At its 11th to 14th meetings on 5, 6 and 7 May 1997,
the Committee considered the third periodic report of
the Russian Federation on articles 1 to 15 of the Covenant
(E/1994/104/Add.8) and at its 25th meeting held on 15
May 1997, adopted the following concluding observations.
The Committee appreciates the submission by the State
party of its third periodic report in compliance with
the guidelines regarding the form and contents of reports
to be submitted by States parties. It notes with interest
that this is the first report of the State party after
the end of the Soviet era. The Committee is grateful
that the report was comprehensive and informative, and
in particular that it was frank in acknowledging the
serious problems that the State party is encountering
in protecting the economic, social and cultural rights
of the population. It also appreciates the additional
information provided in response to the written list
of questions, which unfortunately was not provided in
time to be translated. The Committee welcomes the sending
of a large and high-level delegation with which it engaged
in an open and constructive dialogue, and the provision
of additional information orally by the delegation during
its discussions with the Committee.
B. Positive aspects
The Committee welcomes, to the extent that economic,
social and cultural rights would thereby be promoted,
efforts by the State party to develop a State based
on the rule of law and the fact that it is reforming
or establishing institutions to this end. The Committee
also welcomes the planned reform of a whole range of
institutions which are engaged in the delivery of social
The Committee notes that inflation has been lowered
substantially, that the decline in gross domestic product
appears to have been stopped and some sectors of the
economy are beginning to grow again, and that efforts
are being taken to improve the system of taxation and
tax collection. It recognizes the importance of such
a framework in providing sustainable funding for institutions
designed to protect the economic, social and cultural
rights of the State party's population.
The Committee welcomes the statement by the representative
of the State party that proposed legislation is reviewed
by the executive institutions of the Government to ensure
that bills are consistent with international human rights
instruments, including the Covenant, before submission
to the Duma for consideration. It appreciates that the
Constitutional Court has cited the Covenant when deciding
issues. It also appreciates that the State party's new
Labour Code was inspired directly by provisions of the
Covenant, as well as other pertinent international instruments,
including those of the International Labour Organization
The Committee welcomes the 1996 law on the reform of
the Judicial Branch and the 1997 bill to strengthen
support to the judiciary, and the bill to establish
a human rights ombudsman, inasmuch as the protection
of economic, social and cultural rights enshrined in
the Covenant is thereby enhanced.
The Committee notes with appreciation that employers
are given tax incentives for the hiring of disabled
persons to facilitate their access to gainful employment.
The Committee welcomes the development of pluralism
in the trade union movement, although it recognizes
that there are many practical problems to be resolved
to enable the new trade unions to function effectively.
The Committee welcomes the assurances by the representative
of the State party that psychiatric institutions are
no longer used abusively.
The Committee welcomes the present official policy of
family planning, which has resulted in a decline in
the number of abortions.
The Committee views favourably efforts undertaken by
the State party to educate students as to legal remedies
available for violations of human rights.
The Committee welcomes the State party's support for
an optional protocol to the Covenant.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation
of the Covenant
The Committee recognizes that the State party has inherited
from the former regime an unfavourable framework for
the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights.
It also notes with apprehension that the process of
transition to a democratic country with a market-based
economy is being undermined by the development of corruption,
organized crime, tax evasion and bureaucratic inefficiency
and has resulted in inadequate funding for social welfare
expenditure and payment of wages in the State sector.
D. Principal subjects of concern
The Committee expresses its concern at the situation
of the indigenous peoples of the State party, many of
whom live in poverty, and have inadequate access to
food supplies, and some of whom suffer from malnutrition.
The Committee is particularly concerned for those whose
food supply is based on fishing and an adequate stock
of reindeer, and who are witnessing the destruction
of their environment by widespread pollution. It is
alarmed at reports that the economic rights of indigenous
peoples are exploited with impunity by oil and gas companies
which sign agreements under circumstances which are
clearly illegal, and that the State party has not taken
adequate steps to protect the indigenous peoples from
The Committee expresses its concern that women appear
to be disproportionately affected by unemployment and
that little concrete action has been taken by the State
party to discourage discriminatory dismissal or hiring
on the basis of sex or to provide meaningful remedies
to the victims of such discrimination.
The Committee expresses its concern at the significant
level of domestic violence against women and the hesitation
of the police in intervening to protect women or in
bringing charges against their aggressors, despite the
fact that the criminal law against violence against
persons applies to violence against a woman by her husband.
The Committee notes with concern the rapid development
of prostitution and the growing phenomenon of street
children and their exploitation for criminal and sexual
activities. The Committee further expresses its concern
at the rate of increase in criminal acts by juvenile
The Committee observes with concern that there are numerous
problems regarding labour regulation and that the State
party has not taken adequate steps or devoted sufficient
funding to find a way of addressing the following issues:
(a) Dangerous working conditions in many enterprises,
including use of dangerous and out-of-date technology,
lack of protection for workers and excessively long
hours of work;
(b) The high rate of serious industrial accidents, including
an excessive number resulting in death;
(c) Refusal by some enterprises to compensate workers
in cases of workplace injuries;
(d) An inadequate system for the reporting of unsafe
conditions and accidents, including the absence of a
legal framework which protects workers, whether unionized
(e) Inadequate funding for the labour inspectorate to
conduct sufficient labour inspections to deter and sanction
non-compliance by employers;
(f) The large number of illegal dismissals which in
practice are without remedy;
(g) The development of large-scale child labour;
(h) The refusal of some employers to recognize or deal
with new "alternative" unions and the fact that some
employers take adverse action, up to and including dismissal,
against union activists.
The Committee notes with concern that the State party
is ill-equipped to deal with the problem of unemployment,
which now affects, according to the data provided, between
three to seven million persons. The criteria for eligibility
for unemployment benefits, the system for detecting
fraudulent benefits applications, and the low amount
of such benefits all appear to be in need of reconsideration.
Moreover, services to assist the unemployed to obtain
employment, including information and retraining services,
need to be developed more fully.
The Committee is very concerned at the non-payment of
wages, which has led to a large number of strikes, particularly
in the State sector, as well as at the payment of wages
in kind by some employers. According to one report,
approximately $10 billion are owed in back wages to
approximately one out of every four workers, and most
of this sum is the responsibility of the State. Late
payment of wages is similarly unacceptable because it
impedes the workers' meeting their needs and, in an
inflationary environment, robs them of the value of
the money that has been earned.
The development of poverty, estimated to affect at least
30 per cent of the population, and the inability of
the State party to provide adequate social services
and a reasonable subsistence-level revenue to these
persons is of serious concern to the Committee.
The Committee expresses its concern that the Government's
ability to pay pensioners, who constitute a sizeable
and increasing percentage of the population, is seriously
affected by a lack of adequate financial resources.
As a result, many are not receiving their pensions and
are thus unable to satisfy their basic needs. The Committee
is further concerned that funding of pensions is being
seriously impaired by the failure of enterprises to
make their legal contributions to the pension fund.
The Committee is seriously concerned that the diet of
the Russian population, on average, is deteriorating.
It also notes with alarm that malnutrition and hunger
have developed among the poorer segments of the population.
Particular concern is expressed for the plight in this
respect of the homeless, families without income, large
families, and indigenous people in the northern part
of the country where the infrastructure for food delivery
The Committee expresses its serious concern that the
rate of contamination of both domestically produced
and imported foodstuffs is high by international standards,
and appears to be caused - for domestic production -by
the improper use of pesticides and environmental pollution
such as through the improper disposal of heavy metals
and oil spills, and - for imported food - by the illegal
practices of some food importers. The Committee notes
that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure
that such food does not reach the market.
The Committee is alarmed at the extent of the environmental
problems in the State party and that industrial leakage
of harmful waste products is such a severe problem in
some regions that they could be correctly declared as
environmental disaster areas. It is also very concerned
that there has been a curtailment of funds to modernize
an out-of-date water delivery system which adversely
affects the access of the population to clean water.
The Committee is very concerned at the re-emergence
of tuberculosis in the State party, particularly in
prisons, where the health and social conditions of detention
The Committee expresses its serious concern that in
1996 there was an eightfold increase in the rate of
HIV-infection, which, according to the State party's
representative, is largely due to increased drug use.
It is also a source of concern that drug addiction is
a major and growing problem among the young.
The inadequate funding of hospitals is a major source
of concern. Moreover, the non-availability of drugs
for the treatment of illness is also a source of preoccupation,
particularly for those who cannot afford these medicines.
The Committee expresses its concern with regard to the
deterioration of the educational system in the Russian
Federation and its effects on the school achievement,
and on the school attendance and drop out rates of the
young at all levels of the system.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
The Committee recommends that action be taken to protect
the indigenous peoples from exploitation by oil and
gas companies, and more generally that action be taken
to ensure their access to traditional and other sources
The Committee recommends that more vigourous steps be
taken to ensure protection of women against sex discrimination
in employment, and that victims of sex discrimination
may receive compensation from employers who act illegally.
The Committee also recommends that legislation be adopted
to protect women victims of domestic violence, that
specific programmes be put in place to assist such victims
of domestic violence and that the perpetrators of such
acts be brought to justice.
The Committee recommends that comprehensive steps be
taken to ensure safety and health in the workplace and
that, to this end, increased funding of the labour inspectorate
be provided. It further recommends that a framework
be developed to encourage and protect workers who report
inadequate conditions of work. The Committee also recommends
that the State party take steps to accelerate further
the development of trade unions by, inter alia,
removing the practical constraints to the right to freedom
of association, to ensure that management is separated
from official unions as part of a bargaining unit, and
generally, to enable the unions to function more effectively.
Furthermore, it recommends that a comprehensive strategy
to combat child labour be developed.
The Committee recommends that the State party develop
and improve its policy for assisting the unemployed
to find work and to receive unemployment benefits. In
this regard, the State party may wish to call upon ILO
The Committee recommends that immediate steps be taken
to ensure the payment of wages by both the State and
private enterprises, and to punish those who have illegally
diverted these funds for other purposes.
The Committee recommends that assistance to those who
live in poverty be increased, and that adequate financial
resources be made available to them so that they can
live in dignity. Similar efforts should be undertaken
on behalf of pensioners, many of whom live in serious
financial difficulty. The Committee is of the view that
greater efforts should be made to target social welfare
expenditure to the truly needy sectors of the population.
The Committee recommends the adoption of a plan of action
for food subsidies for the poor. It encourages the State
party to try to resolve problems of legal title to land,
the financing of supplies and equipment to farm areas,
and transportation to markets as soon as possible to
stimulate domestic food production.
The Committee is of the view that the question of an
acceptable and adequate food supply is also linked to
questions relating to a seriously polluted environment
and the lack of investment in infrastructure for the
maintenance and improvement of the water supply. It
recommends that the State party examine these linkages
and take appropriate action to clean up the environment
and prevent enterprises from engaging in further pollution,
especially that which contaminates the food chain. The
Committee also recommends that the maintenance and improvement
of the water supply system be undertaken as a matter
of priority. The Committee further recommends that vigourous
action be taken against enterprises which have been
found to have imported contaminated food.
The Committee strongly recommends that the State party
take immediate action to improve the health conditions
in prisons, especially with regard to the rise in the
rate of tuberculosis among prisoners and detainees.
The Committee urges the State party to address the eightfold
increase in HIV-infection in 1996 as a health question
of the utmost importance. It recommends that an information
campaign which explains the nature of the disease, the
modes of transmission, including sexual modes of transmission,
and prevention techniques be undertaken in the mass
media. It also recommends that the State party adopt
laws and take all necessary measures to prevent discrimination
against persons who are HIV-positive, so that they may
live normal lives.
The Committee recommends that funding of hospitals be
increased and that medicines and medical attention be
made available to those who cannot afford them, given
the existing problems already highlighted above.
The Committee recommends that efforts to treat drug
addiction and to apprehend and punish drug dealers be
continued and intensified.
The Committee strongly recommends that stronger and
more effective measures should be adopted in order to
reinforce the educational system, reduce the rate of
school drop-out and enhance the protection of children
against illegal employment and other abuses.