United Nations

E/C.12/QAT/CO/1

Economic and Social Council

Distr.: General

6 November 2023

Original: English

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Concluding observations on the initial report of Qatar *

The Committee considered the initial report of Qatarat its 42nd and 44th meetings,held on 2 and 3 October 2023, and adopted the present concluding observations at its 60th meeting, held on 13 October 2023.

A.Introduction

The Committee welcomes the submission of the initial report of the State party and the supplementary information provided in its replies to the list of issues.The Committee expresses its appreciation for the constructive dialogue that it held with the State party’s delegation.

B.Positive aspects

The Committee welcomes the legislative, institutional and policy measures taken to increase the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in the State party, such as Act No. 17 of 2020 on the determination of minimum wage for workers and domestic workers; Decree-Law No. 19 of 2020 amending Act No. 21 of 2015 regulating the entry, exit and residence of expatriates, supplemented by Ministerial Decision No. 51 of 2020, which removed the legal requirement for migrant workers to obtain a no-objection certificate from employers to change jobs; and the measures mentioned in the present concluding observations.

C.Principal subjects of concern and recommendations

Domestic application of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

While noting that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rightsforms an integral part of the State party’s domestic legal framework, the Committee is concerned about the lack of information on how potential conflicts between domestic laws and the Covenant are resolved.The Committee is also concerned about the absence of cases in which the Covenant has been invoked before or directly applied by domestic courts.

The Committee recommends that the State party ensure that the rights enshrined in the Covenant are fully incorporated in to its domestic legislation and that the Covenant ’ s provisions take precedence in any potential conflicts with domestic laws. The Committee also recommends that the State party provide training for judges, lawyers and public officials on the provisions of the Covenant and their justiciability and adopt measures to raise awareness of the Covenant among rights holders. In this regard, the Committee draws the State party ’ s attention to its general comment No. 9 (1998) on the domestic application of the Covenant.

Reservations

The Committee is concerned that the State party’s reservation to article 3 and its statement concerning article 8 subject the provisions of the Covenant to their compatibility with sharia law or national legislation and amount to reservations of a general and indeterminate scope that are, therefore, incompatible with the object and purpose of the Covenant.

The Committee recalls that, under articles 19 and 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties , a State cannot make a reservation that is incompatible with the object and purpose of a treaty and may not invoke the provisions of its domestic law as justification for its failure to perform its treaty obligations . In this regard, the Committee recommends that the State party withdraw its reservation to article 3 with regard to questions of inheritance and birth and its statement concerning article 8 on the interpretation of the concept of trade unions and their related issues, with a view to ensuring the full and effective application of the Covenant.

National human rights institution

The Committeewelcomesthe adoption of Act No. 12 of 2015 by the State party with a view toensuring greaterindependence of the National Human Rights Committee. The Committee is concerned, however,that the institution has not yet achieved full compliance with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (the Paris Principles), including as a result of the membership of government representatives in its decision-making body.

The Committee recommends that the State party address the concerns raised by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions in October 2021 and continue to take measures to bring the National Human Rights Committee into full compliance with the Paris Principles, including by ensuring that it has a pluralistic and diverse personnel structure and is independen t from the Government in its structure, composition, decision-making and method of operation .

Human rights defenders and space for civil society organizations

The Committee is concerned about reports of travel restrictions placed on and harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders working on the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee is also concerned that Decree-Law No. 21 of 2020 severely restricts the establishment and operations of civil society organizations in the State party by enabling the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs to deny their registrations on the basis of unclear requirements and to dissolve organizations if they engage in political matters.

The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Take effective measures to protect human rights defenders and civil society organizations and provide a safe and favourable environment for their work;

(b) Conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all reports of travel restrictions placed on and harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights, and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice;

(c) Amend Decree-Law No. 21 of 2020 and any other laws that may unduly restrict the establishment and operations of non-governmental organizations, including those working on economic, social and cultural rights;

(d) Take into account the Committee ’ s statement on human rights defenders and economic, social and cultural rights.

Business and human rights

The Committee is concerned about the absence in the State party of a specific legal and policy framework to ensure that business entities operating or domiciled in the State partyconduct human rights due diligence and are held accountable for violations of the rights under the Covenant as a result of their activities. The Committee notes that the Qatar Investment Authority undertakes direct and portfolio investment on behalf of the State party, with more than $475 billion of assets under its management, but lacks a transparent framework for its investment management and decision-making. As a sovereign wealth fund and an institutional investor, it is bound by the State party’s obligations and a business entity’s responsibilities pursuant to the Covenant and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Develop and adopt a national action plan, through a consultative and participatory process with stakeholders, in particular groups such as workers and minority-owned business entities, to implement the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which will provide a coherent and systematic framework for identifying priority national issues and preventing and mitigating human rights abuses by business entities;

(b) Adopt appropriate legislative and administrative measures to ensure that business entities conduct human rights due diligence throughout their operations and supply chains;

(c) Take all measures necessary to ensure the liability of business entities operating or domiciled in the State party for violations of economic, social and cultural rights resulting from their activities and to provide effective remedies to the victims;

(d) Ensure that its sovereign wealth fund and institutional investor, the Qatar Investment Authority, observes the Covenant and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, in particular by integrating human rights due diligence into its investment policy and decision-making, and provides, in a more transparent manner, disclosure of and reporting on its portfolio and non-financial performance, in particular the impact that it has on environmental, social and governance issues in terms of where it makes its investments;

(e) Be guided by the Committee ’ s general comment No. 24 (2017) on State obligations under the Covenant in the context of business activities.

Climate change

The Committee notes with interest the adoption of the National Climate Change Action Plan. The Committee is concerned, however, that the State party may not meet its nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement or its target to reduceits greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2030,not only because it remains heavily reliant on natural gas, and to a lesser extent on oil, as its main economic engine and source of revenue, but alsobecause of its plans to boostfurther itsproductionof and trade in liquified natural gas through the North Field expansion project.

The Committee recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to achieve its nationally determined contributions plan under the Paris Agreement and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, in particular by further promoting alternative and renewable energy sources and respecting its human rights obligations in its natural resource exploitation and export policies. The Committee refers the State party to its statement on climate change and the Covenant.

Official development assistance

The Committee is concerned that the State party’s official development assistance allocation remains below the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.

The Committee recommends that the State party step up its efforts to meet the internationally agreed target for official development assistance of 0.7 per cent of gross national income.

Corruption

18.The Committee takes note of the strengthening of the State party’s institutional anti‑corruption framework, including the enactment of Act No. 20 of 2019, and measures taken to combat money-laundering and the financing of terrorism. The Committee is concerned, however, about issues of transparency and accountability in the use of State resources, including in the process of the adoption of budgets.

19. The Committee recommends that the State party :

(a) Adopt measures to ensure transparency and accountability in public administration and the use of State resources, including ensuring that the adoption of budgets is conducted in a transparent and participatory manner;

(b) Further strengthen the powers and capacity of anti-corruption bodies so that they can independently and effectively carry out their mandate;

(c) Ensure that all cases of corruption, in particular those involving high-level officials, are thoroughly and independently investigated and prosecuted without impunity;

(d) Ensure safe and accessible channels for reporting corruption and adopt measures to guarantee the protection of anti-corruption activists, whistle-blowers and witnesses.

Non-discrimination

The Committee is concerned about the absence in the State party of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that covers all grounds for discrimination in all areas covered by the Covenant, in particular national or social origin (art. 2 (2)).

The Committee recommends that the State party adopt a comprehensive law on non-discrimination that provides sufficient protection against discrimination in accordance with article 2 of the Covenant and that:

(a)Explicitly includes all prohibited grounds for discrimination enumerated in that article and in the Committee’s general comment No. 20 (2009) on non-discrimination in economic, social and cultural rights, in particular national or social origin;

(b)Defines direct and indirect discrimination in line with the State party’s obligations under the Covenant;

(c)Prohibits discrimination in the public and private spheres;

(d)Provides for effective remedies in cases of discrimination.

Non-nationals

The Committee is concerned about reports of structural racial discrimination against non-nationals in the State party, in particular persons from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, which adversely affects the extent to which they can enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights, including their right to just and favourable conditions of work, to housing and to take part in cultural life (art. 2 (2)).

The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Adopt all the legal and policy measures necessary to prevent and combat the persistent discrimination against non-nationals, in particular persons from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, so as to guarantee the full exercise of their rights under the Covenant;

(b) Continue implementing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, following her visit to Qatar in 2019;

(c) Take into account the Committee ’ s statement on the duties of States towards refugees and migrants under the Covenant.

Religious minorities

Despite the State party’s constitutional prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, the Committee is concerned about discrimination in law and in practice against religious minorities based on their religion or belief, which adversely affects their ability to fully enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee is particularly concerned about the requirement of registration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to obtain an official presence in the country, subjecting members of unregistered religious groups to the risk of the deportation. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned about discrimination against Baha’is, including discriminatory dismissals, lack of recognition of their marriage and personal status documents, deportations and blacklisting, all of which have resulted in adverse consequences such as loss of income and separation of families(art. 2 (2)).

The Committee recommends that the State party take effective measures to repeal any discriminatory legal provisions that unduly affect the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights of religious groups and individuals , including the requirement of registration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to establish an official presence in the country. The Committee also recommends that the State party take positive measures to prevent and address the discrimination faced by religious minorities , notably members of the Bah a ’ i religious community , and to remove all obstacles to the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights.

Stateless persons

The Committee is concerned that the Bidoon population and stateless members of the Ghufran clan in the State party face discrimination in their ability to fully enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights, including regarding access to work, education and healthcare(art. 2 (2)).

The Committee recommends that the State party take all measures necessary to prevent and reduce statelessness with a view to guaranteeing the non-discriminatory access of stateless persons to economic, social and cultural rights, and that it consider ratifying the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons

The Committee is concerned that same-sex relations between consenting adults are criminalized in the State party. It is also concerned about the prevalence of intimidation and harassment ofand violence and stigma against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity (art. 2 (2)).

The Committee recommends that the State party decriminalize sexual relations between con senting adults of the same sex and ensure effective protection from all forms of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which hinders the enjoyment by victims of their economic, social and cultural rights.

Equality between men and women

Notwithstanding the State party’s reservation to article 3 of the Covenant, as addressed in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the present concluding observations, the Committee expresses its concern that women in the State party face discrimination in law and in practice in relation to marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody, nationality and freedom of movement. The Committee also expresses its concern about the deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society(art. 3).

While acknowledging the diversity of moralit ies and cultures, the Committee notes that national laws and practices must always adhere to the principles of the universality of human rights and non-discrimination . Therefore, failure to comply with the Covenant ’ s obligations cannot be justified by reference to political, social, religious, cultural or economic considerations within the State. In this regard, the Committee recommends that the State party amend or repeal all laws and regulations that are discriminatory or have a discriminatory effect on women, including laws on nationality and inheritance. The Committee also recommends that the State party combat entrenched patriarchal attitudes and gender stereotyp es, which may prevent women from enjoying Covenant rights on an equal basis with men .

The Committee is concerned about the criminalization of extramarital sex (zina) in the State party,due to the fact that, in practice,women face a higher risk of conviction for zina, with pregnancy being used as evidence against them (arts. 3 and 10).

The Committee recommends that the State party decriminalize extramarital sex ( zina ) and address gender bias and inequalities experienced by women in legal proceedings .

Right to work and right to just and favourable conditions of work

The Committee is concerned that, despite the legislative measures adopted by the State party to abolish the kafala or sponsorship system, migrant workers, in particular low‑wage earners in the construction, service and domestic work sectors,frequently experience non-payment or delayed payment of wages and are still facing challenges when attempting to change jobs. The Committee is also concerned about reports that many low‑income workers do not seek justice for labour violations owing to threats of retaliation from employers who may terminate their contracts or accuse them of absconding, which is punishable by imprisonment under Act No. 21 of 2015 (arts. 6 and 7).

The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Increase the number and further reinforce the capacities of labour inspectors and other enforcement authorities to prevent, identify and effectively address violations of labour rights of migrant workers, in particular low-wage earners in the construction, service and domestic work sectors;

(b) Improve cooperation between countries of origin and destination to strengthen corporate governance and hold employers, including subcontractors and other corporate and private actors involved in aspects of temporary labour migration, accountable for violations of labour rights;

(c) Further improve the wage protection system by strengthening its monitoring, enforcement and remedial mechanisms to ensure that employers pay workers ’ wages on time and in full and impose sanctions against non-compliant employers;

(d) Amend Act No. 21 of 2015 to decriminalize the acts of absconding or leaving a job without the employer ’ s permission;

(e) Take further measures to ensure accessible mechanisms for workers to file complaints about violations of labour rights while ensuring their protection against retaliation by their employers;

(f) Promote awareness-raising among workers on the procedures and rules around labour mobility;

(g) Be guided by and follow the Committee ’ s general comment No. 23 (2016) on the right to just and favourable conditions of work.

Domestic workers

The Committee welcomes the adoption of the Domestic Workers ActNo. 15 of 2017 and other legislative measures aimed at safeguarding the rights of domestic workers. It is concerned, however, about the shortcomings in the implementation of this legislation, in particularowing to limited inspection of the working and living conditions of such workers.The Committee is particularly concerned about reports that many domestic workers continue to be subjected to abusive working conditions, including excessive working hours with no rest and no days off, passport and mobile phone confiscation and, in some cases, physical, verbal or sexual assault. The Committee is also concerned that domestic workers are not covered by the wage protection system, which would otherwise allow the Government to monitor salaries and allowances paid to workers and to detect violations (art. 7).

The Committee recommends that the State party :

(a)Increase the number and reinforce the capacities of labour inspectors and other enforcement authorities and remove any legal and administrative restrictions that prevent the monitoring of the working conditions of domestic workers;

(b) Ensure that domestic workers are protected in law and practice against all forms of sexual harassment in employment and occupation and provide for adequate means of redress;

(c) Provide effective mechanisms for domestic workers to report abuse or exploitation, taking into consideration the difficulty for some of them to access telecommunications means;

(d) Investigate all allegations of human rights violations against domestic workers;

(e) Ensure that domestic workers are covered by the wage protection system or by a similar wage-monitoring mechanism;

(f) Ratify the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189), and the Violence and Harassment Convention, 2019 (No. 190), of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Occupational safety and health

The Committee welcomes the adoption in 2020 of the national policy on occupational safety and health and of Ministerial Decree No. 17 of 2021, which specifies measures to protect workers from heat stress. The Committee is concerned, however, about the numerous reports of labour-related deaths that were not recorded as such during the construction work for sites of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association World Cup 2022 (arts. 7 and 12).

The Committee recommends that the State party review the approach taken to investigating work-related deaths and injuries , ensure accurate identification of the causes thereof and enhance its data collection . The Committee also recommends that the State party monitor and ensure compliance with occupational safety and health regulations and promote awareness-raising campaigns among employers and workers on workplace safety and the prevention of occupational accidents. Furthermore, the Committee encourages the State party to ratify the ILO Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) , and the ILO Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187) .

Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund

While the Committee welcomes the creation of the Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund, which holds employers and business owners financially accountable when they fail to provide workers with their wages and other benefits in full, it is concerned about the limited accessibility of the Fund (art. 7).

The Committee recommends that the State party strengthen the operationalization of the Workers ’ Support and Insurance Fund, making it accessible to all workers, in particular migrant and domestic workers, whose employers have failed to pay them. The Committee also recommends that the State party establish a robust and professional case management system for the Fund, ensuring the systematic and timely processing of claims, the provision of necessary funding and the effective enforcement of recovery actions against employers.

Trade union rights

While the Committee notes the existence of joint committees within companies and legislation allowing for migrant workers to be elected as representatives in those committees, the Committee is concerned that there are no independent trade unions in the State party (art. 8).

The Committee recommends that the State party enable workers , including migrant workers, to establish and join trade unions of their own choosing, to strike and to bargain collectively. The Committee also recommends that the State party r atify the ILO Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) , and the ILO Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) .

Labour dispute settlement committees

While the Committee notes the creation of the labour dispute settlement committees, it is concerned about reports that workers face obstacles in accessing justice and obtaining remedies through those committees, in particular owing to language barriers, lengthy proceedings and delays in the payment of compensation (art. 6, 7 and 8).

The Committee recommends that the State party improve access to justice in the labour dispute settlement committees by increasing interpretation and translation capacities and providing relief funds, including support for transportation costs , to workers who do not receiv e their wages during legal proceedings. The Committee also recommends that the State party further increase the number of labour dispute settlement committees and judges handling cases and consider accepting collective claims in order to expedite proceedings.

Right to social security

The Committee is concerned about the lack ofsocial securitycoverage for non‑nationals, in particular with regard to retirement incomes (art. 9) .

The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Take measures to extend the coverage of the social security system, including retirement incomes, to non-nationals;

(b) Adopt the measures necessary to ensure that the amount of social assistance benefits is sufficient to cover living costs, including by setting up an effective and transparent indexation system;

(c) Take into account the Committee ’ s general comment No. 19 (2007) on the right to social security.

Right to housing

The Committee is concerned about housing policies and legislation in the State party preventing migrant workers, in particular low-income workers from South Asia or sub‑Saharan Africa, from residing in certain areas, hindering their right to housing and to freedom of movement. The Committee is particularly concerned that national and municipal laws in Doha, including Act No. 15 of 2010 on the prohibition of workers’ camps within family residential areas and resolution No. 83 of 2011 of the Minister of Municipalities and Urban Planning, designate certain zones as family zones and prohibit the rental of properties in those zones to migrant workers (art. 11).

The Committee recommends that the State party ensure the right to housing for migrant workers, in particular low-income workers of South Asia n or s ub-Saharan origin, and review housing laws and policies that prohibit them from residing in certain areas.

Right to physical and mental health

The Committee is concerned about:

(a)The challenges in accessing health care for stateless persons and undocumented migrants as the State party does not ensure access to essential health care to people without valid identity documents;

(b)Restrictions on women independently accessing sexual and reproductive health-care services owing to the male guardianship system (arts. 3 and 12).

The Committee recommends that the State party:

(a) Guarantee access to health care to stateless persons and undocumented migrants;

(b) Take measures to ensure that women can access sexual and reproductive health-care services without the need for a guardian ’ s permission or a marriage certificate.

Right to education

The Committee is concerned about the barriers to education for children of non‑nationals, including the high costs associated with enrolling in schools and the limited public school enrolment capacity.The Committee is also concerned about reports that foreign teachers and administrative staff in public schools and universities receive approximately half the salary of their Qatari counterparts (art. 13).

The Committee recommends that the State party take all measures necessary to guarantee in law and in practice non-discriminatory access to compulsory primary and secondary education free of charge to all children, in particular children of non ‑ nationals. The Committee also recommends that the State party uphold the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, ensuring that foreign teachers and administrative staff in public schools and universities receive the same salary as their Qatari counterparts.

Cultural rights

The Committee is concerned about restrictions for religious minorities on exercising their cultural practices and organizing cultural activities with a religious character, including holding meetings, accessing religious literature and carrying out religious acts. The Committee is also concerned about the challenges faced by the members of the Baha’i religious community in accessing cultural heritage and places of memory, including restrictions on and administrative delays in their attempt to re-establish their existing cemetery on land granted by the Doha Municipality after it was destroyed by authorities in 2009 (art. 15).

The Committee recommends that the State party take adequate measures to protect cultural diversity and the cultural practices and activities of religious minorities, such as the religious practices of the Bah a ’ i community , including by protecting and restoring religious sites. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its general comment No. 21 (2009) on the right of everyone to take part in cultural life.

D.Other recommendations

The Committee encourages the State party to ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The Committee recommends that the State party consider ratifying the core human rights instruments to which it is not yet a party, namely the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families ; the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , aiming at the abolition of the death penalty; the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure . The Committee also recommends that the State party ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was signed by the State party in 2007.

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, including in the recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Achievement of the Sustainable Development 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. In this regard, the Committee draws the State party ’ s attention to its statement on the pledge to leave no one behind.

The Committee requests that the State party disseminate the present concluding observations widely at all levels of society, including at the municipal level, 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 emphasizes the crucial role that parliament plays in implementing the present concluding observations and encourages the State party to ensure its involvement in future reporting and follow-up procedures. The Committee encourages the State party to continue engaging with the National Human Rights Committee, non ‑ governmental organizations and other members of civil society in the follow-up to the present concluding observations and in the process of consultation at the national level prior to the submission of its next periodic report.

In accordance with the procedure on follow-up to concluding observations adopted by the Committee, the State party is requested to provide, within 24 months of the adoption of the present concluding observations, information on the implementation of the recommendations contained in paragraphs 7 (Reservations), 13 (a), (c) and (d) (Business and human rights) and 35 (a), (c) and (d) (Right to work and right to just and favourable conditions of work).

The Committee requests the State party to submit its second periodic report in accordance with article 16 of the Covenant by 31 October 2028 , unless otherwise notified as a result of a change in the review cycle. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 68/268, the word limit for the report is 21,200 words. 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.