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        Economic and Social Council
22 December 1993

Original: FRENCH


Eighth session


Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Tuesday, 25 May 1993, at 10 a.m.

Chairperson: Mr. ALSTON


Consideration of reports (continued)

(a) Reports submitted by States parties in accordance with articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant (continued)


Organization of work (continued)


This record is subject to correction.

Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Official Records Editing Section, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Any corrections to the records of the public meetings of the Commission at this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.

The meeting was called to order at 10.15 a.m.

CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS (agenda item 5) (continued)


Lebanon (list of issues: E/C.12/1993/WP.2)

1. At the invitation of the Chairperson, the members of the delegation of Lebanon took seats at the Committee table.

2. Mr. MAAMARI (Lebanon) read out his country's initial report, which had for the moment been distributed without a symbol. Submission of the report had been delayed for security-related reasons; for 16 years, conditions had prevented Lebanese officials from carrying out more than strictly basic duties. During the period of disturbance in Lebanon, no Government had been able to consider the systematic improvement of economic, social and cultural rights as a priority issue.

3. At present, although the southern part of the country was still occupied by the Israeli army, peace and security had returned to Lebanon. The present Government, in place since 31 October 1992, had in collaboration with the Chamber of Deputies created a number of new ministries some of them specifically designed to meet the economic, social and cultural needs of the Lebanese population: they included the Ministry for Displaced Persons, the Ministry for Municipal and Village Affairs, the Ministry for Technical and Vocational Education, the Ministry for Social Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education, and the Ministry for the Environment. Mention should also be made of the establishment of two inter-ministerial commissions, one to deal with displaced persons and the other with action to combat drug addiction, production and trafficking. Lastly, a Committee had been set up to examine ways and means of enhancing the rights of the child.

4. The Chamber of Deputies and the Government were at present vigorously engaged in the process of national reconstruction and the improvement of the economic, social and cultural conditions of the Lebanese people. Thus, for example, a new law on rents for housing and commercial premises had been voted.

5. Proceedings were under way to make up delays and to fill gaps in the ratification by Lebanon of the various multilateral treaties whose provisions implied improvement of the social and cultural conditions of the Lebanese people. At the bilateral level, negotiations were being conducted with UNESCO with a view to reaching agreement on the establishment of an international centre for human sciences in the ancient city of Byblos. Treaties providing for exchanges and mutual assistance in the cultural and scientific fields had been concluded with various countries, as had treaties on financial cooperation and the protection of investments. Mention should also be made of the close cooperation which existed between Lebanon and institutions in the United Nations system such as UNDP and UNICEF, and specialized agencies such as WHO.

6. The "Document of National Understanding", on which the Taëf Agreements were based, provided for social justice and equal rights and responsibilities for all Lebanese citizens, without distinction or preference, and for the coordinated and equitable cultural, social and economic development of the different regions of the country. The Document also established the principle of universal compulsory primary education, freedom of choice in education, the need to develop free vocational and technical education geared to the requirements of national reconstruction, the development of programmes to strengthen national cohesion and the mutual tolerance of different religious beliefs and cultures. All those principles were embodied in the new preamble to the Constitution, in the Government's programme or in individual laws and programmes.

7. Concerning the right to self-determination, he reminded members of the Committee that Lebanon had become an independent State in 1943, but it was still negotiating with Israel to secure implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978) by Israel and its withdrawal from the territories it was occupying in southern Lebanon. The Taëf Agreements regulated the presence of Syrian troops on Lebanese soil and provided for their gradual withdrawal.

8. Lastly, concerning housing conditions, he said that following a recent conference of Arab Ministers of Housing and Reconstruction in Lebanon, statistics on the housing situation in his country had been published and showed, inter alia, that 15.5 per cent of houses and apartments had no kitchens, 31.1 per cent had no bathroom, 17.1 per cent had a shared water supply and 6.6 per cent were without electricity. It was estimated that Lebanon would require 25,715 additional housing units annually between 1992 and 2005.

9. The CHAIRPERSON thanked the Lebanese representative for introducing the report, the preparation of which could not have been easy, given the country's present circumstances.

10. Mr. WIMER ZAMBRANO inquired whether Lebanon had responded in writing to the list of issues prepared by the pre-sessional Working Group, or whether answers to the questions were incorporated in the report. If the Lebanese delegation had already replied to the questions asked, the Committee would merely have to seek any supplementary information that might be necessary without reopening substantive issues.

11. Mr. SIMMA observed that the report of Lebanon adhered closely to the list of issues drawn up by the pre-sessional Working Group (E/C.12/1993/WP2); Lebanon was in fact one of the first States to keep so closely to a list of issues of that type.

12. He would nevertheless welcome clarification concerning a number of specific points in the report. Firstly, why was there such a difference between the observed literacy rates of adult men and women? Secondly, concerning the remedies available to individuals claiming violations of their rights, he asked whether such remedies were as effective in the domain of economic, social and cultural rights as in that of civil and political rights. In many countries, economic, social and cultural rights were not considered as genuine rights under the law, but rather as political objectives. What was the position of the Lebanese Government in that regard? And were there any concrete examples of cases relating to the violation of economic, social and cultural rights being brought before the Lebanese courts?

13. The report stated that the estimated average monthly wage was US$ 132, while the General Confederation of Workers had calculated that the monthly needs of a five-member family amounted to US$ 800. What steps had been envisaged by the Government to remedy that state of affairs? How, in practical terms, did families manage to make up the difference between their actual income and their needs?

14. Mr. GRISSA inquired what proportion of workers in the private sector were receiving the minimum wage. Noting from the report that State employees were legally forbidden to form unions, he asked whether the law applied to all State employees, including teachers, postal workers and so on. He considered the average monthly wage to be particularly low in comparison with per capita GNP, and asked whether that meant that income distribution was very unequal in Lebanon.

15. Mrs. BONOAN-DANDAN said that it was most unusual, not to say aberrant, for a country emerging from a civil war, with a large proportion of its population uprooted from their homes, not to experience hunger or malnutrition. She asked the Lebanese delegation for details on that point. She had been informed that the living conditions of Palestinians in Lebanon were very precarious, especially where employment was concerned. It would seem that neither a Palestinian male who married a Lebanese woman nor the children of that marriage would be entitled to Lebanese nationality, whereas a Palestinian woman marrying a Lebanese man would have that right. Was that information correct?

16. Mr. RATTRAY noted that the first part of the report of Lebanon spoke of officially recognized religious communities, and asked whether there were any religious communities that were not officially recognized. If so, did membership of a religious community that was not officially recognized or non-membership of an officially recognized religious community have any consequences with regard to enjoyment of rights to housing, education, health care and so on. Noting that unemployment seemed to be far greater among men (38 per cent) than women (9 per cent), a trend contrary to that prevailing in most other countries, he asked the Lebanese delegation for an explanation. To what extent did families' material circumstances depend on their women members having a job?

17. He asked what remedies were available in the case of violations of rights, and inquired why an individual who claimed to be a victim of such violation must seek remedy through the President of the Republic or the recognized religious communities, as seemed to be the case according to paragraph 4 (c) of the report.

18. He was surprised to learn from paragraph 11 that the law did not permit employees of the State to form trade unions; he asked whether any mechanism existed whereby they could voice their concern.

19. Lastly, he noted that if primary education appeared to be free of charge, that did not seem to be the case for other levels. He sought clarification on that point and inquired whether education was free of charge for Lebanese citizens only, or for non-Lebanese as well.

20. Mr. MUTERAHEJURU noted with satisfaction that, notwithstanding many years of difficulties, Lebanon had managed to secure respect for certain rights. Nevertheless, one aspect of the country's plight worried him, namely, the situation of displaced persons who, according to the report, accounted for 20 per cent of the Lebanese population. There being no further mention of the subject in the report, he would welcome details of their exact circumstances, in particular with regard to the right to social security, including health care. He was especially concerned to know how children were faring, because one of the features of displacement was the dislocation of families. He inquired as to the significance of the family and of marriage in a country where communities with widely differing perceptions coexisted, and asked what was being done to reunite the families of displaced persons. Did the children of displaced persons enjoy the same rights as others with regard to education? Statistics would be welcome in that connection.

21. He further inquired whether the number of seats occupied by the various religious communities in Parliament, which was proportional to their numerical importance, influenced, for example, access to education or cultural activities. Did every Lebanese citizen necessarily belong to a religious faith, and where the minorities that were allotted only one seat in Parliament in fact non-religious minorities? He would welcome clarification of the place accorded to freedom of opinion and of religion and to cultural activities in the context described in the seventh subparagraph of paragraph 1 of the report.

22. Mr. ALVAREZ VITA congratulated the Lebanese delegation on the special efforts made, despite the country's painful circumstances, to provide the Committee with what he found to be a perfectly acceptable report. On the question of the officially recognized religious communities, already referred to by Mr. Rattray and Mr. Muterahejuru, he asked what were the consequences of State recognition of various communities, and what was the status of the other communities which no doubt existed in Lebanese territory.

23. The importance of official recognition was obvious as far as protection of the family was concerned. In paragraph 13 of the report, relating to the implementation of article 10 of the Covenant, it was stated that assistance and protection were currently accorded to the family by the religious communities, which were subsidized by the State. He asked whether certain faiths did not enjoy preferential treatment and inquired about the situation of the Jewish and Baha'i communities which he understood to exist in Lebanon.

24. Paragraph 25 of the report mentioned the adult literacy rate. He asked whether the figures referred to literacy in Arabic or also in French and English, both of which were taught in schools.

25. Mr. TEXIER said that he too wished to draw attention to the special effort made by Lebanon to submit its report on its situation and to send representatives, rather than have its case considered in its absence. A dialogue had begun; he welcomed that very positive development and was convinced that it marked merely a beginning.

26. His first question concerned the Taëf Agreements and the Document of National Understanding which, according to the report, contained wide-ranging provisions, notably in the economic and social fields. Unfortunately, the report said nothing further about the economic and social aspects of that document, aspects which were of particular interest to the Committee.

27. Concerning the implementation of article 10 of the Covenant, he asked what kind of marriage was recognized, a question which he believed pertinent not only because various religious communities coexisted in Lebanon, but also because Parliament was made up of their representatives. Did both civil and religious marriages exist, and was one more important than the other in the eyes of the law?

28. As to the implementation of article 11 of the Covenant, he asked about the housing of displaced persons. According to the report, there were no homeless people in Lebanon, but he was surprised that displacement had not created problems in that respect. Surely there were camps; he did not consider them to amount to proper housing.

29. The report was short on information concerning the implementation of articles 13 and 14 of the Covenant. He inquired about the difficulties which the country must be encountering, given its dramatic circumstances, in ensuring free and universal primary education, and about the proportion of the country's children of primary-school age who were in fact enrolled.

30. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO expressed considerable surprise at the unemployment rate indicated in paragraph 5 of the report. The figures of 38 per cent for men and 9 per cent for women appeared completely abnormal; she wondered whether the distortion might not be due to the fact that women were engaged in very lowly tasks where there was little unemployment. That supposition led her to inquire whether girls enjoyed the same status as boys in education and to ask about the actual status of women in political and working life.

31. Noting, with regard to the implementation of article 8 of the Covenant, that the report said nothing about the right to strike, she asked whether strike action was authorized.

32. Nor was there any mention in the report of the existence or otherwise of old-age pensions. She asked whether that was an omission or whether the right to a pension did not exist in practice.

33. Paragraph 25 of the report mentioned private evening classes for workers. Were they paid for by the workers themselves, or were they given by non-profit-making associations. She further inquired about the places
occupied by public and private education, particularly at the higher level. Did the private sector provide fee-paying education of higher quality, and did scholarships exist?

34. Lastly, she noted that only 5.1 per cent of the population was over the age of 65; given the likelihood that the figure would rise in coming years and give rise to certain problems, she asked whether the Government had made any provision for assistance to needy persons in that age group.

35. Mr. WIMER ZAMBRANO asked whether pre-war legislation was still in force, or whether it was being adapted to present-day realities. If the latter was the case, he would like to know more about any such updating.

36. The CHAIRPERSON noted that the members of the Committee had no more questions. In accordance with the wishes of the Lebanese delegation, he announced that replies would be given on the following day.

37. The members of the delegation of Lebanon withdrew.


The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.

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