A United Nations independent expert has lauded Qatar’s continuing efforts to ensure the rights of all and improve human rights standards, while also praising the country for the distinguished role it has played to enhance global solidarity.
Obiora C Okafor, UN Independent Expert on Human Rights and International Solidarity, made the observations at a press conference in Doha Tuesday while presenting his preliminary findings at the end of his mission to Qatar.
Okafor referred to Qatar's achievements in the health and education sectors, thanking the country for its achievements in human rights, including economic, cultural and social rights. He also highlighted Qatar's positive global contribution to development and humanitarian aid and its support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
He also thanked Qatar, which gave him the opportunity to visit as an official UN envoy and an independent expert in the field of human rights and international solidarity.
He noted that Qatar has given a number of international experts and specialists, as well as representatives of different international bodies, the chance to visit the country and hosted conferences across various fields. This confirms the country's prominent role in international solidarity and its significant contributions in this field, he added.
Okafor praised the laws that were recently enacted in order to further increase the compatibility of Qatar’s legal framework with international human rights standards. “Over 85% of Qatar’s population and over 92% of its labour force are migrant workers. The government has committed to improvements and the 2018-2022 technical co-operation agreement with the International Labour Organisation is an example of this engagement,” he explained.
The official praised the removal of the exit visa requirement for migrant workers and the new minimum wage, calling it a step in the right direction. “Steps are taken to instate a higher and non-discriminatory permanent minimum wage. I was also informed about a Red Crescent-managed shelter for abused workers. Also, representatives of migrant workers now sit in bi-annual forums with the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs. I see this as a significant step in the right direction and as a forum where their voices can be heard. Such initiatives are crucial and must be encouraged, and their frequency increased,” Okafor said.
He was all praise for the creation of dispute settlement committees comprising a judge and two labour representatives as well as the launch of workers' committees. These are ways to ensure that workers’ voices are heard, he said, adding that a workers' fund designed to compensate unpaid workers while their claims are processed is in its pilot phase.
He also touched on the efforts of Education Above All, Teach a Child, Silatech and other initiatives, which contribute greatly to facilitating the work of the United Nations in the areas of their competence, in addition to the role of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy in the preparation and organisation of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Qatar got a special mention for the support it extended to various countries in the health, education and development sectors, while the Silatech initiative was lauded by Okafor for creating job opportunities across Africa and Asia.
Further, Okafor praised His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani’s announcement of Qatar's pledge to provide quality education to 1mn girls worldwide by 2021.
“Qatar has created and strengthened the infrastructure needed to promote its international solidarity agenda. Numerous initiatives such as the Qatar Fund for Development and the Generation Amazing programme of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy are good examples of international solidarity in the development field,” he explained, lauding Qatar’s significant investments in education through international organisations such as Unicef.
“Efforts to empower youth worldwide, including through Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser’s Silatech initiative, are examples of human rights-based international solidarity,” he said, praising recent efforts by Qatar to introduce human rights education at different levels of the national curriculum.
Okafor also lauded Qatar’s continuing efforts to bring down the emission of greenhouse gases and noted that Qatar has invested in the extension of a water desalination plant using technology that will improve its production efficiency while reducing the use of gas in production systems.
“Qatar also co-founded the Global Green Growth Institute showing its commitment to the environment. Qatar hosted the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP18) where state parties agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol, and has participated in the conference each year. In 2016, Qatar signed the Paris Agreement and the country remains engaged in battling the challenge of climate change through co-operation with international agencies,” he said.
Addressing the migration challenge, Okafor appreciated Qatar's positive role in financing migration processes through the United Nations, or directly supporting and assisting countries in conflict in Africa or Asia, as well as enacting the political asylum law.
Okafor stressed that Qatar has committed to develop contracts and agreements with the International Labour Organisation to support these commitments, and enacted many laws in line with international human rights standards.
He also praised Qatar's role in achieving world peace and its role as a successful mediator for peace and conflict resolution in many countries and regions such as Africa and the Middle East, considering this as Qatar's solidarity with the world, encouraging and thanking Qatar for this role, because peace is very important for the fulfillment of human rights, he added.
During the press conference, Okafor made some remarks about some of what had been achieved saying that they would like to see additional improvements, with regard to domestic labour in terms of reducing working hours and granting them weekly leave provided by law, providing opportunities for changing jobs, and calling on companies and employers not to require workers to pay fees, as well as increasing the minimum wage for workers to a better level with more litigation facilities, thanking Qatar for setting up programmes to protect workers' rights.
Okafor’s preliminary findings include some recommendations. He said the full and detailed report of the visit with recommendations will be submitted to the government and other stakeholders in June 2020.
(With inputs from QNA)