COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS EXAMINES REPORT OF ARGENTINA

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28 September 2018

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today reviewed the fourth periodic report of Argentina on its efforts to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the country.

Claudio Avruj, Minister for Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of Argentina, presenting the report, said that a paradigm shift had occurred in December 2015, as Argentina returned to an open dialogue with the world and put an end to more than a decade of populist policies.  “The only way to build our future is to put our house in order and halt the impunity”, said Mr. Avruj; the country was now tackling its problems with truth and transparency, constructing new ties of solidarity, and building an independent justice system that would no longer allow impunity for the corrupt.  Steps were being taken to strengthen the social policy to combat poverty, and the aim was to achieve a 16.4 per cent increase in the social investments and benefits in 2018.  Argentina’s progress in guaranteeing equality of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons had been noted regionally and internationally, and Argentina was one of the first countries in its region to have adopted a national human rights action plan to 2020.  It contained 243 priority commitments for action and goals, which would ensure that human rights perspectives were mainstreamed in the implementation of all public policies.  Argentina would continue to be a country with an open door, as it continued to receive migrants from Senegal, Venezuela, and Syria.  The recent and open exchange and discussions on the law on abortion had shown that the country was ready for a change in a peaceful manner.  Cognisant that the future could not be based on the crimes from the past, Argentina continued to bring judicial proceedings for past crimes against humanity in an effort to put an end to impunity.

Committee Experts, during the discussion that followed, were perplexed by the situation in Argentina: in the 1930s, it had been one of the richest countries in the world, while today, it seemed to be a developed country on the path of underdevelopment.  25 per cent poverty rate was unacceptable for a country such as Argentina, they said.  The latest currency crisis, in April 2018, had led to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and a very rigid austerity and structural adjustment policies; in combination with the reduction in tax income and thus less resources available for social spending, this was a source of Committee’s great concerns, especially how it would impact the most vulnerable in the Argentinian society.  The Experts were also concerned that the weakening of key institutions – such as downgrading of key ministries, labour for example, into departments within other ministries – would wear the fabric of social rights.  Welcoming the adoption of the law on gender identity and equal marriage, Experts lamented that, with the rejection of a bill in Congress, Argentina had missed a chance to legalize abortion, especially as one of the leading causes of maternal mortality were clandestine abortions.  The delegation was asked to explain how recent increase in fracking, a very carbon-intensive process with considerable negative impact on the environment, was compatible with Argentina’s obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, and how the rights of indigenous peoples to land were guaranteed in practice and how they were consulted in all decisions that concerned them and their communities.

Rodrigo Uprimny, Committee Rapporteur for Argentina, in conclusion, acknowledged the difficulties arising from the financial crisis, and said that the Committee aimed to help Argentina reach its goals, despite difficulties.

Mr. Avruj, in his concluding remarks, said that notwithstanding the requirements of the International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment programme, Argentina was aware that its first duty was to its people and their human rights.

Maria Virginia Bras Gomes, Committee Chairperson, in her closing remarks, wished Argentina well in their adjustment program, and in achieving its overall goal of leaving no one behind.

The delegation of Argentina consisted of representatives of the Ministry for Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism, Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Worship, Ministry of Health and Social Development, Ministry of Treasury, Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, National Coordination Council for Social Policy, and members of the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found at the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public on Monday, 1 October at 10 a.m. to meet with national human rights institution and non-governmental organizations from Turkmenistan, South Africa, and Cabo Verde, whose reports it will review during the week.

Report

The Committee has before it the fourth periodic report of Argentina (E/C.12/ARG/4).

Presentation of the Report

CLAUDIO AVRUJ, Minister for Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of Argentina, in the introduction of the report, said that a paradigm shift had occurred in the country in December 2015, as Argentina had taken a path it would no longer deviate from, and returned to an open dialogue with the world.  It had been a “watershed moment” which inaugurated a new era after more than a decade of populist policies; an era in which institutions were being strengthened and the policies grounded in reality.  Argentina was tackling its problems and finding the solutions, with truth and transparency being the key pillars; aware of the difficulties and the complex socio-economic situation, the country was committed to taking no shortcuts, and was currently negotiating an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.  The poverty and structural weaknesses, the Minister continued, had been caused by the waste of public funds, which unfortunately had been inherited from the country’s past.  But new ties of solidarity were being built and the value of dialogue was being recovered, to solve the conflicts and build a justice system that was independent and no longer allowed impunity for the corrupt. 

Steps were being taken to strengthen the social policy to combat poverty, and the aim was to achieve a 16.4 per cent increase in the social investments and benefits in 2018.  Proper enjoyment of human rights, the Minister stressed, required active social and economic policies, so the budget discussed in Congress was in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 agenda.  “The only way to build our future is to put our house in order and halt the impunity”, said Mr. Avruj, adding that Argentina had strengthened the National Institute for Statistics and Census and was taking good note of the recommendations received in the Universal Periodic Review, different human rights treaty bodies, and human rights special procedures.  This change of direction had been recognized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and by the Inter-American Commission on Human rights, which had in particular noted the progress in the enjoyment of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. 

This dialogue with the global community, continued Mr. Avruj, meant that Argentina was one of the first countries in the region to have adopted a national human rights action plan.  Launched at the end of 2017, it was a result of a crosscutting work of 18 Ministries, thus ensuring that human rights perspectives were mainstreamed in the implementation of all public policies.  The Plan contained 243 priority commitments for action, to be achieved in 2020, and had been federalized in 2018, to ensure the whole country would make progress in the promotion of human rights of all Argentinians.  Social inclusion policies should not just boil down to income or other economic factors; they had to provide specific answers to specific problems, in order to bring about rights to all, including migrants.  Argentina would continue to be a country with an open door, as it continued to receive migrants from Senegal, Venezuela, and Syria. 

The recent and open exchange and discussions on the law on abortion had shown that the country was ready for a change in a peaceful manner, the Minister said, stressing that policies on memory, truth, justice and reparation made sure that no future could be based on the crimes from the past.  In the same vein, the country continued to bring judicial proceedings for past crimes against humanity in an effort to put an end to impunity.  Argentina would continue to guarantee access to education and promote scholarships to enable better educational results – more than 500,000 scholarships had been allocated, with the budget of US$10 million in 2018.  All this, the Minister concluded, was an evidence that human rights were a State policy in Argentina, which was able to set for herself clear and accessible targets.

Questions by the Country Rapporteur

RODRIGO UPRIMNY, Committee Rapporteur for Argentina, at the beginning of the dialogue, remarked that assessing the situation in Argentina was perplexing.  In the 1930s, it had been one of the richest in the world, enjoying many resources and a strong dynamism; today, Argentina seemed to be “a developed country on the path of underdevelopment”, with 25 per cent poverty rate.  This was unacceptable for a country such as Argentina, the Rapporteur stressed.

The latest currency crisis, in April 2018, had led to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund and a very rigid austerity and structural adjustment policies.  Faced with the austerity, the Government took steps to reduce tax income in mining and agricultural exports, which went hand in hand with the reduction in progressive taxation, and all of this had reduced spending, the Rapporteur remarked, asking how the income lost to austerity would be replaced.  What was being done to manage their impacts and in particular protect the most vulnerable?  Who were the major beneficiaries of the tax cuts and breaks, had Argentina considered reviewing the whole tax exemption system?

The weakening of key institutions and the downgrading of some Ministries into Departments within other Ministries was also problematic, remarked the Rapporteur, noting as an example that the former Ministry of Labour was now attached to the Ministry of Production, which was a demonstration that labour and social policy were nothing but production issues.  How could Argentina ensure that all those changes did not wear the fabric of social rights?

The Ombudsman had not been operational since 2009, even though this role was of crucial importance for the human rights situation in the country and the protection of human rights defenders, particularly in light of worrying reports on cases of violent repressions of social demonstrations, such as workers’ demonstrations and violent evictions of teachers and lecturers, as well as the death of a Mapuche leader in 2017. 

The Rapporteur welcomed the adoption of the law on gender identity and equal marriage, and took note of practical deficits that remained, such as access of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons to employment and their harassment in the educational system.  The same concern held for persons with disabilities and migrants, while in terms of women’s substantive equality, concerns were related to important differences that remained in employment opportunities, gender pay gap, and the glass ceiling which prevented women from achieving high positions.

Responses from the Delegation

Responding to questions related to economic and financial crises, the delegation acknowledged that after seven quarters of growth, the country was now in a deep crisis.  Already in a situation of great vulnerability because of budget and trade deficits, it had negatively responded to the increase of the interest rates in the United States and to the crises of its partners, Brazil and Turkey in particular, and a serious drought.

The country was also confronted with a lack of reliable figures.  The statistical apparatus had been revised and strengthened, but the deficiencies inherited from the past made any comparison and analysis of the duration and the evolution of the situation problematic.

Explaining the measures to protect the most vulnerable from the austerity, the delegation said that the idea was to carry out an adjustment while continuing the income transfer programmes.  In 2019, there would still be a financial deficit, as the Government would still be paying interest on debt.  However, in 2020 there would be a budget surplus, but not when interest payments were included.  Therefore, whilst austerity would have an impact, Argentina would limit the effect of this impact on human rights by increasing the spending on children and the elderly by 1.2per cent of the gross domestic product. 

In addition, the Government was fine tuning house building policies, improving access to drinking water, and working to achieve the 75 coverage in terms of access to the sewage system.  Poverty rate had been brought down to 20 per cent and 98 per cent of the elderly were covered by either a pension or social benefits.  Like the minimum wage, the social benefits and family allowances were quarterly adjusted for inflation.  All families with children were guaranteed a minimum income and 92.6 percent of the children were covered by social benefits.

The reduction of tax burden was progressively implemented, and it was not possible at this stage to bring it back completely to equilibrium.  Subsidies on energy and transportation would be cut back – 91 per cent of energy costs were being subsidized – which would allow the market to correct itself.  Steps were also being taken to encourage private investment in sectors that were previously financed by the Government.  To reduce capital expenditure, the Government would be streamlining its expenditure on goods and services, though this would not affect the education and health budgets, which were “sacrosanct”.  With these policies, by 2019, a balance primary budget will be reached, whilst having protected the most vulnerable members of the population.

Argentina took no pleasure in having unreliable statistics, the delegation noted, explaining that steps were being taken to improve the situation, including through a number of programmes to familiarize people with statistics and make sure that all information was easily accessible and understood.  The missing past data was something that could not be retrieved; however, Argentina was currently in consolidation phase.

The decision of merging of some Ministries was done with the aim to simplify and streamline the decision-making process, and improve inter-Ministerial coordination.  It was important to note that there was no specific degradation of the institutional policy.

Social activism, the delegation continued, as well as freedom to express opinion and to protest, had deep roots in the country’s history.  More than 5,000 requests for public demonstrations had been received and the right to protest within the boundaries of the law was guaranteed.  The protests in 2017, the delegate noted, had been very violent events, with violence against the police.  Argentina met all of the guidelines on the use of force that would be expected of a national police force, and all complaints of police brutality and excessive use of force in this context were being investigated. 

The National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism was developing public policies to combat and eliminate inequalities, while providing assistance to victims.  There was a quota of at least four per cent reserved jobs persons with disabilities, and steps were being taken to increase their employment in the public service.  The national action plan against discrimination was being finalized.

On sexual orientation and gender identity, there were positive developments in legislation, but the situation remained complex.  All 23 provinces were working on those issues since the situation in the field was substantially different from one province to another.  There was a data collection of all crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity, in particular femicides and murders of transgender persons.  Argentina was working on achieving minimum standards for decent treatment in search, detention and custody of trans persons in conflict with the law, while the Civil Registrar was searching for ways to ensure the more appropriate registration of diverse families, which in some provinces was very problematic.  The Law on Gender Identity had introduced 6,870 changes to the civil register since 2012, of which 103 were related to trans children.

In 2016, a department for sexual diversity had been established with the aim to bring a cultural change in respect of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.  To date, 15,000 persons had been trained on sexual orientation and gender identity issues and trans wings in federal and provincial women’s prisons had been built.  There was also a programme for social and labour inclusion and integration of trans persons.  For example, 30 trans persons were offered a position by the city of Buenos Aires.

In their follow-up questions, Experts discussed fracking in Patagonia, and noting that the process was highly carbon intensive, asked whether this intensification of fracking was consistent with Argentina’s commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.  They also asked what measures the Government was taking to assess the impacts on human rights of non-conventional mining like fracking, giving as examples the effects on the climate system, noise pollution, and additional seismic activities.

Responding, the delegation acknowledged that Argentina was the second highest fracking country in the world, and said that, as it had lost its energy independence in recent years, and fracking was a core part of regaining this self-sufficiency, without this being done to the detriment of the fight against climate change under the Paris Climate Agreement.  The most advanced province in terms of environmental guarantees required from operators is Neuquén, which prohibited the use of groundwater intended to supply the population with drinking water or irrigation during the drilling stages of so-called “unconventional” wells. Companies were required to submit an affidavit detailing the estimated volume and source of water that would be used for hydraulic fracturing.

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the next cluster of comments and questions, Committee Experts asked about the situation of unemployment, noting that over the past five years, this had deteriorated, from 5.9 percent in 2015 to its current rate of 9.6 percent.  Youth unemployment, and in particular female youth unemployment, was significantly higher.  Taking positive note of the policies in place to promote women’s employment in rural areas, they asked for an assessment of the impact of these programs, and whether they had any effect.  It was estimated that 60 percent of workers were in informal economy, and were therefore outside the national social security system.  The Government should take more robust steps to address this issue.

When discussing the pension system, Experts asked what measures were planned to ensure persons with disabilities would be able to benefit from their pensions.  Noting the recent instance of the suspension of pensions, they how many persons had been affected, the volume of complaints received, and how these were being dealt with.  Furthermore, they noted that the age of access to non-contributory pension for women was raised from 60 to 65, which would have a severe effect on vulnerable women.

The Committee asked about Government policies to address child poverty, in the context of budget cuts that were being implemented.  Regarding trade unions, they noted that only ten new trade unions had been registered, a considerable drop from previous years.  The Committee asked for the Delegation’s view on why this was.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation, in their responses, agreed that unemployment affected women and youth especially, however, they said, the figures given by the Committee were not accurate.  There were scholarship programs that ensured the best students were rewarded, in order to promote education, and encourage students to get more technical training as part of their education. 

An action plan against violence against women 2017-2019 was in place, while the equal opportunities action plan would be launched in October 2018, the delegate said, adding that the employment rate for women was 43 per cent compared to 64 per cent for men.  The gender wage gap was 27 per cent, and could even reach up to 50 per cent in the informal sector for unskilled workers.

They also discussed the issue of formalizing the informal economy, and affirmed that there were programmes that ensured that people who moved to the regulated sector would still maintain social security benefits, in certain circumstances.

In the contributory pension system, the retirement age was 65 for men and 60 for women, but figures showed that the average age at which women retired was 63.  Women chose to retire later due to longevity, and to increase the value of their pension, thus it could not be assumed that extending the pensionable age was bad in all cases.  

Where the non-contributory pension was concerned, the delegation accepted that the age at which it could be accessed had to be extended, in line with a trend that many countries faced, and could not be avoided. There was a universal pension system for seniors who had not made sufficient contributions to the pension plan.  There was no pension for people with disabilities, but there were “disability pensions”, i.e. for workers who due to poor health were not able to continue their salaried activity.

With regard to the question on the tediousness of trade union registration, the delegation explained that some requests contained irregularities and inconsistencies.  For example, there were instances where registered members were not professionals in the industry or the request contained errors such as the registration of a non-existent seat or a former seat.  The verification of applications did not in any way constitute an interference in the trade union life, but represented a simple administrative control.  The authorities were currently conducting a detailed study of the registration and status acquisition procedures undertaken by the unions.

Questions by the Committee Experts

Continuing with the interactive dialogue, the Experts noted with concern the very high number of femicides, wanting to know what new measures had been taken since the last review to prevent violence against women, especially in rural areas, and the budgetary allocations for the protection of vulnerable women.  Reiterating concern about the high number of women being trafficked, they asked for the statistics on the prosecution of traffickers and measures were in place to help rehabilitate and reintegrate trafficked women into society.

Experts acknowledged that a federal social safety net was in place to protect against the results of austerity measures, however, they asked what measures were in place to stop communities that were just above the bottom tier from falling into poverty, including to ensure their access to utilities.

In Argentina, 80 percent of all farmers were family farmers, the Experts remarked, noting with concern that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, after her recent visit to the country, had observed that Argentina appeared to be moving towards a large-scale agri-food model, to the detriment of family farmers.   What were Argentina’s comments on the Special Rapporteur’s finding and what measures were being taken to protect these farmers and the country’s food security?

On housing, the Committee noted the increasing number of people living in informal settlements in urban areas without utilities: nationwide, 14 percent of households were estimated to be living in informal housing arrangements.  The Government had already announced large scale budget cuts which would impact this group of people, Experts noted, asking how this squared with its commitment to regularize the informal settlements.  Furthermore, there was a lack of legal protection for people being evicted from their homes and a lack of a framework to ensure they were fair, and violence and police abuses during the evictions had been reported.

Experts discussed the trend of land purchases by investors, and invited reflections on Government strategies to control speculation in the residential housing market, which were needed to prevent the gentrification of poor neighbourhoods.

In the context of sexual and reproductive health, it was estimated that up to 600,000 clandestine abortions per year were being carried out.  Such abortions were a driver of high rates of female mortality, Experts said, lamenting the recent rejection by the Senate of the bill to legalize abortions.  Abortion was allowed in certain circumstances, such as rape, but the rules were not being implemented across the State’s territory, and there were reports of many women who were entitled to legal abortions were being denied care in certain regions.  The Committee asked what was being done to ensure the national protocol and the law were implemented universally, across all provinces?

The Committee remarked that a significant portion of the mental health budget was being spent on the institutionalization of people with psychosocial disabilities, and asked what was being done to find alternatives to institutionalization of such patients.

Tobacco-related morbidity took up to 15 percent of the health budget, whilst taxation on tobacco had been reduced from 75 percent to 70 percent in recent years, the Experts noted with concern, asking the delegation about the policies to reduce the instance of tobacco use in Argentina.  Experts asked about obesity, noting that close to 60 percent of the population were overweight and up to 20 percent were obese, of which 40 percent were children.  Obesity was a risk factor for diabetes, Experts said and asked about measures taken to address the problem.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation, in their next round of responses, stressed that Argentina was grateful that the international community was involving itself in the country and did not see this in any way as interference.

As for the effort to address the situation of informal and undeclared workers, the delegation said that since the beginning of the year, some 138,000 inspections had been carried out in order to expose the abuse of short-term contracts, outsourcing, and other forms of precarious work.  A Coordination Office of the Task Force on Labor Inspection in the Informal Sector had been established within the Ministry of Labor to analyze, evaluate and monitor cases of undeclared work in sectors that were difficult to control, and also monitor fraud in the field of work or social security.

Concerning the employability of people with disabilities and youth, programmes were in place that helped those groups develop professional skills and to integrate them in the workplace.  In the past year 162,000 people had taken part in those programmes, the delegate said, giving the example of the “Good Harvest” programme that targeted rural areas, and those working in the agricultural sector.

Answering the questions on public policies on economic inclusion of women to close the gender pay gap, the delegation highlighted the Women Who Lead programme granted credits to small and medium sized enterprises where at least 25 percent of the management positions were held by women, or where women held at least 51 percent of shares.  Another programme certified companies that promoted the role of women according to certain guidelines, and there were also initiatives to empower women entrepreneurs, such as the European Union-funded female entrepreneurship programmes.

Significant strides had been made to curb trafficking in persons since the last report, including amending the law on human trafficking in 2012 to strengthen the penalties for such crimes.  Additional measures were in place allowing the reporting of sexual crimes online, programmes helping to prepare victims for giving evidence on such crimes, a national programme for the support of victims, and a hotline that could receive reports 24/7.  A similar hotline was also available for reporting crimes of femicide, and a programme existed to provide reparations for the children of victims of femicide.
 
Regarding the protecting vulnerable families from the impact of inflation, the delegation acknowledged that the Government had not managed to control inflation, also because the heavy dollarization of the economy.  A number of programmes were in place, including ones that aimed to agree prices for specific goods ensuring they were accessible to people, as well as a system to hold trade-fairs.  Other policies, such as subsiding school canteens -which in connection with the nutritional policy – aimed to help the vulnerable young.

According to surveys, two million people did not have adequate access to proper housing and a significant proportion of the population lived in informal housing.  Since 2016, policies had been in place to ensure adequate access to social housing and to integrate informal neighbourhoods by providing access to public services and public transport, and supporting their development plans.  In addition, an ambitious national plan for access to clean water was in place, which sought to ensure proper access to water and sanitation services to a large number of people living in urban areas.

A number of measures existed to support middle-income families, continued the delegate, noting in particular the Procreate programme which provided housing subsidies to young people.  Under the national plan for housing, 30,000 homes had been built this year, with 60,000 more under construction.  Other policies were in place to refurbish existing homes, with further financial credits available for the purchase of middle class homes.

On the issue of evictions, the delegation explained that, in order for an eviction to be carried out, some level of consensus between the parties was needed.  This sometimes involved the owners of buildings helping to move furniture, or providing temporary accommodation for those being evicted.  Those safeguards were not consistent with violent evictions the Committee had described.

A number of plans were being developed to safeguard agricultural land for small landholders, and to provide sanitation and drainage amongst other services, to these areas. 

To reduce barriers to access to abortion, a training programme for health workers in the provinces where access to abortion was more restricted, was being carried out in cooperation with human rights lawyers that work on protecting human rights, and a plan was being developed to help with the prevention of unwanted pregnancies.  A telephone line was available for anyone whose access to public healthcare services, including legal abortion, was denied.  Legal abortion was authorized when there was a risk to the life of the mother and in case of rape.  Of the 245 women who had died in childbirth in 2016, 17 per cent of cases were due to complications related to an abortion, possibly clandestine abortion. The Argentine Senate had rejected last August a bill providing for the legalization of abortion, which had previously been adopted by the Chamber of Deputies.  The Federal Government maintains that provinces must not ignore the provisions of national laws, although there was evidence this happening.  The Directorate for Health has ensured that abortions are provided under the health care service and abortion medication has been purchased by the Directorate.

Regarding mental health, more resources were being diverted to support those suffering from this condition.  As regards obesity, a preventative rather than a curative approach had been adopted, and an inter-ministerial programme was in place that focused on preventing obesity in children, by reducing sodium and trans fats.  As far as tobacco policy was concerned, the delegation clarified that overall taxation on tobacco had not in fact been lowered, and there were restrictions on tobacco marketing.

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the final cluster of questions, the Experts remarked that the Constitution recognized the indigenous peoples’ access to land, but it was not clear what proportion of the national land was earmarked as indigenous land.  How were indigenous peoples involved in mapping out their land, and what dispute resolution mechanisms were in place?  Although the Government had committed to ensuring free, prior and informed consent, there were no protocols or regulatory frameworks in place to ensure this.  The Committee provided specific examples of mining activities that were threatening rural communities, and asked for the confirmation that consultations would occur, and whether reparations would be paid if harm was caused. 
 
The Committee Experts asked whether, in light of austerity, there was a public commitment to maintaining education spending at six percent in the future.  They noted with concern that school dropout rates were high at secondary school level, and that pre-primary school standards varied across regions.  What plans were in place to address these issues relating to primary and secondary schools, and to improve the reportedly very poor sexual and reproductive health education programs in public secondary schools?

On bilingual education, what measures were in place to encourage the teaching in indigenous languages, as well as teaching about indigenous languages?  Several indigenous languages were on the verge of extinction – what would the Government do would do to protect them?

The Committee commended Argentina’s excellent report on science, and said it was one of the best the Committee had seen so far in this regard.  On cultural rights, and heritage sites in Argentina, they expressed concerns over the State’s approach to protecting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization world heritage sights, and asked for further information on how this would be improved in future.

Replies from the Delegation

Responding to Expert’s earlier questions, the delegation explained that the International Monetary Fund structural adjustment programme was intended to reduce inflation, noting that it was the imbalance in the public sector which is causing inflation.

There was a national plan to promote the participation of women in the workplace, including the creation of over 5,000 public places in crèches which would both support children’s early development and allow women to have safe places where they can leave their children in order to participate in the labour market.

With regard to the expulsion and deportation of migrants, the delegation explained that 171 people had been subject to expulsion since the end of 2017, out of a total of 560,000 migrants who had arrived in the country.  Those trying to regularize their situation would soon be able to access applications on line, with only one visit needed to a Federal Bureau in order to record biometric data.  The entire application process would therefore take less than one year.

The denial of legal abortions to women due to conscientious objections by medical workers was a very complex issue, said the delegation, adding that there were programmes to support those women, such as the establishment of provincial referral units to refer women to other clinics.  On intersex children, no medical procedure could be carried out until a child could independently take a decision on the matter.

The education budget would indeed be maintained at six percent, despite other budget cuts.  School dropout rates, the delegate said, were much higher for secondary schools in Argentina – up to one in ten students –  compared to a much lower rate in primary schools.  A number of programmes were in place including specific educational grants that applied to young people to help them attain the necessary educational goals at secondary school. 
Pre-primary education was also a focus for the State, and whilst education from age four was mandatory, more work was required to increase the number of pre-primary school children in education.  Data was unreliable on this topic, but the Government estimated it was less than half the eligible population, and therefore had increased the number of schools, and were training more teachers to deliver this education. 

Regarding sex education specifically, the delegation accepted this could vary greatly across the country, and to address this, a national day of awareness on the prevention of sexual violence had been established, with 30,000 educators enrolled in a training programme to raise these standards.

On matters pertaining to indigenous peoples, the President had announced a new plan in 2017 which would ensure the respect for indigenous rights.  A census of indigenous communities was ongoing in order to establishment land rights; the census had been carried to date in 1,638 communities, or 57 per cent.  Reservations had been set aside for certain indigenous communities, and in establishing new ones, the concerned communities were fully included during the entire process.  Currently, a number of new reservations were being decided on, and some of those were in dispute, which were being resolved through dispute resolution mechanisms already in place.

Argentina indeed did not have a framework for a free, prior and informed consent, which would be adopted in 2019, with full participation of indigenous peoples.  All States in the Latin American region were concerned about the disappearance of indigenous languages, and Argentina intended to launch initiatives in 2019 to re-establish indigenous languages and ensure that knowledge about them was passed down.  Also, Argentina was fully participating in the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Concluding Remarks

RODRIGO UPRIMNY, Committee Rapporteur for Argentina, in conclusion, remarked that during the dialogue, the Commission had probed – quite insistently – a number of areas relevant to the Covenant.  It had not asked many questions on the areas of justice and accessibility, which was an acknowledgement of Argentina’s good work in those domains. The Committee understood the difficulties Argentina faced as a result of the financial crisis, the Rapporteur remarked that the Committee’s aim was to help it reach its goals, despite difficulties.

CLAUDIO AVRUJ, Minister for Human Rights and Cultural Pluralism of Argentina, in his concluding remarks, said that notwithstanding the requirements of the International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment programme that Argentina had accepted, the State’s first duty was to realize its commitment to protecting the rights of the Argentinian people.  The coming period would be difficult, he said, but Argentina was not indifferent in respect of human rights.

MARIA VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Committee Chairperson, in her closing remarks, said that in its concluding observations the Committee would identify three priority ones and urged the country to provide a follow-up to those within 24 months.  The Chair wished Argentina well in their adjustment program, and in achieving its overall goal of leaving no one behind.

For use of the information media; not an official record

CESCR18.015E