairperson of the Committee, said that Chad had ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1995. According to the Committee’s initial programme of work the delegation of Chad had been scheduled to be present as of yesterday. Yesterday morning however, the Committee had received information from the Permanent Mission of Chad in Geneva, informing the Committee that the delegation was facing difficulties and that it would therefore delay its attendance until today and that they would be there when they had resolved these difficulties. This morning however, they had received information from the Mission of Chad saying that the delegation would not be present today. A representative of the Mission was present to observe the process and take notes.
Mr. Marchan said that the Committee set great importance to the presence of State parties when it considered reports in order to have a constructive exchange.
In view of today’s situation, the Committee would consider the report in the absence of a delegation, on the basis of the submitted report, the written replies provided by the State party to the list of issues, and other sources of information, such as from civil society and non-governmental organizations, said Mr. Marchan.
Discussion on the Report of Chad
Discussing the report of Chad, a Committee Expert said that the report was rather short, with only 15 pages. It said that concerning the measures taken by Chad to reduce poverty, the Social Action Department was running a programme aimed at reducing poverty among women. The report further stated that, due to the budgetary difficulties encountered by the country, the real effects of this programme of action were rather limited. This was an example of the factual statements included in the report and which conformed to the reality of the Chadian situation. However, the report could have included more updated statistics.
Another Expert said that it was a great pity that the State party’s delegation was not present today; they could have given their views to the situation in the country. Chad had however made efforts to reply to the written questions. The process would have been more successful with the presence of a delegation.
An Expert noted that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on the country stated that there was no deliberate policy of violation of human rights in Chad, but that violations existed. A positive point was the existence of a National Human Rights Commission in Chad. However, the State recognized that the Commission was not in conformity with the Paris Principles. How independent was this Commission? Also, had civil society been involved in the drafting of the report?
An Expert noted that several laws had been passed in Chad, which showed the country’s positive attitude, such as the laws prohibiting early marriage; female genital mutilation; education for all without distinction; and equal rights in access to work for men and women.
A major problem in Chad was the discrimination against women, said an Expert, especially due to the fact that many women were illiterate. The level of illiteracy was extremely high and according to the report, 89 per cent of the women were illiterate in Chad.
Another Expert noted that in the State’s replies’ to the written questions, it was written, with regard to the measures taken for women to enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights, that the women in Chad were perpetuating the stereotypes that affected themselves when raising their children. This was a very negative statement; women were not only the victims but through this also became a perpetuator of the situation.
Among the problems affecting the country were its instability and the fact that its natural riches were being exploited by foreign companies, said an Expert.
In the State’s written reply to the question on how Chad applied the provisions of the Covenant, the State party answered that treaties and conventions were superior to domestic laws and that citizens could invoke the provisions of the Covenant in court. However there was no provision at the national level for applying this principle, noted an Expert. This was a clear contraction. Why was there no such provision nationally?
On the protection of the environment, the report stated that Chad was party to several environmental conventions, but did not indicate which ones, said an Expert. Was Chad entitled to the funds provided by the 1994 Convention to Combat Desertification?
On the exploitation of the natural resources of Chad, the companies that wised to do so had to apply for a permit. But Chad had also realised that they had made mistakes in the past and had conducted renegotiations of some of the contracts with the companies. An Expert hoped that the current situation now benefited the economic, social and cultural rights of the Chadian population.
With regard to desertification, it was very advanced in Chad, noted the Expert. The Sahara was advancing at an annual rate equivalent to the surface of Belgium. Did Chad benefit from international programmes in this regard? Did it have national programmes to deal with this problem, and did it collaborate with other countries in the region affected by desertification?
The Expert also wondered how the environmental protection system was working in Chad. There seemed to be a paradox in this regard as there were two bodies: the Ministry of the Environment and Water and the National High Committee for the Environment, which had apparently exactly the same mandate. There seemed to be a duplication of responsibilities here.
Turning to the scandal of the dumping of toxic waste, information had shown that certain African countries were receiving toxic waste from Europe. This was a very dangerous practice. Had Chad received toxic waste? The Expert said that he had received information that Chad had received waste from France, including some 1,000 computers, which all contained toxic elements. With regard to oil extraction and mining activities, did they also not create pollution? What measures were being taken by the Government to avoid it and protect the environment?
Turning back to the fact that the delegation of Chad was absent today, an Expert said that the Committee had already made a compromise when it had allowed Chad to present a combined report, 12 years after it had ratified the Covenant. In light of this, it was deplorable that there was no delegation present today. A United Nations meeting cost a lot of money; they had to pay interpreters and secretariat services and 18 Experts were sitting in the room for nothing. There was no excuse for such behaviour.
Further, by doing so, the Committee would have to rely more on external information. This might be more detrimental to the State party, said an Expert.
Another Expert wondered whether the National Human Rights Commission had economic, social and cultural rights in its mandate. This question had been avoided in the State party’s written replies.
An Expert noted that in Chad, there was a Constitution Council, which looked at the constitutionality of law and said that it could be good if this Council would pronounce itself over the Covenant.
Further, who benefited from the outcome of the many foreign companies operating in Chad, wondered an Expert. It was clear that it was mostly the companies themselves. Chad should thus ensure that its peoples also benefited from this outcome, as the country currently seemed to be at the mercy of foreign companies.
An Expert said that it was sad to note that there was a Ministry for Human Rights and Freedoms in Chad, which was also tasked with the implementation and monitoring of the human rights treaty bodies’ obligations. What kept such a Ministry from attending an exchange with the Committee that could only be positive for it?
Other Experts wondered about the status of the pending draft family code. On the fact that discrimination was being perpetuated in the family environment, one Expert said that the school was the medium to mitigate discriminatory practices acquired in the family environment. What steps were being taken to ensure that these issues were addressed in the school curricula?
Another Expert noted that the judiciary was underfunded and subject to executive interference, as had been noted by the United Nations Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Chad, Ms. Monica Pinto. She had also highlighted the fact that Chadians did not make use of what had been made available to them, in terms of the judiciary system.
An Expert noted that there were contradictions between the law as it existed in Chad and the reality on the ground. A certain number of factors had made it difficult to implement the law, such as generalized corruption, the lack of clear institutions, and the lack of financing for improving the legal system and for the administration of justice.
Chad should also explain why contracts with foreign companies had not been revised, if it was a fact that the consortiums were creaming off all benefits, especially in the light of the fact that there was such a high level of poverty in the country and that 90 per cent of the population did not have a roof over their heads.
Other Experts also asked questions on the labour code; social security and social welfare; work inspectors; social security and the ratification of relevant International Labour Organization instruments; the recruitment of children; the right to health; the effects of the armed conflict in the eastern part of the country; the fight against poverty; homelessness; microfinance and the poverty reduction strategy in place and why it had not been successful in lifting the 53 per cent that were still living below the poverty line out of poverty; forced evictions and female genital mutilation.
Another Expert noted, on the recruitment of boys in the military, that it was linked to the fact that there was a belief that when a young boy was circumcised he became a strong man and that he had to fight to protect his community.
An Expert also regretted that the State Party had said nothing about culture in its report. There were no statistics or information on the issue of the right to culture. Culture was one-third of the Covenant. He hoped that the State party would provide information on this subject in its next report. The right to culture was a right in itself.
MARCHAN ROMERA, Committee Chairperson, stressed once again how disappointed the Committee members and he himself were over the absence of the State Party. They had also not received any sufficient explanation for this absence. They had reserved three meetings to consider the report and they would have discussed many more issues and received more important information, if the delegation had been present. This important information would have helped the Committee to draft their concluding observations and recommendations. Being present at the meeting was really beneficial to the country.
For use of the information media; not an official record