Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Lebanon *
1.The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered the second periodic report of Lebanon (E/C.12/LBN/2) at its 61st and 62nd meetings (see E/C.12/2016/SR.61 and 62), held on 26 and 27 September 2016, and adopted the present concluding observations at its 78th meeting, held on 7 October 2016.
2.The Committee welcomes the submission of the second periodic report and the resumption of its dialogue with the State party. The Committee regrets the very significant delay with which the report was submitted and the fact that many questions contained in the list of issues were not answered (see E/C.12/LBN/Q/2/Add.1). The Committee welcomes the constructive dialogue held with the State party’s delegation.
3.The Committee welcomes the ratification of the following international human rights treaties:
(a)The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, on 5 October 2000, and its Optional Protocol, on 22 December 2008;
(b)The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, on 16 April 1997;
(c)The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, on 8 November 2004.
4.The Committee welcomes the adoption of legislative, institutional and policy measures to promote economic, social and cultural rights in the State party since the examination of the initial report, including:
(a)Act No. 164 of 24 August 2011 concerning the punishment of human trafficking offences;
(b)Act No. 293 of 7 May 2014 concerning the protection of women and other household members against domestic violence;
(c)Act No. 150 of 17 August 2011 making basic education compulsory and free of charge in public schools and Act No. 211 of 30 March 2012 authorizing the distribution of textbooks free of charge to pupils attending kindergartens or receiving basic education in public schools;
(d)Decree No. 9825 of 1 February 2013 and Act No. 267 of 15 April 2014 on maternity leave entitlements;
(e)Decree No. 8987 of 29 September 2012 prohibiting the employment of persons under 18 years of age in work that poses a threat to their health, safety or moral conduct;
(f)The National Programme for Local Socioeconomic Development, launched in 2013;
(g)The National Strategy to Safeguard and Protect Children against Violence, approved in 2012;
(h)The 2011-2021 National Strategy for Women and a project aimed to identify discriminatory texts in school textbooks and curricula;
(i)The Programme to Safeguard the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
5.The Committee commends the State party for its commitment to refugee issues and for its generosity in hosting a very large number of refugees.
C.Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
Domestic application of the Covenant
6.The Committee is concerned about the lack of information on case law referring to provisions of the Covenant, in spite of the fact that the Covenant is directly applicable in the State party and especially since the Constitution of the State party does not recognize economic, social and cultural rights (art. 2 (1)).
7. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure constitutional protection of economic, social and cultural rights. It also recommends that the State party raise awareness about Covenant rights and their justiciability, in particular among judges, lawyers and law enforcement officials, as well as among the public at large. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its general comment No. 9 (1998) on the domestic application of the Covenant.
Impact of the political situation on the enjoyment of Covenant rights
8.The Committee is concerned that the ongoing political stalemate in the State party has delayed the adoption of critical legislative and policy measures for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights and has severely hampered the State party’s ability to attend to emergencies such as the influx of refugees and the waste management crisis.
9. The Committee recommends that the State party endeavour to discharge its obligations under the Covenant in spite of the political situation.
10. The Committee is concerned that, as no public budget has been adopted since 2005, the budgeting process lacks democratic approval and oversight and that the current sectoral allocations no longer correspond to the needs and priorities in the State party. The Committee also notes that a considerable part of the public budget for health and education is spent on contracts for the delivery of services by private schools and private medical facilities (art. 2 (1)).
11. The Committee calls on the State party to overcome the political obstacles to engaging in a regular budgetary process so as to ensure accountability and adequate allocations to priority needs and sectors. The Committee also recommends that the State party review whether the practice of contracting out the delivery of basic services to private actors constitutes an optimal use of available resources to ensuring Covenant rights without discrimination.
12.The Committee is concerned that the large portion of public budget earmarked for debt servicing deprives the State party of resources needed for the fulfilment of its core obligations related to ensuring the minimum essential level of Covenant rights for a majority of the population (art. 2 (1)).
13. The Committee recommends that the State party take measures, including through negotiation with creditors, to reduce the weight of debt servicing on the public budget to a level that enables it to ensure the fulfilment of its core obligations to its population. It also recommends that the State party take into account its obligations under the Covenant in its dialogue with the International Monetary Fund, and draws the attention of the State party in this regard to its statement of 24 June 2016 on public debt, austerity measures and the Covenant (E/C.12/2016/1). Moreover, the Committee recommends that the State party put into place a clear legal and institutional framework to ensure transparency and accountability in loan negotiation, contracting and debt management.
14.The Committee is concerned that corruption is pervasive in the State party and results in a considerable loss of resources needed for the implementation of the Covenant. It is also concerned about the lack of transparency and effective oversight of public affairs, as well as about the presence of nepotism and clientelism in politics. Moreover, while noting that judges have invoked the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Corruption in court rulings, the Committee remains concerned at delays incurred in the adoption of several draft laws implementing the Convention (art. 2 (1)).
15. The Committee recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to combat corruption and related impunity and that it:
(a) Ensure transparency in public affairs, by making information accessible to rights holders, and in the use of public resources, including in respect of funds received in the framework of international cooperation;
(b) Ensure that oversight mechanisms for public affairs are effective and that governmental and other public bodies are accountable in practice;
(c) Expedite the adoption of draft laws aimed at combating corruption;
(d) Raise awareness among politicians, members of Parliament and other officials of the economic and social costs of corruption.
National human rights institution
16.The Committee is concerned that the State party does not have a national human rights institution (art. 2 (1)).
17. The Committee recommends that the State party expeditiously establish a national human rights institution with a broad mandate and adequate resources in full compliance with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles).
18.The Committee is concerned at discrimination experienced by marginalized groups. The Committee is also concerned at the lack of effective remedies, legal or otherwise, available to victims of discrimination (art. 2 (2)).
19. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Adopt a comprehensive legal framework for combating discrimination that prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination and provides for temporary special measures;
(b) Enshrine in the Constitution the principle of non-discrimination on the full list of grounds specified in article 2 (2) of the Covenant;
(c) Conduct campaigns to combat prejudice and stigma against members of marginalized groups, such as persons with disabilities, persons living with HIV, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons and refugees;
(d) Establish mechanisms to ensure that victims of discrimination can seek effective remedies.
20. The Committee draws the State party ’ s attention to its general comment No. 20 (2009) on non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights.
Persons with disabilities
21.The Committee notes the information provided by the delegation about the personal disability card and the increasing accessibility of public services. The Committee remains concerned, however, that the responsibility for caring for persons with disabilities falls primarily on their families. It is also concerned that access to inclusive education remains very limited. Moreover, it notes with concern that 80 per cent of persons with disabilities are not or have never been employed and that the employment quota introduced by law No. 220/2000 is not enforced (art. 2 (2)).
22. The Committee recommends that the State party adopt rights-based policies and programmes for persons with disabilities to:
(a) Bring the definition of disability in law No. 220/2000 into conformity with international standards;
(b) Ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to the special fund for persons with disabilities within the budget of the Ministry of Health, that rights-based medical and other services to persons with disabilities are made available and that the personal disability card is accepted by all relevant facilities;
(c) Ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to education and training, including by promoting inclusive education;
(d) Support the provision of reasonable accommodation and invest further into making information, public goods and services accessible, in conformity with Decree No. 7194 of 16 December 2011;
(e) Implement the employment quota system provided by law No. 220/2000 and develop employment opportunities that afford a decent standard of living and career prospects for persons with disabilities;
(f) Ensure the right of persons with disabilities to gain a living by work that they freely choose or accept, including by eradicating the practice of traditionally assigning certain jobs to persons with disabilities.
23.The Committee notes with concern the lack of financial resources and employment opportunities available to Syrian refugees, as well as the deplorable living conditions of some of them, despite the resources invested by the State party in supporting them and the abolition of the “pledge not to work”. The Committee also regrets the position of the State party that granting fuller economic, social and cultural rights to refugees may discourage them from returning to their country of origin (art. 2 (2)).
24. In view of the limited resources available to support refugees, the Committee urges the State party to accelerate the provision of documentation to refugees so that they can seek work and access basic services without fear of being arrested. The Committee also calls on the State party to pursue a rights-based approach in its provision of support to refugees, including by eliminating legal and regulatory provisions that discriminate against them in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
25.The Committee is concerned at the poor living standards in camps and informal settlements for Palestine refugees, as well as at the obstacles they face in seeking to improve those conditions. The Committee is also concerned at the legal and regulatory conditions on employment, social security and housing that discriminate against Palestine refugees (art. 11, read in conjunction with art. 2 (2)).
26. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ease the restrictions on and facilitate the movement of building materials into Palestine refugee camps and contribute to the overall improvement of living conditions in camps, as appropriate;
(b) Remove the obstacles preventing Palestine refugees ’ employment in the formal economy and, in collaboration with professional associations and independent professionals, facilitate Palestine refugees ’ access to the 36 professions from which they are still barred;
(c) Ensure Palestine refugees ’ access to the full range of social security benefits, including all health and family benefits, for which they make the relevant contributions;
(d) Amend Act No. 296 of 2001, amending the 1969 decree on the acquisition by foreigners of real estate and real estate rights in Lebanon, so as to allow Palestine refugees to acquire immovable property and thus fully enjoy their right to adequate housing without discrimination.
Equal rights of men and women
27.The Committee is concerned at the existence of discriminatory legal provisions such as those on nationality and inheritance, the entrenched patriarchal attitudes and the stereotyped image of women as only mothers and wives, which prevent women from enjoying Covenant rights on an equal basis with men. The Committee is concerned in particular at the very low labour force participation of women (art. 3).
28. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Review all laws and regulations with a view to repealing or amending those that are discriminatory or have a discriminatory effect on women, including laws on nationality and inheritance;
(b) Intensify efforts, through awareness-raising campaigns, to modify society ’ s patriarchal attitudes and stereotyped image of women in family and society, and recognize women as individuals who have equal rights;
(c) Implement temporary special measures while it identifies and addresses the root causes of women ’ s low participation in the labour force.
29. The Committee refers the State party to its general comment No. 16 (2005) on the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights.
30.The Committee notes the various measures taken by the State party to counter unemployment, including those aimed at supporting small and medium-sized enterprises. The Committee remains concerned, however, at the very high level of unemployment in the State party, especially among youth and women, including university graduates, which has been compounded by the arrival of refugees. Moreover, it is concerned that, even before the refugee crisis, the number of new jobs created annually was far lower than the number of youth entering the labour market. Therefore, the Committee is further concerned that the State party’s policies and programmes targeting unemployment lack effectiveness (art. 6).
31. The Committee recommends that, in the formulation of an economic vision for the future, the State party:
(a) Address the structural causes of unemployment in the State party, including the jobless economic growth;
(b) Review vocational and university programmes so that they meet current labour market demands and capitalize on the high level of education to ensure that it translates into job opportunities;
(c) Monitor the impact of the “ first job programme for youth ” and adopt labour measures targeted specifically at women;
(d) Put into place services providing assistance to the unemployed;
(e) Ensure that any policies de facto discriminating against refugees and migrants under its jurisdiction are of an interim nature and removed as soon as possible.
32. The Committee refers the State party to its general comment No. 18 (2005) on the right to work.
33.The Committee is concerned that the minimum wage has not been revised since 2012 to take account of the inflation rate, which in 2015 exceeded 30 per cent (art. 7).
34. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that the minimum wage enables a decent standard of living for workers and their families, including by indexing it with the cost of living and implementing vigorous enforcement measures to ensure that the minimum wage is effectively applied. It refers the State party to paragraphs 18 to 24 of its general comment No. 23 (2016) on the right to just and favourable conditions of work.
Protection of the right to just and favourable conditions of work
35.The Committee is concerned that several categories of workers do not enjoy the protection of the Labour Code, including those working in unregulated sectors and in the informal economy. It also expresses concern at some provisions of the Labour Code and other relevant laws, such as the kafala system and the possibility of concluding oral contracts, which render workers vulnerable to exploitation. Moreover, it notes with concern that the labour inspectorate is underresourced (art. 7).
36. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Expand the purview of the Labour Code to all categories of workers, including domestic workers, agricultural workers, day workers and temporary workers in the public service, and to those working in unregulated sectors and the informal economy, to ensure the enjoyment of the right to just and favourable conditions of work without discrimination;
(b) Regulate sectors such as those involving metallurgy, mechanical engineering and painting workshops, and take consistent measures to gradually regularize the informal sectors of the economy;
(c)Review the relevant laws with a view to abolishing arrangements such as kafala and oral contracts, which render workers vulnerable to exploitation;
(d) Significantly increase the capacity of the labour inspectorate and ensure that its mandate covers workers in the informal economy so that they too can enjoy just and favourable conditions of work and enjoy the protection afforded by the Labour Code.
37. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its general comment No. 23.
Right to strike
38.The Committee is concerned that civil servants in the State party do not have the right to strike. It is also concerned at the conditions imposed on the exercise of the right to strike (art. 8).
39. The Committee recommends that the State party bring its laws and regulations on the right to strike into conformity with international standards, including by limiting the restrictions on the exercise of the right to strike only to civil servants engaged in essential services and subjecting cases involving claims for reparation for damages resulting from strike-related demonstrations only to civil liability law and thereby dissociating the reparation for damages from the exercise of the right to strike.
Trade union rights
40.The Committee notes with concern that civil servants and foreigners are not allowed to form trade unions. It is also concerned that the establishment of trade unions is subject to authorization by the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of the Interior. Moreover, the Committee is concerned that excessive requirements are imposed for engaging in the negotiation of collective agreements and for concluding such agreements (art. 8).
41. The Committee recommends that the State party allow civil servants and foreigners to form trade unions and enjoy full union rights, in accordance with article 8 of the Covenant. The State party should also bring the requirements for the negotiation of collective agreements by trade unions in line with article 8 of the Covenant.
Right to social security
42.The Committee notes the efforts made by the State party to guarantee access to essential health care through the social security system, the payment of medical expenses incurred by disadvantaged individuals and the draft law on pensions, social protection and optional insurance. The Committee is concerned, however, that only an inadequate proportion of the State party’s population receives social security benefits over the life cycle and that the social security system is fragmented, providing coverage for a limited number of social risks (art. 9).
43. The Committee recommends that the State party pursue the planned reforms of its social security system, providing coverage for all Lebanese without exception, and that it establish a meaningful time frame for such reforms. To this end, it recommends that the State party establish a social protection floor comprising basic social security guarantees, over the life cycle, thus ensuring access to health care and basic income security to as many residents as possible. In particular, the Committee recommends that the State party take immediate measures:
(a) To transfer the responsibility for the payment of maternity benefits from employers to the social security system to prevent discrimination against women in the labour market;
(b) To rescind the suspension of Act No. 248 of 9 September 2000 on the provision of health insurance to older persons so as to ensure that subscribers are not disaffiliated from the scheme after retirement.
44. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its general comment No. 19 (2007) on the right to social security and its statement on social protection floors (2015).
45.While noting that the State party has carried out campaigns to prevent and address the issue with a view to withdrawing children from the streets in the past, the Committee notes with concern the information provided by the delegation on the lack of resources and the insufficient capacity of the institutions of the State party to attend to street children, who are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation (art. 10).
46. The Committee recommends that the State party act on the findings of the study entitled “ Children living and working on the streets in Lebanon ” and raise resources so as to provide the necessary preventive and rehabilitative services to street children. It also recommends that the State party effectively enforce existing legislation aimed at combating child labour.
47.The Committee is concerned at statistics showing that most children experience violent “discipline” at home and in school (art. 10).
48. The Committee recommends that the State party take all the measures necessary to encourage parents and teachers to abandon the practice of corporal punishment, including by raising awareness of its harmful effects and revising the 2014 amendment to the Penal Code to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings.
49.The Committee notes with concern the increasing number of persons living in poverty in the State party. The Committee is also concerned that the most disadvantaged and marginalized households may not be able to comply with the administrative procedures required to qualify for the cash transfer programme, which seeks to alleviate poverty (art. 11).
50. The Committee recommends that the State party adopt a rights-based approach to its poverty alleviation programme. In particular, it recommends that the State party evaluate, with the active and informed participation of those affected, the impact and reach of the cash transfer programme, especially with a view to assessing whether the qualifying conditions are reasonable and proportionate. Moreover, it recommends that the State party ensure that procedural difficulties are not likely to lead to the withdrawal, reduction or suspension of benefits. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its statement on poverty (2001).
51.The Committee notes the measures taken by the State party to promote access to homeownership and to mitigate the impact of rising property prices on rent levels through the 2014 Rent Act. The Committee is nonetheless concerned that the special aid fund aimed at assisting tenants has not been set up. The Committee also regrets the lack of information on the procedural protection governing the eviction of tenants and forced evictions carried out in the framework of development projects (art. 11).
52. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Ensure that measures are taken to promote homeownership equally among the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups, as well as to build social housing units for their benefit;
(b) Establish the special aid fund so as to assist tenants in the context of the implementation of the 2014 Rent Act;
(c) Bring its laws and regulations on evictions into conformity with international standards and raise awareness of those laws and regulations among the population;
(d) Ensure the availability of recourse for victims who are not satisfied with the conditions of eviction, such as those affected by the “ Solidere project ” .
53. The Committee refers the State party to its general comment No. 7 (1997) on forced evictions and to the basic principles and guidelines on development-based evictions and displacement (see A/HRC/4/18, annex I ).
Rights to water and sanitation
54.While noting the information provided by the delegation on the new means of disposing waste, the Committee is concerned at the significant time that it has taken to resolve the recent waste management crisis. The Committee is also concerned at insufficient access to safe drinking water and regrets the lack of information on measures taken to remedy the situation (arts. 11 and 12).
55. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take measures to prevent future waste management crises, in view of their potentially hazardous impact on health in the State party ’ s densely populated areas;
(b) Ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation without discrimination, including through investment in infrastructure;
(c) Establish, where appropriate, an independent regulatory system to monitor the provision of water, sanitation and waste management services.
56. The Committee refers the State party to its general comment No. 15 (2002) on the right to water and its statement on the right to sanitation (2010).
Right to health
57.The Committee expresses concern at the imbalanced geographic distribution of health facilities, including those with contracts with the Ministry of Health, that are accessible to disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups. The Committee is also concerned at the poor quality of services in public health facilities, which results from the limited resources allocated to investment in infrastructure and in health personnel (art. 12).
58. Bearing in mind the obligation of the State party to ensure the availability, accessibility, acceptability, adequacy and quality of health services without discrimination, the Committee calls on the State party to:
(a) Ensure that investments made under the national strategic plan for the provision of a comprehensive primary health-care package and services, as well as through cooperation with partner organizations, aim to correct the uneven geographic distribution of health facilities;
(b) Review the apportionment of the budget of the Ministry of Health, along with the practice of outsourcing public services and of the reform of the social security, so as to secure adequate resources for operations and investment needs in public health facilities.
59. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its general comment No. 14 (2000) on the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
Right to education
60.While noting the pressure on the State party’s educational infrastructure and resources, including through the influx of refugees, the Committee is concerned at the declining quality of education in public schools, which has aggravated the economic stratification of education in the State party so that children from privileged households have access to better quality education, in private schools (arts. 13 and 14, read in conjunction with art. 2 (2)).
61. The Committee recommends that the State party continue to invest in improving the quality of education in public schools so as to prevent discrimination on the basis of socioeconomic status. The Committee refers the State party to its general comment No. 13 (1999) on the right to education.
Children not in school
62.The Committee is concerned at the number of children, especially refugee children, who are not in school or have quit school owing to the insufficient capacity of the educational infrastructure, the lack of documentation, the pressure to work to support their families, the unfamiliar teaching languages or the pressure to join militias, among other reasons (arts. 13 and 14).
63. The Committee recommends that the State party take measures to address the root causes leading children, especially refugee children, to drop out of or not enrol in school, drawing its attention in particular to the obligation of ensuring the accessibility, acceptability, adequacy and adaptability of education, in line with which education should adapt to the needs of changing communities. It also recommends that the State party take immediate measures to, for example, facilitate the issuance of documentation for school-age children, promote non-formal education and recruit qualified Syrian teachers. Moreover, the Committee recommends that the State party amend Act No. 150 of 2011 with a view to making basic education free and compulsory also for non-nationals. The Committee refers the State party to its general comment No. 13 (1999) on the right to education.
64.While acknowledging the protection extended to certain minority groups, the Committee regrets the lack of clarity with regard to the relevant legal framework on the rights of minorities in the State party and notes with concern the obstacles to the recognition of the cultural rights of the Dom and Bedouins (art. 15).
65. The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that the legal framework on the rights of ethnic minorities, as well as their recognition, protection and promotion, complies with international standards. It also recommends that the State party protect and promote the cultural rights of all ethnic minorities, including the Dom and Bedouins, without discrimination. The Committee refers the State party to its general comment No. 21 (2009) on the right of everyone to take part in cultural life.
Freedom for creative activity
66.While noting the information provided by the delegation about freedom of expression and the support given to creative activities in the State party, the Committee is concerned at some restrictions imposed on cultural activities.
67. The Committee recommends that the State party respect the freedom indispensable for creative activity, including by ensuring that it is not unduly limited by forms of censorship. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to paragraphs 17 to 20 of its general comment No. 21.
68. The Committee encourages the State party to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
69. The Committee recommends that the State party consider ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
70. The Committee recommends that the State party take fully into account its obligations under the Covenant and ensure the full enjoyment of the rights enshrined therein in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the national level, with international assistance and cooperation when needed. Achievement of the Goals would be significantly facilitated by the State party establishing independent mechanisms to monitor progress and treating beneficiaries of public programmes as rights holders who can claim entitlements. Implementing the Goals on the basis of the principles of participation, accountability and non-discrimination would ensure that no one is left behind.
71. The Committee recommends that the State party take steps to progressively develop and apply appropriate indicators on the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights in order to facilitate the assessment of progress achieved by the State party in complying with its obligations under the Covenant for various segments of the population. In that context, the Committee refers the State party to, inter alia, the conceptual and methodological framework on human rights indicators developed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (see HRI/MC/2008/3).
72. The Committee requests that the State party disseminate the present concluding observations widely at all levels of society, in particular among parliamentarians, public officials and judicial authorities, and that it inform the Committee in its next periodic report about the steps taken to implement them. The Committee encourages the State party to continue its engagement with non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders and other members of civil society, including in the preparation of the next periodic report.
73. The Committee requests the State party to submit its third periodic report, to be prepared in accordance with the reporting guidelines adopted by the Committee in 2008 (E/C.12/2008/2), by 31 October 2021. In addition, it invites the State party to update its common core document, as necessary, in accordance with the harmonized guidelines on reporting under the international human rights treaties (see HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6, chap. I).