Oral intervention by Areli Sandoval Terán on behalf the Promoting Group of the ESCER

See the document prepared by Areli Sandoval Terán for her oral intervention before the ESCR Committee in Geneva last May 1, 2006.

See Wordfile

Oralintervention by Areli Sandoval Terán on behalf the Promoting Group of theAlternative Report on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights

(Monday,1st of May 2006, Room XXIV, Palais des Nations, Geneva)

Goodafternoon Mrs. President, distinguished members of the Committee on ESCR:

Myorganization, Equipo Pueblo, is member of a NGO coalition working on Economic,Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (ESCER) -called “Espacio DESC”-and the focal point in Mexico for the Social Watch International Network. My intervention is on behalf of thegroup of civil society organizations that prepared together the Alternative orParallel Report to the IV Periodic Report of the Mexican State on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social andCultural Rights (ICESCR).

TheAlternative Report was submitted to the Committee on ESCR by 105 civil societyorganizations: it was elaborated by 49 Mexican civil and social organizationsand networks, and other 56 –including some regional and international- areadhering organizations.

Theobjective of my intervention is to present a general overview of our main causesof concern, some conclusions and recommendations. The Reports includes a summaryof the diagnosis of the situation of all the rights considered in the Covenant,the analysis of the economic and social policies, the public budget, thesituation in Chiapas, the human rights of migrants, the National Human RightsProgram, critical comments on some governmental measures adopted during theperiod of report, and our proposals and recommendations on the various issues.

Wewould like to point out that in terms of what the government reports as civilsociety consultation, we were asked for comments of the draft version of the IVPeriodic Report in a very short period of time, so we just sent a letter to theForeign Affairs Ministry expressing general concerns on the information, and wedo not considered have been properly taken into account.

We consider that the IV PeriodicReport of Mexico does not provide the Committee with all of the information onobstacles and setbacks.  We do notshare the government’s appraisal on the fulfilment of the Committee’sprevious recommendations. It is concerning that in spite of the time that haspassed; the Mexican State has not satisfactorily attended to all of them (Document E/C.12.1/Add.41 afterthe examination of the Third Periodic Report in 1999, and documentE/C.12/1993/16 after the examination of the Second Periodic Report in 1993)

Principalcauses for concern

Mexico, a middle-income countrysituated in the most unequal region in the world, competes with other LatinAmerican countries for the first places on economic, social and genderinequality.[i] In the 2005 Progress Report of the Mexicangovernment on the Millennium Development Goals it is recognised that “it isenough to simply disaggregate the follow-up information on the MDGs bygeography, gender or ethnic groups to obtain not only different levels ofprogress, but very distant results. Hence, many of the achievements obtained arenot yet equitable for all of the population, which shows that inequality anddelays persist.[ii]    

The federal elections of 2000ended 71 years of government by the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI),undoubtedly a fundamental step in our country’s transition to democracy. Nevertheless, we call the Committee’s attention to the fact that thepolitical opening, without the revision or in-depth debates on the model ofeconomic and social development being applied in our country for over twentyyears, is not enough to achieve an improvement of the population’s livingconditions and to guarantee the realisation of human rights.

Economic Policy issues

[Economic context and generalgovernmental measures which create obstacles or affect the fulfilment ofeconomic, social, cultural and environmental rights]

Asit was also recognised in the Diagnosis on the Human Rights Situation inMexico, elaborated by the representation of the OHCHR in Mexico in 2003,twenty years of dismantling the State, privatising public companies, opening themarket, inflation control, disloyal competition for national producers, theelimination of subsidies, salary contention and the deregulation of markets,have had serious repercussions on the standards of living and on the ESCER ofpersons and their families.  TheMexican State has operated with a double standard: liberation and total andunrestricted support for foreign investment and the large Mexican businessgroups, and contention and restrictions on the exercise of their freedoms andrespect for their human rights for millions of wage workers and small to mediumsize producers. [iii]As we show in the Alternative Report sections on the rights to food, to health,to social security and to education, subsidies has been reduced or eliminated,the health and social protection system has been fragmentized, public resourceshas been reduced.

The implementation of the economic model of trade andinvestments liberalization [started since 1985 and continued till now] has notbeen socially and environmentally responsible. For instance, the massive imports of grains and oleaginous overpassing the NAFTA’squota accentuates the impoverishment of the majority of the residents andagriculture workers of the countryside. We are also concerned about violationsto the right to self determination in its internal dimension due to the lack ofState’s regulation   overthe private sector (national and transnational corporations) which contaminateor abuse of the natural resources, and do not carry out adequate consultationswith the communities that are going to be affected by their actions. In the Committee’s previous recommendations (1993 and 1999) it washighlighted the need  of specialmeasures taken by the State to avoid, prevent or alleviate any negative effectsthat the NAFTA might have on the ESCR of the population. However, the Mexicangovernment has not been capable to implement the recommendations in spite ofmany concrete proposals that has received from agricultural workers and socialsectors in Mexico (for example:  renegotiationof the NAFTA’s chapter on agriculture, more and better policies to supportnational agriculture, etcetera)

Among the main proposals andrecommendations that we make are the following: promote efficient nationalchains of production (the small and medium sized enterprises or SMEs representapproximately 98% of the total enterprises); make private sector accountable forany of its actions affectin human rights, according to the State’s obligationof protect human rights from non state actors’ actions; open a publicdiscussion on economic matters and promote civil society organizations’participation in the definition of economic policies; to take measures forredistribution of resources, reorientation of priorities [for example: to carryout a health and social security system “rescue”, as it was done with theprivate bank system (FOBAPROA)…]

SocialPolicy issues

[Socialcontext and critical approach to social policy and programs which are deficientand without human rights perspective]

The Human Development Report forMexico 2004, elaborated by the UNDP, explains that the national inequality inthe levels of the Human Development Index (HDI) is due to differences between as well as within the states. Those that presentthe lowest HDI are: Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacán, Veracruz, Hidalgo, Zacatecas,Puebla, Tlaxcala, Nayarit, Guanajuato, Tabasco and San Luis Potosí, areas witha high concentration of a peasant and/or indigenous population, who also expellabour to the United States; men, women and children- internal or externalmigrants- who suffer discrimination and other human rights violations.

The situation of poverty in Mexico continues being really serious, and the governmental measures are insufficientand inadequate. While the IV Periodic Report highlights the anti-poverty Program“Oportunidades”, many studies and external evaluations has demonstrated thatthe that focalised programmes have serious errors in including beneficiaries andadverse effects on social relations (divisions and the disintegration of socialnetworks)

With respect to socialdevelopment programmes, focalisation strategies on extreme poverty areprivileged instead of universal care strategies that, given the high levels ofpoverty in the country, should be applied in a complementary manner. This has implied the continuity of a policy consistingof channelling resources for survival and of an assistentialist nature, whichare defined by numeric factors, instead of establishing broader policies basedon social rights.

Accordingto the measurements of the Technical Committee to Measure Poverty established bythe Ministry for Social Development (SEDESOL) in 2000 the 45.9% of householdsrepresenting 53.7% of the total population (52, 375, 500 people) lived in thealarming situation of patrimony poverty, which means that are householdsclassified with having insufficient incomes to cover needs of food, health,clothing, shoes, housing and public transportation, that is households thatreceive 28.1 per person in rural areas and 41.8 pesos in urban areas (at 2000prices). This kind of poverty was concentrated in 50.42% in therural areas and 49.58% in the urban areas. By 2004, the concentration patrimonypoverty in rural areas diminished to 45.40% and the urban concentrationincreased to 54.60%.   The ESCRCommittee should ask an explanation by the Mexican government.

Also,other programmes have been promoted, for example on micro credit that aims forpeople in situations of poverty to initiate or develop a personal or familybusiness with the objective of self employment. However, these projects arerarely technically viable due to a lack of training and are unsustainable in thelong-term. Also, projects that plan for immediate impacts are privileged,leaving aside projects that propose community strengthening processes. A microcredit policy with this orientation tends to foster the informal economy in thelong-term and widen the technology gap with international corporations that areactive in the country. 

In spite of numerous socialprogrammes of the Contigo (“With You”) Strategy described by thegovernment, as long as the political will does not exist to revise and redirecteconomic and social policies with a focus based on human rights, and to redesignthem with coherence objectives to avoid contradictory policy effects andincluding social participation, poverty, inequality and exclusion will continueto represent systematic denials of ESCER for more than half of the Mexicanpopulation, which lives in these conditions.

Public Budget

TheIV Periodic Report of the Mexican State to the ESCR Committee mentions that the budget for social expenditure hasgrown; although it is true fore some social programs, we call the Committee todoes not consider this increase globally because it will conduce to incorrectconclusions. The budget for social spending should be analyzed by sector. Inthis way, the Committee will be able to identify the problems that demonstratethat the State is not accomplishing the obligation under article 2 of the ICESCRwhich callsfor each State to takes steps to the maximum of its available resources with aview to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognised inthe Covenant:

a)decrease of resources in some social key areas;

b)suspension or lack of progressive growing;

c)under-spending of resources approved to social expenditure and over-spending ofresources out of social expenditure;

d)more resources oriented to “bank rescue” and foreign debt payments that tosocial issues.

Forexample: the government has increasingly designated fewer resources foreducation, for example between 2002-2005, bilingual education and multiculturaleducation suffered drastic cuts. In health there many things to do to addressthe needs on infrastructure, equipment and medicines, the resources hasdiminished or stop growing in some health and social protection system thatprovokes the deterioration of the public services, favouring the idea of thesupposed “need” of its privatization.  Likewise,the under-spending of the budget approved for social issues is constant, withthe Opportunities Programme standing out, which, during the period 2001-2004,did not spend close to 2 billion pesos.  Incontrast, the Ministries of Finance and Public Credit, National Defence, ForeignRelations and the Interior have over-spent their resources. Therefore, the constant reference by the government to the scarcity ofresources, and its incompletion of the obligation to take steps to the maximumof its available resources in favour of the rights of the ICESCR, is notjustified in a context of poverty. The Committee should ask the government:which are the reasons for this under-spending in social areas, where are theseresources, what steps have been taken to avoid this situation? [See more data in the following Alternative Report pages:  18,19, 28, 125, 141, 142 y 144]

General conclusions and recommendations

Besidethe ones already mentioned, it is necessary to guarantee access to disaggregatedbudgetary information to allow a better and easier social scrutiny.

Itis fundamental to adequate the economic and social policies to the principles,obligations and human rights standards. 

Itis highly important to strengthen and adapt the national legal framework according to the Human Rights InternationalLaw, to recognize  the right to food and the right to water in the Constitution (initiativesalready exist on both issues); to review or stop regressive legal reforms (forexample: Housing Law, National Waters Law, Federal Labour Law)

Finally,it is necessary to design better procedural mechanisms for the defense ofeconomic, social and cultural rights via legal routes, and to solve the problemsthat creates obstacles for the access to justice identified in the AlternativeReport.


[i] Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)/ United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/ Instituto de Pesquisa Económica Aplicada. Hacia el objetivo del Milenio de reducir la pobreza en América Latina y el Caribe, 2003.
[ii] Government of the Republic. Cabinet on Human and Social Development. The Millennium Development Goals in Mexico : Progress Report 2005. (Elaborated in collaboration with the United Nations System in Mexico ) cited in the Social Watch Report 2005. Murmurs and whispers: Gender and Poverty: more promises than action, chapter on Mexico , available at www.socialwatch.org
[iii] OHCHR in Mexico. Diagnosis on the Human Rights Situation in Mexico (Diagnóstico sobre la Situación de los Derechos Humanos en México). Mundi-Prensa Mexico , 2003, pp. 73-74