... continued

Analysis of the reports presented by Member States to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights yielded the following information.

          Chile indicated, in its report for 1988, that growth averaged 5 percent, despite the difficulties it faced as a developing country.  This improvement in its economy had helped reduce the average unemployment rate to no more than 8 percent and stabilize inflation at an annual average of about 20 percent over the five-year period 1983-88.  The public-sector budget deficit was down, and the public investment rate remained high.  Despite the crisis, the incidence of extreme poverty had fallen significantly since 1970.

          The report also indicated that the basic family unit consisted of the parents or, failing these, other ascendants and children.  There was no sex discrimination.  Minor children (under 21 years of age) needed their parents' or guardians' permission to travel abroad or purchase real estate property.  In addition, the sale or prostitution of minors was a serious offense punishable under Chilean law.

          The unemployment rate was no more than 8.4 percent in 1987.  Trade union activity is permitted, and Chile has ratified more than 40 ILO (International Labor Organization) Agreements.

          Concerning housing, the Chilean Government indicated that it was doing its utmost to ensure access to decent housing by the entire population. It stated that the housing problem was worsening in densely populated cities. The problem of migration to the cities had worsened in Chile following the agrarian reform of 1970; however, migrants were being assisted with home mortgage loans.

          With respect to the food situation, Chile indicated that its infant malnutrition rate had fallen from 15.5 percent in 1970 to 9.1 percent in 1986.  This was attributable to the program instituted by the Government of providing dairy products and medical check-ups free of charge to pregnant mothers and children under the age of six.

          The full program covered a total of 1,200,000 children.  The major achievement had been a substantial reduction in the infant mortality rate. The Government's main goal in the health area, it was stated, was to establish medical services for Chile's most disadvantaged groups.

          Concerning education, the report stated that Chile's education system was divided into three stages.  The first, pre-primary stage is for children under six, with particular attention to those from the poorest groups.  The second stage, for children aged 6 to 14, is compulsory; in 1986 it reached 94.4 percent of the total child population.  The third stage, secondary education, lasts 4-5 years; in 1986 it covered 680,000 young people, most of whom were assisted by state scholarships and subsidies.  University education is given in 23 universities, of which only 9 are private.  In addition, access to universities is promoted by means of government scholarships and student loans.

          Special efforts were being directed to technical and vocational education.  Finally, illiteracy had fallen by nearly 50 percent.

          Concerning respect for native cultures, it was stated that a plan had been presented for promoting integration of the Mapuche Indians while conserving their distinguishing characteristics and way of life.

          Mexico stated, in its report for 1990, that despite the great efforts the country had accomplished in improving the level of living of its people, some groups continued to live in extreme poverty.  A National Solidarity Council (Consejo Nacional de Solidaridad) had therefore been set up to assist the most disadvantaged groups.

          Serious problems existed in the areas of nutrition, health, housing and education that were difficult to resolve in a situation of severe economic crisis accompanied by an external debt rate which is among the highest in the Third World.

          It reported that the Mexican Government had adopted a five-year development plan (beginning in 1989) designed to consolidate economic stability, promote investment and modernize the production structure.

          Mexican legislation includes special family and child protection laws together with governmental administrative schemes to assist the most disadvantaged families and programs in the areas of family planning and organization, protection of children and adolescents against economic and social exploitation and abandonment, assistance for the elderly.

          The right to proper nutrition is a major concern of the Mexican Government since food production it not yet sufficient to meet the needs of the entire country.

          Concerning the housing problem, the report stated that at least 40 percent of dwelling units in Mexico lacked basic facilities; the situation was especially serious in the urban areas, owing to overcrowding of the cities and the destruction wreaked by the 1985 earthquake.  A massive low-cost housing reconstruction and rehabilitation program had therefore been instituted with the aim of relocating a large number of the families affected.

          The report stated that the health indicators pointed to substantial improvements:  the infant mortality rate had fallen sharply. Preventive medicine had made great strides in the areas of alcoholism, drug addiction, tobacco addiction and AIDS.

          Concerning protection of the environment, it was reported that in 1988 Mexico, which has one of the hemisphere's highest environmental pollution indices, enacted a Law on Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection which laid the bases for a comprehensive environmental policy.

          Argentina indicated, in its report for 1990, that service of its external debt was manifestly eroding the enjoyment of rights in the areas of nutrition, housing, labor, health and education.

          However, the Government was taking action to deal with these problems in the form of education-sector projects for establishing an education program that ensured the formation of a sound national awareness and participation by the people in building the nation.  The fundamental goals in this area were complete development of the human being and person, social promotion of the individual, solidarity and social equity, and strengthening of the role of the family and of education.

          The Government also planned to organize education curricula for rural, indigenous and frontier schools integrated into the local, provincial and national development plans.

          With regard to continuing training, permanent education programs were being implemented for combating illiteracy and raising the cultural level of the population.  In addition, special efforts were being made to ensure equal and expanded access to the education system, guarantee equality of opportunity, organize a decentralized school administration that took due account of special regional, provincial and local characteristics, improve teaching quality, and create libraries, museums, scientific and cultural centers and youth clubs.

          The report also indicated that 11 percent of total foreign cooperation received by Argentina for development purposes was allocated to education and culture.

          A special Human Rights Unit had been set up in the Ministry of the Interior to bring back to Argentina all the children that had been taken abroad.  The Human Rights Unit of the Ministry of External Relations devoted constant attention to promoting human rights, organizing seminars to inform the people about the rights set forth in international instruments in general and human rights documents in particular.

          The report also indicated that human rights education is a compulsory part of the curriculum from preschool to university level and of military and police training.

          On the issue of extreme poverty, Argentina has implemented a "National Food Plan" (Plan Alimentario Nacional--PAN) under which food and "food coupons" are distributed to needy persons every two weeks.

          Concerning education, the report pointed out that freedom of education was guaranteed by the Argentine Constitution and by specific law. In addition, parents are free to impart moral and religious education to their children in accordance with their own convictions.  Primary and secondary education are free and there are public libraries.  University education is also free.  Article 16 of the Argentine Constitution provides for equality of all persons and forbids discrimination against any person on ideological, political, racial or religious grounds.  The report also indicated that there is no record of cases having been brought before the Argentine courts for reasons of racial discrimination.

          Reference was also made to a large number of activities supervised by the National Directorate of Anthropology and Folklore (Dirección Nacional de Antropología y Folklore) of the National Secretariat of Culture for the provision of artistic creation services in the interior of the country. Concerning the education received by the indigenous populations, the report indicated that in the regions where these populations live primary school is taught in the children's mother tongue for the first three years and is bilingual thereafter.  Adult education and literacy programs, supplemented by intensive vocational training courses, are also offered.

          The report stressed that there is complete freedom of the press and the other communication media.  It is also stated that the Government is responsible for ensuring that everyone shares in the benefits of scientific progress and its applications.

          Colombia indicated, in its 1990 report, that despite the economic and social difficulties it had had to face for a number of years, it was pursuing its development efforts.  Prudent economic management had enabled it to cope with its external debt problem, and the positive growth rate had enabled it to move forward in implementing its social policy.

          Colombia also indicated that in 1986 the Government drew up a general economic and social development plan based on three sectoral plans: the National Rehabilitation Plan, the Plan for Eradication of Absolute Poverty, and the Small Farmer Integral Development Plan.  It set up three agencies to implement those plans:  the Social Development Board (Consejería para el Desarrollo Social), the Reconciliation and Rehabilitation Board (Consejería para la Reconciliación y Rehabilitación) and the Human Rights Defense, Protection and Promotion Board (Consejería para la Defensa, Protección y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos).  These agencies were made responsible for promoting education, health and housing, among other areas of economic, social and cultural rights.

          In 1989 and 1990, social investment in Colombia accounted for 46 percent of total public investment.  The Government's social policy was based on the National Rehabilitation Plan, which is designed to alleviate extreme poverty and inject new life into the most disadvantaged sectors of Colombian society.  The report indicated that economic, social and cultural rights are rooted both in the Constitution and in specific legislation.  Concerning enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by indigenous communities, the Colombian Government, through the Interior Ministry's Indian Affairs Division (División para Asuntos Indígenas), has developed specific legislation for these minority groups.  Specialized legislation designed to preserve the cultural identity of the Indian population already existed before the new law was enacted.

          In the area of labor, the report stated that the ILO Labor Agreements to devise viable solutions to the violations of trade union freedom suffered in Colombia had been ratified.  Information received indicated that in 1986 some 2-3 million children were working under unacceptable conditions; however, social security legislation existed which covered 30 percent of the labor force.  The report estimated that some 30-40 percent of Colombia's labor force worked in the informal sector.

          The report indicated that one of the causes of the "street children" phenomenon was the breakdown of the family unit among the very poor, and that the Colombian Government was implementing programs to combat family instability and child abandonment associated with the unemployment prevailing in the large cities.  Birth and death rates had declined in Colombia, as had population growth.

          Concerning the right to housing, an estimated 60 percent of the Colombian population enjoy adequate housing, with drinking water, electricity and sewerage service.  The average number of people in a dwelling unit is five.  However, housing conditions tended to be better in the rural areas than in the large cities owing to the exodus to the towns.

          In Colombia, as in other countries, the taxation system is designed to create social equity.  The term "absolute poverty" is applied to persons with incomes below the minimum wage and poor access to basic services.

          On the subject of health, it has been calculated that the doctor ratio averages about 10 per 10,000 population.  Health services are concentrated mainly in the large cities.  A project has been developed to bring medications within the reach of the lower-income population groups by setting up pharmacies in remote areas of the country which would supply about 45 basic drugs, subsidized to 40-50 percent of their true value.  The statistics indicated a decline in the incidence of certain diseases.  Health personnel training has improved through the years and the health centers conducted by the Ministry of Health have been decentralized.

          Despite these efforts, the gap in availability of health services between urban and rural areas continues to be wide, although it is being narrowed.  An estimated 20 percent of the population, mostly in the rural areas, still do not enjoy regular access to health services.  The main goals with a view to eradicating health problems in Colombia include raising the doctor population ratio and the availability of health services, together with suitable child vaccination programs.  Apart from social security, there are the private agencies known as "family compensation funds" (cajas de compensación familiar) which administer the resources enterprises are required by law to contribute to subsidize the families of their own employees.  Social Security provides prenatal care to pregnant women.

          The report indicated that the Colombian agency responsible for monitoring compliance with the work safety and hygiene regulations was the Ministry of Health but that despite all that agency's efforts it was not managing to perform its function fully.  It also stressed that the utmost effort is being made to centralize administration of activities under the campaign against drug abuse.  A supreme decree issued recently requires health centers, both public and private, to accept patients who cannot afford drug-abuse treatment in cases of emergency.  It also reported that progress had been made in developing a synthetic anti-malaria vaccine but that it was still in the experimental stage.  Abortion is prohibited by law in Colombia; however, to avoid illegal abortions, it is permitted for therapeutically purposes in extreme cases.  The health appropriation accounts for 15-20 percent of the national budget.

          Jamaica stated, in its 1990 report, that a great number of religions coexist there, reflecting the freedom of worship guaranteed by the Constitution; some 95 percent of the population was of African origin and there were no racial problems.  Concerning the country's political structure, it recalled that Jamaica had been a member of the Commonwealth since 1962.

          Governmental activities in Jamaica are directed mainly to ensuring access by the population to basic health and education services.

          Education is free up to the secondary level.  On the other hand, while Jamaica did not possess a rich cultural heritage, efforts were being made, as part of a multidimensional program, to encourage historical studies and develop tourism.

          Concerning the general framework of legislation guaranteeing protection of human rights, the report indicated that although not all economic, social and cultural rights were expressly enumerated in the Constitution, all were recognized in Jamaica through various specific legislative provisions.  However, in the event of violation of those rights private persons did not possess means of redress similar to those provided for in the Constitution for civil and political rights.

          The report stated that although the right to work was not expressly set forth in specific legislation, every Jamaican enjoyed the right to earn his living by following an occupation of his or her own free choice; that the unemployment rate for women stood at 28 percent in February 1989, and women employed in domestic service were included in the official labor force statistics; and that emigration by trained people was a serious problem which the Government was trying to resolve by raising pay, improving working conditions and reforming the administration.

          It reported that equal pay between men and women had been guaranteed by law since 1975; that the unemployment rate among the working-age population was 18.9 percent in 1988, including persons not seeking work; that a comprehensive five-year economic development plan, designed inter alia to improve the employment situation, was under preparation; and that the law provided for assistance, varying in amount with the number of years of work, for persons who lost their jobs for reasons beyond their control.

          The purpose of the Human Resources Development Program was to upgrade the efficiency and management of the social services, with special attention to the most disadvantaged groups of society.  The Program, whose cost was estimated at US$381 million over the period 1989-94, was a public- initiative program and had not been the subject of tripartite consultations.

          The report stated that Jamaica's "free trade zones" (FTZs) are administered by public agencies created specially for the purpose.  Labor Ministry inspectors present quarterly reports on working conditions in the factories located in the FTZs.  Moreover, the salaries paid in the FTZs are not lower than those paid in the rest of the country.  It added that employers do not know in advance when the quarterly workplace inspections were going to take place and that workers who considered that proper safety procedures were not observed at their workplace could complain to the Ministry of Labor, which would take appropriate action.

          In addition, Article 23 of the Constitution expressly recognized the right of workers to be represented by trade unions.  Although certain restrictions had been placed on this right in the case of civil servants and members of the armed forces and the police, in practice state employees were free to enter into negotiations, through representative organizations, concerning their working conditions.

          Although, generally speaking, no special mechanisms existed to enable workers to participate in decision-making, in a pluralist society like Jamaica the necessary means were available to workers to ensure that their views were heard.  A national consultative committee composed of representatives of the administration, the private sector and the unions was responsible for advising the pertinent ministry on the method of calculation of the minimum wage.

          With respect to union rights, the report indicated that Jamaican workers were authorized by both the Constitution and legislation to join the union of their choice.  On the other hand, only the labor legislation provided for freedom to strike, but no FTZ worker had ever been dismissed or threatened for having done so.

          Concerning exercise of the right to strike, the report explained that the Jamaican courts considered that if a wage-earner, in exercise of this right, abstained from providing the services he or she had undertaken to furnish under a labor contract, the employer was entitled to terminate the contract, deeming such behavior to be sufficient cause.  This practice had to be interpreted in the specific context of Jamaica, where the practice of collective bargaining was very widespread and wage-earners were protected by union organizations.

          With regard to the right to social security, the report stated that the percentage of GNP devoted to social security was not very high owing to the economic crisis suffered by Jamaica in the 1980s.  Agreements concluded with the international financing agencies had called for a reduction in government expenditure and therefore in social services appropriations.

          The five-year development plan nevertheless included measures to widen the field of application and improve the system of membership of the social security scheme.  In 1987, some 7.3 percent of the Jamaican population were over 65; women qualify for a pension at that age and men at age 67.

          Concerning family, maternal and child protection, the report explained that the object of the Government's population policy was to improve the quality of life of the people and at the same time limit population growth to ensure satisfactory levels of economic and social development.

          Family planning programs had an important role to play in this process, particularly in the area of information and education.  The National Family Planning Council was responsible, in addition to its information and education activities, for training staff to advise families.  More than 370 clinics, distributed throughout the country, provided clinical assistance, performed necessary surgery, distributed contraceptive devices, and furnished medical advisory assistance.

          On the subject of family and marriage, the report stated that while cohabitation was very widespread in Jamaica it was impossible to gauge its true extent.  While common law marriage did not confer the same rights on the couple as legal marriage, the law on the legal condition of children conferred the same rights on their children as on those conceived in wedlock.

          Annulment of marriage had to be declared by the Supreme Court. Irremediable breakdown of the conjugal bond, followed by separation for at least a year, was the sole ground for divorce, and the law concerning civil marriage was of general application.

          Concerning the right to an adequate standard of living, the report stated that some groups of people had been very severely affected by the economic austerity measures.  On this point it recalled that the objectives of the Human Resources Development Program were to upgrade the efficiency and management of the social services, expand the food programs targeted to the most vulnerable groups, create jobs, provide educational material to primary-school pupils, grant loans to small farmers, and resolve the housing problems.

          Poverty was greater in the rural than the urban areas, and a large part of the population suffered from malnutrition.  The Food Aid Program accordingly extended to a million persons:  600,000 people who received food coupons, and 400,000 school children who benefited under the food program specially targeted to them.

          Concerning the right to housing, the report stressed the serious problems with which Jamaica had had to contend.  In 1966 some 121,000 dwellings lacked both drinking water and sanitation services, while 26,000 were dilapidated beyond repair.  Moreover, the existing dwellings were overcrowded.  To deal with these problems, by 1988 2,803 dwellings had been restored under various programs, and the five-year plan provided for the renovation of 3,000 dwellings a year and the installation of sanitation facilities serving 2,500 dwellings.

          The objectives of the Government's housing policy are, inter alia, to create suitable market conditions, steer capital to the housing sector in order to boost supply, and promote remodeling of existing dwellings, with priority going to the lower-income groups.  About 77 percent of National Housing Bank lending had gone to these groups.

          With regard to the impact of the national austerity measures proposed by the Government on the Food Aid Program, the report indicated that, while poverty was more widespread in the rural areas than in the towns, the problem was alleviated to some degree by the extended family system, under which food and housing were provided to needy relatives.  Total volume of food aid was therefore not the only indicator of the nutritional status of the population.

          Concerning the right to health, the report stressed that Jamaica had taken a variety of measures to raise the level and quality of the health services.  These included measures for building or renovating hospitals and clinics, improving drug distribution in local health service programs, and establishing a national fund to administer the Health Ministry's assets, buildings and equipment.

          In addition, Jamaica had implemented a number of priority projects financed by charitable organizations to bring water supply to rural villages, and the Government had launched a human resources development program to alleviate poverty.

          On the subject of AIDS, the report stated that 140 cases were recorded up to November 1989.  However, the competent authorities were not thinking of enacting specific laws on the AIDS issue, preferring rather to inform the people about it and ask for their help and understanding with regard to AIDS victims.  No cases had been recorded of discrimination of any kind against AIDS sufferers.

          The report stated that "reggae" was an important element of the Jamaican culture and had always been an extremely positive influence.  While in a society where freedom of expression was guaranteed to all some reggae singers personally promoted drug use, this in no way detracted from the firm commitment of the authorities and the population to combating this evil.

          Concerning education, the report stated that the illiteracy rate was 18.02 percent in 1987 and that the highest rates were found in the 50-54 and 60-64 years age groups.

          It added that education was compulsory by law and that during the academic year 1987/88 some 98 percent of children aged 6-11 received primary schooling (97.3 percent of these at public schools).  It stressed, however, that despite the efforts accomplished by the Government and its agencies, in 1990 the number of children that actually attended school represented only 78 percent of the total number enrolled.

          In its report for 1989, the Dominican Republic declared that despite major efforts by the government, it was difficult to guarantee the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights in some areas due to the fragility of its governmental institutions.

          It stated that the Dominican Constitution contained provisions on economic, social, and cultural rights, pointing out that foreigners enjoyed the same rights and privileges as citizens; that there was neither xenophobia nor discrimination based on race, color or religion; that the Dominican Republic had always been recognized as a country of voluntary exile, and that women were not discriminated against, and even played an active role in the country's economic life.

          As regards the right to work, the minimum monthly wage was 1,120 pesos (US$97.40) and the unemployment rate fell from 28.5 percent in 1986 to 20.8 percent in 1988.  In stressed that it was no easy task to obtain reliable figures by sex and age, because or the many jobs performed in the black market economy and the informal sector.  The number of hours to be worked per day, for men and women alike, was established in the work contract but could not exceed 44 hours per week, it being understood that the working week ended at midday on Saturday.  Temporary workers who felt that their rights had been violated in any way could appeal to the Secretariat of State for Labor, a ministerial body concerned with the solution and review of labor disputes between workers and employers.

          The minimum living wage was set by the National Salaries Committee, comprising representatives of the public service, employers, and workers.  The Committee reviews the amounts of the minimum wages every three years.  No distinction is made between the various branches of the economy, but it can establish different salary scales for urban and rural areas, in accordance with the country's needs.

          With reference to the right to belong to a trade union, it was indicated that many professional and trade-union organizations exist in the Dominican Republic and that this right is freely exercised.  What is more, workers can make use of the right to strike when they consider it necessary, provided that the Labor Code is adhered to and respected.  Civil servants do not enjoy that right in situations when the public services they render are essential to the normal functioning of society.

          In connection with the protection of the family, marriage was declared to be the legal basis of the Dominican family.  A pregnant woman employed by the State or its subsidiaries is entitled to maternity leave from six weeks before the expected date of delivery to six weeks afterwards.  A working expectant mother is entitled to keep her salary and her position while on leave, as well as all the attendant rights and benefits.  The minimum retirement age for men and women alike is 60.  The status of self-employed women and those engaged in domestic work is not covered by the Social Security System.


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