GENEVA (12 December 2017) – Progress in the social sector in Venezuela and Ecuador, consistent with the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, should be more generally known and recognized, a UN human rights expert has said.
In this context, regional integration and cooperation with international organizations should be boosted to ensure that social programmes are continued and improved, said Alfred de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, after an official mission to study the two countries’ government programmes to advance social progress and improve standards of living, especially of the most vulnerable in society.
But social progress goes hand in hand with civil and political rights and must not be achieved at the expense of civil liberties, he added.
“Prioritization of human development is a governing approach that has a strong history in the region,” said Mr. de Zayas at the end of his two-week mission.
“Initiatives by both countries to reduce illiteracy, guarantee free education, expand medical care, provide affordable housing, create employment and eliminate discrimination are to be commended.
“On the other hand, I am also aware of endemic problems that persist or have worsened in the region, including poverty, corruption, scarcity of certain food items and medicines, failure to ensure free, prior and informed consent in the extractive sector, inflation, inefficient distribution, insufficient separation of powers, electoral irregularities and repression of dissent.
“Likewise, external realities, including the escape of national funds into tax havens, foreign incursions into the regulatory space of governments, counterproductive unilateral coercive measures, contraband in food and medicine, and a lack of mutual legal assistance when public resources are illicitly diverted, constitute serious obstacles to fulfilling human rights obligations, not only economic and social but also civil and political,” the expert said.
Recognizing that the underlying causes of the current situation were varied and inter-connected, Mr. de Zayas recommended that the government of Venezuela exercise more flexibility with its monetary policies, build technical capacity in public administration and regularly publish data on nutritional status, epidemiology, inflation and the budget.
In Ecuador, he proposed that the government strengthen programmes against corruption, institute a financial transactions tax and expand its prohibition of tax evasion to include private sector individuals and corporations.
Alongside calling for national initiatives to be strengthened, Mr. de Zayas urged increased international solidarity with the peoples of Venezuela and Ecuador, and unrestricted entry and distribution of food and medicines, with the aim of advancing civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.
He encouraged both governments to accept advice and assistance offered by the UN Human Rights Office, UNDP, WHO, ILO, UNICEF, UNAIDS and FAO.
During his visit, the Independent Expert met hundreds of people, including government officials, members of opposition groups, academics, economists, religious leaders, organizations representing women, indigenous people and marginalized sections of society, journalists, civil society members and representatives of regional and private sector organizations. He also met administrators and beneficiaries of social programmes.
Mr. de Zayas, whose visit took place from 26 November to 9 December 2017, thanked both governments for making every effort to answer his questions and provide documentation and statistics. In his preliminary recommendations to Venezuela he requested a number of urgent measures, including the release of people in detention.
A report on his mission - the first country visit since the mandate was created in 2010 - will be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2018.
Mr. Alfred de Zayas (United States of America) was appointed as the first Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order by the Human Rights Council, effective May 2012. He is currently professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy.
The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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