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The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights requested further information from the Colombian state in view of the examination of the official report in May 2010
COMISIÓN COLOMBIANA DE JURISTAS Organización no gubernamental con estatus consultivo ante la ONU Filial de la Comisión Andina de Juristas (Lima) y de la Comisión Internacional de Juristas (Ginebra).Bulletin No. 3: Series on economic, social, and cultural rights The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights requested further information from the Colombian state in view of the examination of the official report in May 2010On June 10, 2009, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights(CESCR) issued its list of questions regarding the most worrisome issues relatedto ESC rights after holding preliminary sessions this past May on the ColombianState’s fifth report on the implementation of the Covenant.The preliminary sessions of the CESCR on the situation in ColombiaOn May 25 through 29, 2009, the CESCR Work Group met in Geneva(Switzerland) to examine, in preliminary meetings, the fifth report of the Republic ofColombia on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic,Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).1 This working group, made up of fivemembers of the Committee, set out to carry out as its principal task a preliminaryreview of the Colombian state’s report, as well as of the information that had beenprovided to the Committee by other sources (including human rightsorganizations). 2.1 Report presented before the Secretary of the Committee on January 22, 2008. Fifth report by theRepublic of Colombia to the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, doc.E./C.12/COL/5.2 In the preliminary sessions, the Working Group addresses the situation of ESC rights in fivecountries, so that each one ot the members of the group fulfills the role of rapporteur of a country.This rapporteur prepares a draft list of questions that is discussed and approved by the WorkingGroup. During the subsequent consideration of the official report on the part of the plenary sessionof the Committee, that same rapporteur is charged with drafting a document with final observationsbased on the official report and the dialogue between the State party and the Committee.Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), NGO participation in the activities ofthe Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, doc. E/C.12/2000/6, July 7, 2000, Par. 14and 15. 1 ___________________________________________________________________ Personería jurídica: resolución 1060, Agosto de 1988, Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá Calle 72 No. 12- 65 Piso 7 Tel: (571) 3768200 - 3434710 Fax: (571) 3768230 E-mail: email@example.com Apartado Aéreo 58533 Bogotá, Colombia
Both before and during the preliminary sessions, various civil society organizations(among them the organizations that make up the Colombian Platform on HumanRights, Democracy, and Development, Global Initiative, FIAN International, and theNorwegian Council on Refugees) provided information to the Committee regardingthe level of respect, protection, and guarantee of ESC rights in the country. In thecase of the Platform, it sent the Committee the executive summary of the ThirdAlternative Report by Colombian civil society to the CESCR (which is in theprocess of being reviewed and edited) and a proposed list of questions regardingthe most worrying aspects of the social rights situation in Colombia. In addition tothe remittal of information, a delegation of the Platform and of other organizationsthat monitor the human rights situation in Colombia was present and had theopportunity to engage in conversations with the members of the Working Group onMay 25.2. The CESCR’s list of questions on the situation in ColombiaAs a result of the preliminary sessions of May 2009, the CESCR issued a list ofquestions on the implementation of the Covenant in Colombia.3 Among thequestions related to the general framework of application of the Covenant, theCESCR requested, in the first place, information on the work of the PublicDefender’s Office (Defensoría del Pueblo), as well as on the Defensoría’sparticipation and that of civil society organizations in the preparation of the fifthreport by the Colombian state to the Committee.Likewise, the CESCR asked the State: 1) to provide information regarding the“repercussions” on ESC rights of the free-trade agreements it has entered into; 2)to describe the State policy regarding the “conversion” of the territories of the3 Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Lista de cuestiones que deben abordarse enrelación con el examen del quinto informe periódico de Colombia relativo a los artículos 1 a 15 delPacto Internacional de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales, doc. E/C.12/COL/Q/5, June10, 2009. 2
indigenous peoples into investment areas or economic areas; 3) to specify if ESCrights have been included in the “current process of transitional justice.”On the other hand, among the questions regarding the general provisions of theCovenant (Articles 1 to 5), the CESCR requested information on the measuresadopted to “watch that the indigenous communities participate in the adoption ofdecisions that affect them, particularly by consulting them and obtaining their freeconsent before carrying out projects that exploit the forests, the soil and thesubsoil, and their relation to any public policy; it urged the State to specify if theregulations against discrimination (particularly those related to Afro-Colombians,indigenous peoples, and displaced persons) have been “effective” and requestedfurther information regarding the concrete measures that have been adopted toincrease the representation of women in “high public office in the administration” toensure the equality of women in terms of income, employment, health care, andeducation, as well as to comply with Judicial Decree 092 de 2008, in which theConstitutional Court ruled that specific programs be implemented for the protectionof displaced women “against the risks of violence and sexual and economicexploitation.”Lastly, among the questions relative to specific provisions of the Covenant (Articles6 to 15), the CESCR urged the State to send more information regarding the levelof realization of the rights recognized therein.Thus, with regard to the right to work, the CESCR requested, among other things,specifications on the growth of the informal (or “submerged”) economy and onprograms adopted to ensure that those persons who are informally employed haveaccess to basic services and social security.With respect to union freedom, the Committee exhorted the State to provideinformation regarding restrictions to the creation of unions and the right to strike, aswell as regarding “institutional arrangements relative to collective bargaining.” 3
With regard to protection of the family and children, the CESCR requestedprecisions on measures adopted to fight child labor and human trafficking, as wellas to “address the issue of street children.” In this respect, the Committee alsorequested further information on the “persistence of the effects of the armedconflict, particularly on women and children who have been the victims ofexcessive physical, sexual and/or psychological violence used as war strategy.”Concerning the right to housing, the CESCR urged the State to send more detailedinformation on the situation of the internally displaced population; on measuresimplemented to “carry out a true agrarian reform;” regarding access by thepopulation to clean water and basic sanitation; on the number of homeless personsand of those who live in inadequate housing; as well as on measures adopted toprevent forced evictions. Furthermore, the Committee requested furtherexplanations regarding the degree of attention given to “the situation of the leastfavored groups in the national housing strategy, in particular indigenous and Afro-Colombian population groups.”With respect to the right to health, the Committee requested details on progress onuniversal access to basic health care by persons of levels 1, 2 and 3 of theSISBEN system, as well as on the results of “the measures adopted by the Statewith regard to sexual and reproductive health.”Regarding the right to education, the Committee demanded information on, amongother aspects, the application of the constitutional guarantee of a free andcompulsory education; on measures adopted to lower school drop-out rates; andregarding the protection of school premises against occupation by armed groups.With respect to education, the Committee concludes by asking “what measures theState party is planning to take to formulate a true national educational strategy forchildren in Colombia.” 4
Lastly, regarding cultural Rights, the Committee requested more details on themeasures adopted to promote participation and access by the population tocultural life, as well as “to protect cultural diversity, improve public knowledge of thecultural heritage of the ethnic and linguistic minorities, as well as of indigenouscommunities, and to create favorable conditions so these groups can preserve,promote, express, and disseminate their identity, their history, their culture, theirlanguage, and their customs.”3. Discussion of the official report before the CESCR in May 2010With respect to the above-mentioned issues, the Colombian state will need torespond in writing to the Committee well enough in advance to the date ofexamination of the official report by the plenary session of CESCR, initiallyforeseen to be held in its May 2010 sessions.The Colombian Commission of Jurists calls on the State to give a full and promptresponse to the questions that have been formulated by the CESCR with regard tothe situation of economic, social, and cultural Rights in Colombia. Likewise, withthe intention of strengthening the debate before the Committee, the CCJ invites theState to take into consideration in its responses not only the issues highlighted bythe Committee in its list of questions, but also to present full and adequateresponses on the aspects about which civil society organizations expressed theirconcern in the documents sent to the CESCR on the occasion of its preparatorysessions.4 Among other aspects, the Colombian State should provide responsesto ongoing concerns regarding issues such as: - The absence of public policies for an effective guarantee of ESC rights of members of the LGBT community, in conditions of equality and comprehensiveness.4 These reports are available on the webpage of the preliminary sessions of the CESCR, at:http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/cescrwg42.htm. 5
- The situation of the right to adequate nourishment and the food insecurity that affects more than 40% of homes in Colombia, according to figures of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare.5 - The flaws in regulation and surveillance of the health-care system and the existence of four general patterns of violations of the right to health, situations highlighted by the Constitutional Court in its Sentence T-760 of 2008. - The widespread use of the cooperatives for associated labor (cooperativas de trabajo asociado, CTA, in Spanish) and commercial and civil hiring modalities to conceal labor relations with precarious labor rights. - The persistent use of anti-union violence and impunity in sanctioning the crimes committed against the life, integrity and freedom of unionized workers.For the CCJ, the questions raised by the Committee and the concerns expressedby social and human rights organizations account for the persistent violation ofeconomic, social, and cultural rights in Colombia, and for the repeated lack ofcompliance with the State’s obligations to respect, protect, and guarantee thesehuman rights. The Colombian State must, therefore, adequately answer thequestions formulated by the Committee, prepare to carry out fully all therecommendations issued by the Committee after its sessions in May of 2010, andbegin from now on to implement the necessary reforms to improve the situation ofsocial rights for the whole of the Colombian population.Bogotá, September 1, 2009For further information, please contact: Felipe Galvis Castro, Researcher in economic, social,and cultural rights, DESC, CCJ (Tel. 571-376 8200, ext. 129),5 Colombian Institute for Family Welfare (ICBF for its acronym in Spanish), Encuesta Nacional de laSituación Nutricional de Colombia ENSIN 2005, ICBF, Bogotá, 2007. In that regard, see ColombianPlatform for Human Rights, Democracy, and Development, Así van los DHESC, Bogotá, 2008, pgs.9 to 17. 6