| 17-12-2013

FIAN International welcomes Concluding Observations by UN Committee to Austria, Belgium and Norway

National sections of FIAN International in Austria, Belgium and Norway have highlighted some of the concerns and recommendations the Committee issued in its Concluding Observations regarding the strengthening of mechanisms that can guarantee human rights protection and the implementation of extraterritorial obligations (ETOs) of States.

After the periodic submission of the reports by the states of Austria, Belgium and Norway to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) on November 2013, FIAN sections in these countries have welcomed the concluding observations by the UN  Committee about the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

In Austria, the UN Committee recommended to the government "to adopt a human rights-based approach to its policies on official development assistance and on agriculture and trade". At the domestic level, some additional     recommendations to Austria related to the concerns pointed out by FIAN Austria during the session include: 1) taking concrete measures to guarantee asylum-seekers' right to adequate standard of living; 2) intensifying the State's efforts to assure equal employment for both women and men; and 3) guaranteeing the right to adequate food for people living in poverty to support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security, by adopting a comprehensive, long-term strategy to combat poverty, based on a thorough examination of its root causes.

On the other hand, the Committee asks Belgium for more aid, less agrofuels, and a specific support to small-scale farmers. Responding to the concerns expressed by FIAN Belgium of the decrease of small farming and the increasing suicide rate by small peasants reported by trade unions in this country, the Committee's     recommendations to Belgium include to protect small farming, specially the youth peasants, and also to adopt the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Food and the Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land to preserve small peasants. Similarly, the Committee also noted that Belgium has not fulfilled yet its commitment to raise the Official Development Aid (ODA) up to 0, 7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is concerned that the ODA has even decreased in the last years.

In terms of Norway, the Committee expressed concerns about the various steps taken by the State in the context of the social responsibility of the Government Pension Fund Global - globally the largest sovereign wealth fund with investments in more than 7000 companies worldwide - which, according to the Committee, has not included the institutionalization of systematic human rights impact assessments of its investments. For this reason, some of the     recommendations     to Norway include: 1) ”to introduce a management tool that systematically assesses the human rights impacts before and after investments in third countries; 2) to adopt policies and other measures to prevent human rights contraventions abroad by corporations based in Norway. 

All three countries were also encouraged by the Committee to consider ratifying the OP-ICESCR.

For more information, please find below the press releases and the concluding observations by the CESCR to Austria, Belgium and Norway, as well as other useful links:

    UN Treaty Webcast (watch here the Concluding Observations sessions by country)

    ETO Consortio website for human rights beyond borders. Read here the news article on the topic.

    Press Release by FIAN Austria (available in German)

    Press Release by FIAN Belgium (available in French)

    Press Release by FIAN Norway (available in Norwegian)