A Vulnerable Population

Algeria is a rich country but its population is getting poorer. The overabundant legislation does not protect its population. The climate of insecurity is used to dampen economic, social and cultural rights.

[only in FR] Algérie
Violation des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels : Une population précarisée

Algeria will present its periodic report to the 27th session of the United Nations Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The FIDH is publishing today an alternative report entitled "Algeria: a vulnerable population".

By ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1989, Algeria pledged to "take steps... as far as its available resources make it possible to achieve progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant". Algeria’s report to the Committee makes no mention of Algeria’s main violations of the Covenant. Yet, any analysis brings out serious and systematic violations, which also contradict other Algerian commitments, in particular at the regional level. The official report describes a country and a society that are very different from those encountered by the FIDH. Confirmed testimonies, together with the Algerian and international information and statistical data collected in order to examine the Covenant’s application in Algeria, show a striking discrepancy between the Covenant and the situation prevailing in Algeria.

Ten years of serious and systematic violations of all human rights

The law providing for national reconciliation (concorde civile), adopted by referendum in September 1999, did not put an end to the conflict. Besides flagrant, large-scale and systematic violations have been perpetrated for the last ten years without being seriously investigated upon.

The country is still ruled by the state of emergency decree of 9 February 1992 and by an exceptional legislation that reins in the political life and the free expression of society, reducing the so-called pluralism of Algerian society to a façade.

Not only has the conflict that has run rife in Algeria for the last ten years contributed to increasing violations of economic, social and cultural rights, but it is also patently clear that the authorities have used it to dampen these rights, without worrying about the reactions of a terrorized population.

Since Algeria ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on 12 September 1989, a number of laws have been adopted in the economic, social and cultural sectors. This new legislation is a positive development, although legislation is still below Covenant requirements in many areas. This is particularly true when one looks at the Family Code, or the law on the freedom of trade unions, as this report proposes to do. The daily acts of violence experienced by Algerians for the last ten years - the murderous violence of armed groups, the violence inflicted by the security forces and the violence associated with social degradation (unemployment, high cost of living, lack of housing, etc.) - prevent them from objecting to these aforementioned measures. All the more so since the means of economic, social, cultural and political expression (media, associations, trade unions, political parties, etc.) are subject to government authoritarianism. However, since April 2001, when the level of political violence and security-related pressure decreased, Algerians have taken to the street, first in Kabylia and then in many other parts of the country, demanding that their economic, social and cultural rights be respected.
The demands expressed by these demonstrators show that human rights - civil, political, economic, social and cultural - are indivisible. Algerians are not only asking for housing and work, they are also challenging the attacks on the rule of law, the lack of democracy, nepotism, clientship, undue favours, "hogra" (injustice coupled with an insult to dignity), for without the rule of law it will be impossible for them to find either work or housing.

In sum, the Algerians are submitted to veritable economic, social and political imprisonment. They have been numbed into a sort of forced immobility, both in their tiny living areas, their district or city (which they find hard to leave because of security reasons) and their country, which they can only leave if they get one of those very few visas issued by destination countries. Forced immobility also applies to ideas, culture and leisure time.

Women are especially affected by violations of economic, social, cultural, civic and political rights, since they are regarded as minors by the law, practically rejected by the labour market, excluded from public life, and subjected to various types of discrimination. Therefore, they are maintained in a position of inferiority.

A country of many resources, an alarming economic and social situation

Yet, Algeria lacks neither resources nor potential. Thanks to a big hike in oil prices, Algeria is believed to have considerable currency reserves at the moment, equivalent to more than one year’s worth of imports or 15 billion. Also its budget surplus has kept increasing. Moreover, the application of the structural adjustment programmes that were agreed with the Bretton Woods institutions in 1994 and 1995 restored equilibrium in macro-economic and financial terms.

However, Algerians are currently experiencing deterioration in their living standards with no prospect of improvement. Per capita GNP continues to fall, and inequalities of consumption are blatant. Unemployment has remained stable at a dramatically high level for the last four years, affecting young people in particular, and job creation remains far too low. Algerian social rights have been declining for the last ten years, access to public services (healthcare, education) has been growing steadily worse, and housing conditions are deplorable.

Faced with these problems, the withdrawal of state intervention has become the norm - elimination of price support and subsidies, reduction of public spending in the social sector, liquidation and/or privatisation of state assets, redundancies, etc. - however, the private sector has not stepped in to take over. The educational and healthcare systems are deteriorating dangerously with the cuts in budget spending. This is an indirect consequence of the structural adjustment programmes.

This accounts for Algeria’s 100th place in the UNDP classification based on the Human Development Index.

The FIDH asks the Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to draw all the conclusions from this situation. The FIDH calls upon Algeria’s government to make specific and concrete commitments that can be measured, to put an effective end to the violations of economic, social and cultural rights.

Ten years after the interruption of the elections, the Algerian society appears as gagged and impoverished, isolated from the rest of the world. According to CNES, over seven million people, out of a total population of 30 million, live below the poverty line and 14 million people live precariously, as their fundamental rights are violated.

With regard to the serious violations of the rights to housing and to education, FIDH urges Algeria to invite the Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Education, Mrs. Tomasevski, and the Special Rapporteur on Decent Housing, Mr. Khotary, to come to Algeria as soon as possible.

FIDH calls upon the authorities to implement a policy of dialogue on human rights, especially with international NGOs. With this in mind, FIDH would like to reiterate its request for an authorisation to go to Algeria again, which it has already submitted to the Algerian authorities three times this year.

[only in FR] Algérie
Violation des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels : Une population précarisée

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