COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS CONSIDERS REPORT OF TOGO
7 May 2013
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its consideration of the initial report of Togo on how that country implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Introducing the report, Leonardina Rita Doris Wilson de Souza, Minister of Human Rights, Consolidation of Democracy and Civic Training of Togo, said difficulties related to data collection had delayed the submission of the initial report. The Government had an accelerated growth and employment strategy. Texts covering water and sanitation, health insurance, social security, the family code and the general statute on the civil service had been adopted. There was regular recruitment for parts of the administration and a programme for voluntary work. The country’s population was young and entrepreneurship was a priority. Health insurance was compulsorily offered to civil servants. Civil marriage was not necessary to receive family benefits. The level of coverage of safe drinking water and latrines had increased. Food security efforts had been successful, and a national programme to improve the living conditions of vulnerable rural communities continued.
Experts asked questions about access to justice and corruption, the exploitation of natural resources, the instability of budgets to social sectors, changes to the criminal code, unemployment, labour inspections in free zones, wages in the public sector, child labour, the civil code, registration of birth, death and marriage, the situation of widows, the right to food, land tenure, property speculation, the health system and its budget allocations, epidemics, malnutrition, drug use, the use of minority languages, integration of the Covenant into domestic legislation, human rights impact assessments, displacements due to industrial actions, the draft discrimination law, data collection, ratification of the Optional Protocol, temporary special measures in the area of promoting women, legislatory review, mining, Togo’s Ministry for Human Rights, gender parity, employment, labour laws, labour courts, the right to strike, employment quotas, combating poverty, the national employment plan, and the minimum wage and social security coverage.
In concluding remarks, Clement Atangana, Country Rapporteur for Togo, said he wanted to thank the delegation for the information provided, as this had allowed for a fruitful dialogue. There was a lack of jurisprudence as well as statistics. It was hoped that the next report of Togo would provide more information.
Leonardina Rita Doris Wilson de Souza, Minister of Human Rights, Consolidation of Democracy and Civic Training of Togo, expressed thanks to the Committee for the commitment they had shown in their examination. All comments made had been noted. Togo had an unswerving commitment to all rights, despite difficulties linked to the current international financial environment. All relevant stakeholders were invited to assist Togo in its efforts to improve the life of its people.
Zdzislaw Kedzia, Committee Chairperson, said the Committee was impressed by the delegation and the very competent and professional intervention it had made. The Committee had learnt about the richness of initiatives put forward, while facing a lot of challenges. The general impression given was that there were many changes underway. The concluding observations would be in the spirit of providing assistance to the State party.
The delegation included representatives of the Ministry of Human Rights, Consolidation of Democracy and Civic Training; the Ministry of Work, Employment and Social Protection; the Ministry of Arts and Culture; the Permanent Mission of Togo to the United Nations Office at Geneva; the Prosecutor-General of the Court of Appeal of Lomé; the Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Agriculture; the Ministry of Economy and Finances; and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and Literacy Teaching.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 May when it is scheduled to start its consideration of the combined second to fourth periodic report of Rwanda (E/C.12/RWA/2-4).
The initial report of Togo can be read here: (E/C.12/TGO/1).
LEONARDINA RITA DORIS WILSON-DE SOUZA, Minister of Human Rights, Consolidation of Democracy and Civic Training of Togo, said the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was ratified by Togo in 1984, though due to difficulties related to data collection the first report was only submitted in 2010. The Government had drawn up an accelerated growth and employment strategy. Legislatively, texts to do with strengthening the rights framework had been adopted, covering water and sanitation, health insurance, social security, the family code and the general statute on the civil service.
There was regular recruitment for parts of the administration, particularly defence. There was a programme for national voluntary work, bringing over 5,000 people the benefit of training. Since 2011, a support project for young craftspeople and entrepreneurs had trained 300 young people every year. Micro-projects were also funded as the country’s population was young and entrepreneurship was a priority. Such programmes were offered thanks to support from the African Development Bank and the World Bank. Health insurance was compulsorily offered to civil servants. Civil marriage was no longer necessary for the receipt of family benefits.
The cost of cesarean operations was now covered by the State to 90 per cent, and support for women with fistula was offered. The level of coverage of safe drinking water had increased and more hand pumps had been introduced in rural areas. Access to latrines had gone up. On improving food security, efforts had been successful; there was now a surplus which was being sold. A national programme was underway to increase the revenue from crops and improve the living conditions of vulnerable rural communities. On education, three million textbooks had been distributed, and two teacher training schools and two scientific colleges built. On average, more than 80 per cent of children went to primary schools, this figure moved to 62.2 for per cent secondary schools.
Despite efforts deployed by the State, the effectiveness of the right to education came up against a number of financial, socio-cultural and infrastructure problems. Schooling for children with disabilities was difficult. The Government had adopted a national gender strategy, and there was parity in elected posts and those of responsibility. With regards to inheritance, the family code recognised that men and women could inherit equally, and awareness-raising had taken place to change mentalities on this. A national strategy for the protection and promotion of rights for persons with disabilities had been adopted.
On housing, there was an ill-suited land regime, so the Government was looking at planning rules for the main towns. A cultural policy had been adopted to make the most of this opportunity for development, and funding had been laid out in the budget to support artistic and cultural efforts. Micro-projects in this regard had been funded.
Generally, the Government recognised that additional efforts needed to be made to make economic, social and cultural rights effective and a human-rights based approach had been adopted to achieve this. For this reason, the delegation wanted to reassure the Committee that the Government was determined to implement the recommendations offered. Institutionally, a research centre on cultural issues had been created.
Questions from Experts
CLEMENT ATANGANA, Country Rapporteur for the Report of Togo, said the State had seen many positive developments, such as the ratification of international instruments. On the other hand, issues included access to justice and corruption, the exploitation of natural resources, the instability of budgets to social sectors, changes to the criminal code, unemployment, a lack of labour inspectors in free zones and wages in the public sector. Other topics to be discussed included child labour, the civil code, registration of births, deaths and marriages, the passing on of nationality, the situation of widows, the right to food, land tenure, property speculation, the health system and its budget allocations, epidemics, malnutrition, drug use, shortcomings in the education system and the use of minority languages.
Another Expert asked how the Covenant was integrated into domestic legislation and if there was jurisprudence which was linked to it? More details were requested on birth certificates issued to persons of foreign fathers or stateless persons, were these of the same standing as those given to Togolese children? What special measures had been taken in both formal and customary law to ensure parity of men and women in land and property rights? What policies had been developed to ensure the application of customary law did not violate women’s rights? How did human rights impact assessments completed before displacements due to industrial actions take place? What was the status of the draft discrimination law? Could other grounds for discrimination be added to this text?
What was the system for data collection and was there an annual census? Was there any discussion in Togo about the ratification of the Optional Protocol, which the country had signed? Did Togolese law allow temporary special measures in the area of promoting women? Was it possible to systematically review whether laws were discriminatory? Another Expert wondered how Togo had coped with the wealth of recommendations from the Human Rights Council? Did the 30 year delay in reporting to this Committee mean that it was not highly considered in Togo? Had Togo considered their Covenant obligations when it signed mining agreements with multinational companies?
Togo had a Ministry for Human Rights, how had it taken part in the production of the report? What was the work of the Ministry? Was the country working with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as had been recommended in 1991? Had the parity promised been delivered in practice? Had remedies been conceived on the lack of data about employment, both in the formal and informal sectors? How were violations of the labour laws found or monitored? What was the current status of the setting-up of labour courts in the regions? Did all workers have the right to strike? Was there a quota system for the employment of persons with disabilities?
What efforts had been made to combat poverty? What was the status of the national employment agency? In free import/export zones, were labour laws applicable? If not, what was to be done to bring this in line? It seemed the food basket had not been taken into account when reviewing the minimum wage, how was it supposed to reflect the needs of workers? What was the situation with regard to social security coverage for workers in the informal economy? Was there contingency planning in relation to a pensions shortfall? How successful was the health insurance plan for civil servants, as there had been suggestions it was complicated and some persons wanted to opt-out? About efforts to increase employment, where had women found work? Had enough funding been allocated to the implementation of the new social code? What stage were reforms of the legal system at? Had any action been taken against senior officials accused of corruption?
Response from the Delegation
On how the Covenant was applicable domestically, a member of the delegation gave an example saying, if a worker was dismissed for using his right to strike then the labour court could refer to the Covenant. It was necessary to raise awareness among the people of their rights, and refer them to the court, as without a complaint there could be no justice. It was now possible for a mother to give her nationality to her child and birth certificates issued to stateless persons would be equivalent to those given to Togolese babies. There now existed a number of Courts of First Instance, and more staff were needed for these. All of these courts could deal with labour issues. Labour courts needed to understand their subject matter, so it was decided to start with one region and see what the workload was like, before devolving again to the prefectures if possible. If this was taken too far then there would not be enough work, so this was to dictate the level of decentralisation.
Courts on children’s issues were also to be established in the sub-regions. Land tenure was a problem, and a study was underway with the aim of setting up a Land Registry. Studies were also underway about having a single harmonised law on this at the national level. Having ratified various conventions, the new Criminal Code contained lots of provisions on the discrimination of all persons. On corruption, a judge had been expelled when an allegation of corruption was verified, and others had been suspended. Proceedings were held in secrecy, though if cases were proved their details would be made public.
On discrimination, another member of the delegation said the gender policy document talked about women in the family and community, also their ability to earn for themselves, access to services, the representation of women in power, violence against women, and strengthening the capacity of policies and institutions. Young girls were also subject to violence, especially if they were placed in voodoo convents and training had been offered to doctors to treat these children. The Government had carried out a study on the practice and it was engaged in combatting them. Togo was currently revising its national legislation to ensure it complied with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Togo’s national strategy also particularly considered women with disabilities as in need of protection.
On another point, the wages of civil servants had increased. Also, there had been a lot of criticism levelled on the work done in the free zones and there was an increased incidence of inspections. The labour code applied in these zones in the same way as the rest of the country. On the right to strike, there was total freedom in this regard, though employers in sensitive areas such as health could requisition officials to provide a minimum level of service. There was a body responsible for statistics, and the focus going forward was on having reliable numbers. There was an ILO mission to visit Togo on 5 June to assist the Government on labour and workplace issues.
Domestic work was an area that was increasingly regulated, and there were now trade unions that protected these workers. Complaints had been received from members of this sector that received less than the minimum wage. Penalties and sanctions were available as punishments for employers if warnings on implementing the minimum wage were ignored. With regards to the health insurance offered, there had been a lot of fraud and so the system administered needed to be able to recognise this, creating a lot of paperwork. This had, however, been improved and efforts to streamline further continued. Partners had been informed on how the process worked to make the process clearer in the future. The national employment agency had been very successful in finding people jobs.
On mining, there was not a huge number of operations, though in some areas it was necessary to displace persons. This was necessary to distribute the potential for wealth around the country. Contracts were currently being reviewed to ensure that persons relocated were properly compensated.
Questions from Experts
An Expert wondered about adequate housing, was more information available on why the rate of those without this was so high? There were serious problems on conditions such as cholera and AIDS in the country, what was being done to tackle this? Was there an integrated cross-cutting approach to tackle poverty in Togo? It was reported that funding for healthcare had fluctuated, and this raised questions about whether the State party was applying the resources available to it to protect the right to health to the maximum extent possible, was this the case? Was the funding allocation given to social action acceptable for the areas it covered?
What was the situation with regards to the implementation of Togo’s chapter on mental health? What were the current poverty rates? Could the State party shed some light on whether it had achieved the targets it had outlined in relation to building social housing? What was being done to address problems in getting title deeds? What was being done to ensure legal and affordable rental housing? Were there laws and regulations on forced evictions that complied with international standards? Were there effective campaigns to combat female genital mutilation and polygamy? Was the registration of marriages in rural areas carried out well? What was the coverage of the country’s medical insurance? Did it cover all persons?
Was there was a high dropout rate in education? About the transfer of local initiative schools to primary schools, how long would this take and how many were there? Could more information be given on measures to improve the quality of education? What was the budget offered for education? How far was Togo from the objective of universal schooling at the primary level? What was the ethnic composition of the country? Were there any technical reasons why the State party had not ratified the ILO Convention on indigenous and tribal persons? How was it possible to preserve the rights of indigenous persons in relation to land tenure? Had the fact-finding mission, which had been previously spoken about during the Universal Periodic Review process to investigate members of the press inciting racial hatred, achieved any results? Was there a way that ethnic groups could self-identify and be recognised in the government system? Were there special budget allocations for cultural activities for different ethnic groups, or was there just a general budget line? How were languages dealt with as part of education, particularly minority languages? How were these featured into access to services?
Response of the Delegation
A member of the delegation apologised for the lack of accurate statistical data and said Togo would provide this as soon as it was available. The social housing mentioned had not been built due to budgetary problems, and the need for dialogue with landowners. However, there were some cases when persons had been asked to give up their land and were moved to new locations and compensated accordingly. Togo’s revised sanitation and housing policy was moving towards increased access to latrines and sanitation, as well as increasing the availability of low-rent housing. Regarding drinking water, a deal had been signed to allow the best access to drinking water in the rural Savanes region and in schools. A national employment policy for poverty reduction was launched in 2004, though despite this there were problems, and the policy needed to be revised and improved to have a more inclusive approach.
Health insurance did not cover the informal and private sectors, though the national social security fund did. On polygamy, it was the Government’s purpose that its campaign against the problem was to eventually do away with it. Many organizations from civil society were travelling across the country to raise awareness against the practice. There was no specific legislation against marital rape, as rape was considered an offence under the criminal code in this context and was severely punished as such. On education, the transition from local initiative schools was to improve education standards, as the teachers and facilities were merged into the state system.
On measures taken to combat discrimination, they could be seen in practice, customs and behaviour. Actions regularly taken to ensure provisions were respected included consciousness raising actions and training and education, which were often community based. This included the press, the armed forces and community leaders. The Togo family code addressed issues, such as in the cases of inheritance or widowhood, where it sought to combat discrimination. On human trafficking, the current focus was combating the trafficking of children and there was a programme in place to tackle child labour, as well as a children’s code which specifically punished child trafficking. This had led to convictions for those involved in child trafficking or labour. A proper legal framework was still needed and a law was currently being drafted to tackle all elements of human trafficking. A national institution to take care of all victims of the crime had also been proposed.
On parity, actions were being taken with stakeholders to raise awareness, and the Government considered this principle when filling strategic posts, for example in the security forces. There were quotas for women in the competitive teaching recruitment exams. The Human Rights Ministry of Togo cooperated closely with the country’s Human Rights Commission and there were regular exchanges on topics, such as recent work on the prevention of torture. Following the last Universal Periodic Review before the Human Rights Council, there had been a range of awareness-raising actions and a five-year action plan was created. Having taken stock of this, it was decided to create a single document bringing together the recommendations of a number of treaty bodies. Generally, cooperation with national and international human rights bodies and non-governmental organizations was good.
On labour inspectors, Togo had inspection services working in all areas, including the free zone. On another point, a member of the delegation said it was unfortunate that Togo had been examined in absentia by this Committee on a previous occasion. Despite this, recommendations offered at that stage were still being acted on and this was a sign of the country’s commitment. About access to land it was explained that thanks to the family code, men and women were able to inherit land on an equal basis. When registering marriage, the modern law was considered the default, and the customary law was only relevant if specifically selected. The land registry had not been properly completed, though the land code addressed issues such as cost. Both modern and customary law covered land usage.
An Expert asked about reviews of legislation to spot gender bias and the minimum age for marriage? What accommodations were made for persons with disabilities? Did labour inspectors have jurisdiction over the informal economy? Could concrete examples of this be given? Why was there a dual-track system in relation to the inspection of the free processing zones? What was the status of the national policy on social protection? Was it planned that the health insurance system was to eventually cover both the public and private sector, merging the two current systems? What would happen to contributions already made under these circumstances? What steps had been taken to ensure customary law infringed women’s rights? Could the nationality law be amended to eliminate gaps which might give rise to statelessness? What steps were being taken to eliminate discriminatory customary law? What was the legal framework for the protection of domestic workers? Was their any jurisprudence on the applicability of the Covenant? Was property owned under customary law recorded with the Government?
Response by the Delegation
A member of the delegation said under the auspice of universal social protection, the two services currently offering social security would be merged under the new policy for provision, if they could not be made to work in a complementary manner. Where customary law was positive and good it would be kept, though if a law ran counter to constitutional provisions then it should be removed. It was planned to extend social protection to domestic workers. Purchases of land under customary law could be registered with a notary, who passed on details for registration. In any case, where the Covenant could be invoked, then it could be considered alongside the Constitution. The Government was working on ensuring that international texts could be applied appropriately.
Of the 766 complaints received by labour inspectors, over 500 had been resolved through conciliation. Others were escalated to the labour courts and still others rejected. For at least the last five years mothers had been able to confer their nationality upon their children. Polygamy was once a right and had now become a choice. It was thought that monogamy was to eventually prevail. Women were free to practice whichever profession or trade they wished without the permission of their husband. On another point, some discriminatory laws had been removed, though it was not possible to say this had been done comprehensively. Work would continue on eradicating these instances as they were identified.
There was a human rights focal point in every ministry, and this reflected efforts on mainstreaming international instrument into domestic legislation. Child marriage was prohibited and the minimum age for marriage was 18 years; forced marriage was outlawed and considered discriminatory against women. The prevalence rate of female genital mutilation had dropped following a law against it, from 12 per cent to two per cent. A hotline had been set up for the reporting of trafficking. Mutual health insurance organizations were to be encouraged, though the issue was always whether these had enough members.
Persons suffering from HIV/AIDS were given free retrovirals, offered through the combination of internal resources and external partners. Training was being given to health staff to ensure they had the right skills to treat these people. Prevention was also a focus and information was being given to schools and members of the press. Infant mortality was a health issue in Togo. Free vaccines were given to children under five, mosquito nets were distributed and malnourished children were helped in feeding centres. Efforts were being made to ensure that school children had access to latrines and sanitation. Meningitis was treated with antibiotics.
New efforts were underway in the push to create social housing, with several ministries working together in the hopes of getting projects off the ground. There were not really cases of forced eviction per se, instead there were warnings and dialogue with landowners, then a transparent process where people were moved to new accommodation. There were no quotas for the employment of disabled persons, though the Government was to ensure that there were proper statistics on their jobs. It was also planned to make institutions better in terms of access.
Was rent paid to persons that had been moved on from their agricultural lands for them to be used for public projects? What was the number of homeless persons in the country, as well as any measures taken to ensure no one was rendered homeless?
Response from the Delegation
Evictions were possible in situations where people had not paid their rent, though this was a private matter. With regard to rents for persons moved on, it was instead a case of paying compensation so they had money to settle elsewhere. Associations had been formed by persons that this had happened to, and these were in conversation with ministries. Whether the compensation had been adequate was an issue that needed to be resolved. These issues and others needed to be addressed as part of land law reform. Evictions could only happen under the direction of the courts, and this was only done alongside the offer of compensation. The Government was taking steps to try and help persons living in precarious accommodation, though sufficient resources were a barrier to this.
A member of the delegation said the national policy on culture set out to consolidate artistic and cultural development, while reaching out to other sectors. The Government was trying to promote art and culture, establish infrastructure for culture, develop the business of culture and encourage the expression of the various cultures in the country, despite budget constraints. There was not a single budget line for cultural activities, instead a sectoral approach was used. Infrastructure for cultural activities, such as reading rooms and cultural centres, had been improved, at the same time adding a decentralised aspect to provision.
It was recognised that local languages must be heard, as they were a vehicle for culture and at the heart of the States concerns. Persons with disabilities were also considered, and infrastructure to allow this group to enjoy their cultural rights on an equal footing was a consideration in development and planning. Culture was also important in improving social cohesion. Languages were taught at secondary level, with tuition provided in the language of both the south of the country and the north. There were 45 ethnic groups in Togo, and these were not distinct or separate, and lived happily side-by-side. Inter-ethnic marriages were common. Unrest along ethnic lines in the early nineties was due more to political devices on the part of politicians than actual ethnic conflict.
On education, the level of education in local initiative schools was not what it should be, hence the reason they were to be taken over by the State to improve standards. Voluntary teachers were rewarded financially. Teachers without formal training could be offered courses to catch up. An educational facility to provide teaching in trades was to be constructed. Free education had helped address dropout rates, and this had particularly helped with the situation of girls. There was a school subject around civic training, and this covered human rights. New classrooms were to be built, thereby reducing class numbers. A workshop was planned to come up with a national policy on human right and citizenship, and consider curricula for different levels of education. Focal points in universities had been given human rights training. Togo did need to update its school material. The reduction of the educational budget was seen across all sectors. The goal remained to improve the system.
CLEMENT ATANGANA, Country Rapporteur for the Report of Togo, said he wanted to thank the delegation for the information provided, as this had allowed for a fruitful dialogue. There was a lack of jurisprudence as well as statistics. It was hoped that the next report of Togo would provide more information.
LEONARDINA RITA DORIS WILSON-DE SOUZA, Minister of Human Rights, Consolidation of Democracy and Civic Training of Togo, expressed thanks to the Committee for the commitment they had shown in their examination. All comments made had been noted. Togo had an unswerving commitment to all rights, despite difficulties linked to the current international financial environment. All relevant stakeholders were invited to assist Togo in its efforts to improve the life of its people.
ZDZISLAW KEDZIA, Committee Chairperson, said the Committee was impressed by the delegation and the very competent and professional intervention it had made. The Committee had learnt about the richness of initiatives put forward, while facing a lot of challenges. The general impression given was that there were many changes underway. The concluding observations would be in the spirit of providing assistance to the State party. The Committee would be pleased to hear from the State party on its follow-up on recommendations, even before the filing of the next periodic report.
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