Qatar affirmed making significant legislative reforms in recent years, pointing to widespread developments at the legislative, institutional, policy and strategy levels towards strengthening and promoting human rights infrastructure.
This came in the statement of Qatar delivered by HE the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad al-Muraikhi before the 73rd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), for the dialogue on the second periodic report of Qatar, submitted under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
HE al-Muraikhi said that the discussion of the second periodic report of Qatar before the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women coincides with the passage of 10 years of the accession of Qatar to the Convention in April 2009, referring in this regard to a forum entitled “From ratification to implementation: 10 years since Qatar acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women”, organised by the Human Rights Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in co-operation with Doha International Family Institute.
He noted that the forum discussed and analysed the developments made by Qatar since its accession to the Convention and the priorities in the next phase. The forum resulted in several recommendations, including work to strengthen national mechanisms dealing with women’s issues and the continuation of the country’s efforts to review and amend laws and legislations in order to conform with the provisions of the convention.
The statement emphasised the important role of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in assisting countries to improve, strengthen and promote their commitments and their implementation of the provisions of the Convention, stressing in this context Qatar’s support and full co-operation with the convention.
HE al-Muraikhi said that the report presented to the Committee was the result of a consultative dialogue and co-operation in the field of monitoring and implementation of the Convention among all women’s stakeholders in the country.
He noted that the cabinet, at its ordinary meeting No 13 held on 5 April 2017, mandated the National Committee on the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism (UPR) to prepare the report.
He stressed the keenness of Qatar to include in the present report and the response note, all the developments related to the Convention that have taken place in Qatar since 2014, noting that the report presented in its first part (paragraphs 6-35) information and data related to the composition and some social and economic indicators which confirm that Qatar has already achieved most of the development goals.
He added that this part described the constitutional, political and legal structure of the country, the general framework for the protection and promotion of human rights, and the country’s position on reservations and declaration, which is the fundamental context for the implementation of the provisions and articles of the Convention.
HE al-Muraikhi said that the second part of the report (paragraphs 36-174) explained the measures adopted by Qatar to apply the provisions of the Convention, in accordance with the order of articles 1-16 of the Convention, and to comply with the Committee’s observations and recommendations on the country’s initial report. He noted that the last part of the report (paragraphs 175-185) addressed future challenges and orientations.
He said that Qatar has accepted the simplified reporting mechanism to present the reports to the Committee, which aimed at strengthening the capacity of States parties to the Convention to meet their obligations in a timely and effective manner.
He underlined that Qatar is very serious and attentive to the issues raised in the present report and looks forward to a constructive and comprehensive dialogue with the Committee, noting that a large delegation from all concerned parties in Qatar is present to engage in this dialogue.
In this context, HE al-Muraikhi commended the participation of civil society organisations in Qatar, represented by the National Human Rights Committee, Qatar Foundation for Social Work and Doha International Family Institute. He stressed that Qatar sets the subject of complying with the observations and recommendations made by the Committee when considering the initial report of the country on its list of priorities. He noted Qatar’s efforts to implement the recommendations on the ground, which had the real and positive impact on raising awareness among decision makers, policies and the country’s officials of the concepts of the Convention.
In recent years, Qatar has adopted a strategic approach towards general reservations and declarations to human rights conventions with a view to reviewing them and harmonising national legislation accordingly, as was the case with the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, HE al-Muraikhi said.
He added that this is what distinguishes the progressive approach adopted by Qatar as one of the pillars of the comprehensive reform policy in establishing the values and principles of human rights and in conformity with the social, cultural and historical context of the country, taking into account the implementation of all the provisions of the Convention.
He stressed that Qatar continues to give increased attention to the implementation of the provisions and articles of the Convention, noting that legislative, legal, administrative and other appropriate measures have been taken in this regard to realise the rights guaranteed by the Convention and to provide the means to institutionalise, develop and modernise them within the framework of integrated social development.
This attention was based on national references, led by Qatar National Vision 2030, the First National Development Strategy (2011-2016), and the Second National Development Strategy (2018-2022), he noted, stressing that these references constitute a supportive and well-established environment for the implementation of human rights in accordance with the provisions of relevant regional and international treaties and conventions.
He noted that His Highness the Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani underlined in his speech before the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly that “human development and the protection and promotion of human rights come at the forefront of the priorities of the State of Qatar”.
He noted that Qatar, has witnessed in the period from the discussion of its initial report in 2014 until presenting this report in 2018, wide-ranging developments at the legislative, institutional, policy and strategy levels towards strengthening and promoting the human rights infrastructure, including strengthening normative, legal and political frameworks, strengthening the enabling structure for gender equality, empowering women, promoting women’s leadership roles, full participation of women in decision-making in all areas of sustainable development, promoting gender mainstreaming in development and strengthening national mechanisms in order to achieve gender equality.
He highlighted Qatar’s accession to the two international covenants on human rights, which are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, by Decree No. (40) of 2018; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, by Decree No. (41) of 2018, The State of Qatar is therefore a party to seven of the nine core human rights treaties.
HE al-Muraikhi pointed out that in recent years, Qatar has also carried out major legislative reforms. One of the most important of them has been the amendment of the legal framework regulating the rights of expatriate workers, who play a central role in the development progress of Qatar, he added.
The minister explained that Qatar issued the several pieces of legislation including, Law No 1 of 2015, amending certain provisions of the Labour Act (No 14 of 2004) provides for a wage protection system, Law No 21 of 2015 regulating the Entry, Exit and Residency of Foreign Nationals which abolished the sponsorship system “kafala”, Law No 15 of 2017 on domestic workers and its implementing decisions, consistent with the provisions of ILO Convention No 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, establishment of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking in accordance with the Council of Ministers’ Decree No 15 of 2017, Law No 13 of 2017 on Labour Dispute Settlement Committees, Law No 17 of 2018 establishing a support and insurance fund for migrant workers and Law No 13 of 2018 concerning annulment of the requirement to gain permission for departure.
The minister noted the Decision No 21 of 2019 by the Minister of Administrative Development, Labour, and Social Affairs, regulating the conditions and procedures of the election of workers’ representatives to joint committees.
He added that Qatar signed 38 bilateral agreements with labour exporting countries to regulate workers’ recruitment. He pointed out that in October 2017, the country concluded a technical co-operation agreement with the International Labour Organisation for the period 2018-2020 which provides for, inter alia, the provision of technical advice for the application of labour laws in accordance with international labour standards. He noted the establishment of a safe shelter for infected workers, which provides services to infected workers involved in disasters or diseases that led to permanent or semi-permanent disabilities or diseases.
The minister added that there are a number of new legislation related to human rights have also been issued, including: Law No 10 of 2018 concerning permanent residency; Law No 11 of 2018 regulating political asylum; and Law No 16 of 2018 regulating the non-Qatari ownership and use of properties.
The minister said that with regard to the empowerment of women, Qatar has continued to develop plans and strategies to support and enhance the role of women in all areas.
In this context, four women have joined the Advisory Council, thereby reaffirming Qatar’s interest in supporting women’s participation in all areas, in particular the legislature, and in encouraging them to move forward towards promoting the full political participation of women in accordance with Article 34 of the Qatari Constitution. This article guarantees equal rights and duties for all citizens.
The minister further added that a woman was appointed as an official spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thus becoming the first Qatari woman to be assigned to this position.
With a view to strengthening the institutional structure related to women’s rights, the Family Affairs Department was established within the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs in an embodiment of the need for a high-level national body to deal with family issues, especially women’s issues, in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, the minister said.
HE al-Muraikhi added Qatar has also continued its efforts to promote and protect the rights of the child and persons with disabilities as well as the right to health and the right to education, including a national campaign on the right to education was organised during the period October 2018 – April 2019 as part of Unesco’s campaign to promote and protect the right to education.
With regard to civil society organisation, Qatar Foundation for Social Action was established in 2013 as a high-level institution whose board of directors oversees and monitors entities that are active in the area of social work Qatar.
These include the following components: (1) the Social Protection and Rehabilitation Centre, (2) the Family Consulting Centre, (3) the Orphans Care Centre, (4) the Centre for Elderly Empowerment & Care, (5) the Shafallah Centre for Persons with Special Needs, (6) the Social Development Centre and (7) the Best Buddies Qatar initiative, the minister said.
“Accordingly, and within its mandates and competence, the Foundation formulates and develops plans, programmes, policies and strategies aimed at furthering the objectives of civil society institutions and following up on their implementation, in co-operation and co-ordination with government ministries and agencies and with public and private entities at home and abroad,” the minister said.
He pointed out that the cabinet approved in May 2019 a project to establish the National Committee for the Affairs of Woman, Children, the Elderly and People with disabilities.
“The importance the State of Qatar attaches to empowering women has gone beyond national frameworks. The State has launched several initiatives at the regional and international levels, such as, Silatech Foundation which has provided, since its inception in 2008, employment opportunities for about one million young men and women. The Foundation aims to provide two million jobs by 2020 in the Arab world. Also, the Education Above All Foundation which is a global initiative that includes four international programmes: “Educate A Child”, “Fakhura”, “Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict” and “Reach Out to Asia”, which enable many children to have access to education,” the minister added.
The Minister pointed out that Qatar also supported the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education for Girls and pledged to provide quality education to one million girls by 2021, during the participation of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, at a roundtable held in September 2018, entitled “Leaders’ Dialogue: Together for Girls Education in Conflict-affected and Fragile Contexts”, at the invitation of Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, on the sidelines of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly.
HE al-Muraikhi underlined the active role played by Qatar at the international level in the promotion and protection of women’s rights and empowerment. He explained that Qatar provided financial support to a number of international initiatives in this area, including support to core resources of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (USD90,000) and a financial support of (USD100,000) to the study on women, peace and security, as well as the publication of the book entitled Her Story which documents the contributions of leading women in the United Nations in promoting security and peace efforts, as part of the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 on women and peace and security.
The minister has also pledged USD30mn to the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund over five-years, starting from 2019 to 2023. This initiative aims at improving health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents in developing countries, in line with the third goal of sustainable development.
HE al-Muraikhi said that Qatar has also agreed to donate USD4mn to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon to fund a project that provides shelter for Syrian refugees and healthcare for pregnant women.
He added that Qatar announced, on the sidelines of the Doha Forum held from 15 to 16 December 2018, the provision of USD500mn towards the funding of the United Nations organisations. This donation includes USD28mn to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), USD8mn annually between 2019 and 2023 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), USD4mn annually to Unicef and USD15mn annually to the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), he said.
The minister added that Qatar will also provide support to UNRWA through a commitment of USD16mn annually over the next two years. Qatar has also continued its support to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, where in recent years, the country has donated USD3mn over three years (2016, 2017 and 2018) to the Office of the High Commissioner, and an additional USD1mn was donated in 2017.
Qatar has also signed agreements with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (Unicef) regarding the opening of their offices in Qatar, the minister said.
HE al-Muraikhi pointed out that since the 5th of June 2017, Qatar has been subjected to an unjust blockade and unilateral coercive measures imposed by four neighbouring states on the bases of false pretexts, followed by a series of unilateral measures, including the imposition of an air, land and sea blockade, the severance of all diplomatic and commercial relations and the imposition of restrictions and measures against Qatari citizens and residents in violation of the standards contained in the international human rights treaties.
“These measures have resulted in serious and ongoing violations of human rights, including freedom of movement, freedom of residence, freedom of property ownership, the right to work, the right to education, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to health, the right to freedom of religious observance in addition to other social violations having to do with families being split up, which is the most abominable of such violations given its negative impact on the unity of the social fabric of affected families, especially on women and children,” he said, adding that following this unjust blockade, the Compensation Claims Committee was formed in Qatar, as a central committee to receive complaints relating to the blockade, to consider them and to decide how best to handle them.
The minister added that Qatar has, however, endeavoured to protect and promote human rights and to ensure that the rights of citizens and residents, including those of the blockading States’ citizens, are not infringed.
As part of its keenness to preserve its rights, Qatar has turned to international mechanisms to ensure that the blockading States are held responsible for human rights infringements, he explained. He added that Qatar has brought a case against the United Arab Emirates before the International Court of Justice regarding the obligation to implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
On the 23rd of July 2018, the Court issued its ruling regarding interim measures ordering the reunification of Qatari families separated because of the measures taken by the United Arab Emirates, the minister pointed out.
He said, “The ruling further stated that Qatari students affected by UAE’s measures should be allowed to complete their education in the United Arab Emirates or to obtain their educational records if they wish to pursue their studies elsewhere. Moreover, Qataris affected by the arbitrary measures should also be given access to the UAE’s judicial organs. Furthermore, another complaint was lodged by Qatar against both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Qatar has also submitted communications to nine special procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council. In this respect, the International Court of Justice lately issued an order rejecting the UAE’s request that the International Court of Justice take provisional measures ordering Qatar to withdraw the separate discrimination case it had lodged with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.”
HE al-Muraikhi referred to the report of the technical mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, following its visit to Qatar in November 2017, which provides an objective and systematic description of the human rights violations that have accompanied the imposition of the blockade on Qatar.
The minister said that Qatar looks forward to an extensive, constructive and useful dialogue with CEDAW on all matters relating to the Convention.
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