Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Commends Lithuania’s Climate Change Measures , Asks About Discrimination Against Minorities and Gender Disparities
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights today concluded its review of the third periodic report of Lithuania, with Committee Experts noting positive progress on climate change and asking about measures for preventing discrimination against minorities, including the Roma community, and gender disparity.
Recognizing the measures that Lithuania had taken to address climate change, the Committee asked about steps being taken to ensure that the country adhered to its nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. What specific measures were been taken to ensure that business entities addressed the adverse impact of their operations on the environment?
Preeti Saran, Committee Expert and country rapporteur, voiced concerns over social exclusion of minorities and asked if national minorities who were legitimate citizens of Lithuania enjoyed equal rights and benefits. Despite a number of action plans and programmes to facilitate the Roma’s access to economic, social and cultural rights, they continued to face social exclusion. What further measures were proposed for the assimilation of minorities, including the Roma community? With reference to concerns over Lithuania’s response to asylum seekers and pushbacks at the border with Belarus, what steps had the country taken to address gaps in the reception conditions of asylum seekers?
Noting the underrepresentation of women in high-level position and violence against women with disability, Ms. Saran asked about steps the State party had taken to improve the treatment of women. Another Committee Expert stressed that 48.5 per cent of women with disabilities lived in poverty, 14 percentage points higher than the rate for men. What social protection measures would be taken to address this situation?
Vytautas Šilinskas, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of delegation, introducing the report, said that the number of Roma children in preschool education had increased to 50 per cent. Almost 87 per cent of Roma households had amenities. Further, Roma people’s income had almost doubled per person over the last five years.
The delegation added that there had not been a large decrease in the population of national minorities, but one of the reasons for the decline was voluntary assimilation. The rights of minorities were being upheld. On push-backs, the Government was not welcoming those who were entering illegally, though it did receive the most vulnerable. In 2021, Lithuania’s asylum and reception systems had been overwhelmed, but were currently functioning and abiding by international law. Changes had been made to improve the conditions of migrants.
Mr. Šilinskas said that Lithuania was among the top countries in the world in terms of women’s participation in the labour market, ranking number one in Europe, and led Europe in terms of the share of female scientists. Regarding the gender pay gap, information on salaries was public for companies with more than 20 employees. Reforms were ongoing to make better use of statistics through the Agency of Data.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Saran said she was extremely impressed by the level of participation of the whole delegation, its comprehensive responses and constructive spirit. Acknowledging progress made by the State party in delivering measures for economic, social and cultural rights, she said the Committee would provide additional recommendations to ensure the Covenant remained protected in Lithuania.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Šilinskas said the dialogue had been very helpful, including in identifying weak spots. He said that there were important issues in Lithuania facing minorities, who represented 2.6 per cent of the population. Due to these important challenges, the Government was concerned about potential delays in the delivery of reforms, but it would be able to implement long-term reforms to help other categories of the population as well. The State party awaited the Committee’s recommendations, and would do its best to implement them.
The delegation of Lithuania was comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Social Security and Labour; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Education, Science and Sport; Ministry of Environment; State Labour Inspectorate; Department of National Minorities under the Government; Ministry of Interior; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and the Permanent Mission of Lithuania to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva.
All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Webcasts of the meetings of the session can be found here, and meetings summaries can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Friday, 24 February, to hold a day of general discussion on sustainable development.
The Committee has before it the third periodic report of Lithuania (E/C.12/LTU/3).
Presentation of Report
VYTAUTAS ŠILINSKAS, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of the delegation, said the war in Ukraine and inflation were the greatest short-term challenges for his country, which ranked fourth in the European Union in terms of war refugees per capita from Ukraine. The annual inflation rate had reached over 20 percent in 2022. The transition from a mid- to high-value added economy, increasing the quality of education, healthcare services and reducing income inequality were among the top long-term challenges in Lithuania.
On strengthened institutional protection of human rights, he noted that funding of the Offices of the Ombudspersons for Equal Opportunities and the Office of Ombudsperson of the Parliament had been steadily increasing. In 2017, the Office of Ombudsperson of the Parliament had been also accredited as the National Human Rights Institution under the Paris Principles at A level. As of 2019, the Constitution of Lithuania had provided the right to individual constitutional complaints to the Constitutional Court. The number of Roma children in preschool education had increased to 50 per cent, almost 87 per cent of Roma households had amenities, and Roma people’s income had almost doubled per person over the last five years. The Law on Equal Opportunities had been amended to improve legal protection against harassment, sexual harassment and victimization. Further, the Minister of Health had adopted an order to promote access to health services for adults with a gender identity disorder.
Lithuania was among the top countries in the world in terms of women’s participation in the labour market, ranking number one in Europe, and led Europe by the share of female scientists. Mr. Šilinskas underlined that gender pay gap was also lower than the European Union average with 11 per cent in 2021, decreasing by one percent since 2020. He underlined that the current Government, led by a woman Prime-Minister, adhered to the principles of gender equality. He cited a newly adopted Law on Protection against Domestic Violence and additional funding to support victims, and stressed that stalking had been criminalized in 2021.
Stressing progress in the fight against corruption and turning to poverty reduction measures, he said that in 2023, all basic social benefits had grown up to 42 percent compared to the 2018. Universal child benefits had been approved for all children and had greatly reduced children’s poverty in Lithuania to the levels average in the EU. The non-taxable income threshold for low-income earners was steadily increased to reach the minimum monthly wage which had itself been steadily growing, more than doubling since 2017. Despite COVID-19 business closures, record high inflation, the war in Ukraine and an influx of refugees, the employment level had been at a record high, above 80 per cent in the third quarter of 2022. Amendments to the Labour Code had introduced broader protection of employees’ rights, particularly family interests.
Child rights protection system reform in 2018 introduced urgent 24/7 response services to ensure the safety of children. Support and help mechanisms had been established for children and families in crisis. Further, in 2022, Lithuania had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure. Health care and education reforms were also underway. Mr. Šilinskas underlined the importance of European Union investments into important reforms. The latest Recovery and Resilience Plan would allocate over two billion euros (approximately three per cent of Lithuania’s gross domestic product) to address Lithuania’s long-term challenges. Investments should be allocated to digitalization and the green transition, ensuring the quality and efficiency of health services, improving social protection, prioritizing education and innovation and increasing the efficiency of the public sector.
Questions by Committee Experts
PREETI SARAN, Committee Expert and country rapporteur, noted the establishment of a national human rights institution, the Seimas Ombudsmen Office. Accrediting it, the Global Alliance for Human Rights Institutions Sub-Committee on Accreditation had encouraged it to advocate for legislative amendments, continue to develop, formalise and maintain working relationships as appropriate, and to advocate for legislative amendments to protect members from legal liability for acts undertaken in good faith in their official capacity.
She asked what steps had been taken to address the Sub-Committee on Accreditation’s recommendations and to strengthen the Seimas Ombudsmen Office, including its finances, to be able to discharge its mandates effectively and independently in full compliance with the Paris Principles. Were there any steps proposed to be taken to provide training to lawmakers, judiciary, and administrators of justice on Covenant rights? What steps had been taken to create greater awareness about the rights therein contained and to ensure the independence of judges? Expressing concerns over reports of racial prejudice including among judges while pronouncing judgments, she asked if it was compulsory to be a member of the Bar Association to practice law and whether human rights defenders were allowed to practice?
Voicing concerns over social exclusion of minorities facing discrimination and unequal treatment as citizens, she noted that the ethnic population of Lithuanians had risen from 79.6 per cent in 1989 to 85.9 per cent in 2020. During the same period, the percentage of the population with Polish ethnicity had come down from 7 to 5.7 per cent, Russian ethnicity from 9.4 per cent to 4.5 per cent, and Jewish ethnicity from 0.3 per cent to 0.1 per cent. Ms. Saran asked the delegation to share up-to-date data on the changes in the ethnic composition of the Lithuanian population in the last decade. What was the reason for this reduction in certain ethnic minorities? She asked if national minorities enjoyed equal rights and benefits. Were there any restrictions on minority communities being able to practice their faith, language and religious practice without discrimination? What specific measures had been taken to preserve their culture? Had a comprehensive law on protecting minority rights been adopted? Was there a difference in the definition between ethnic minorities and national minorities? Commending that the Roma’s income had increased two times in the last five years, she said that despite action plans to facilitate their access to economic, social and cultural rights, they continued to face social exclusion. What further measures were proposed for the assimilation of minorities, including the Roma community?
Ms. Saran expressed concern over the lack of tangible progress in combatting violence, stigma and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. She asked if the Law on Equal Opportunities protected gender minorities from discrimination and if the Criminal Code defined violence against them as a hate crime or as hate speech. What steps had the State party taken to ensure that same sex partnerships were protected under the Lithuanian legal system, and to adopt a comprehensive national law that prohibited discrimination based on gender expression? Concern remained over women underrepresentation in high position and violence against women with disability. What steps had the State party taken to improve the treatment of women as equal members of society? What had been done to address poverty and income gaps, including amongst the most marginalised, the vulnerable and between between rural and urban populations?
She cited concerns by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Human Rights Council Special Procedure mandate holders on Lithuania’s response to asylum seekers. The UNHCR had also expressed concerns on reports of pushbacks at Lithuania’s border with Belarus as well as reports of groups of people being stranded in border areas in dire conditions. What steps had the country taken to address gaps in reception conditions of asylum seekers and to protect their health? Could the delegation confirm if the State party would update its laws that governed the legal status of foreigners? Would all refugees and asylum seekers be given equal status?
Noting positive progress on climate change, through the measures including the adoption of the “National Energy and Climate Plan 2021 – 2030”, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in most economic sectors since 2015, she asked what steps were being taken to ensure that the country adheres to its nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement. Could further information be provided on specific measures taken to ensure that business entities address the adverse impact of their operations on the environment?
The Committee requested detailed disaggregated data on allocations in areas of the Covenant rights, notably social security, housing, food, water and sanitation as well as health and education. What had been the best practices adopted in meeting the challenges faced by the SP in fulfilling the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to its people, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized, during the Covid pandemic and its aftermath. Could this be supported by data?
Corruption was reportedly still persistent in the public sectors, particularly in the health sector. The size of the shadow economy in 2021 had also increased. Noting a lack of information on the sentences passed on those found to be involved in corruption, Ms. Saran asked the delegation to provide up-to-date data in this regard.
The delegation said the largest minority groups were Polish and Russian, followed by Belarussian. There had not been a large decrease in national minorities, but one of the reasons for the decline was voluntary assimilation. The right to education in national minorities languages and religion were fully acknowledged in Lithuania. The country’s legislation only addressed national minorities, not ethnic minorities. There were measures aiming at tackling discrimination of the Roma in education and facilitating access to housing and services. Progress had been made in facilitating access to health care services – 96 per cent of Roma had health insurance and received all health care services, a 20 per cent increase over the decade. There had been progress in employment of young Roma; 42 per cent of youth in the 20-28 age group were employed. While stereotypes persisted, data showed a decrease in that regard. Lithuania was one of the few countries in Europe that had recognized Roma Genocide Day.
Professional training for lawyers on Covenant rights was organized by the Bar Association. This aimed to regulate the profession and ensure quality services to the public. The Draft Law on Civil Union addressed both homosexual and heterosexual couples. Lithuania’s criminal code established criminal liability for discrimination and harassment on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation. Regulatory changes had been made to ensure the prevention of corruption.
In 2022, the Ministry of Social Security and Labour implemented measures to increase the income of seniors, people with disabilities, and families, among others. Measures to reduce poverty disparities included an increase in social benefits, even twice in 2022. Especially important was an increase in the social assistance pension. Further, increases in the minimum wage and in other benefits were particularly relevant to reduce poverty.
VYTAUTAS ŠILINSKAS, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of the delegation, said that Lithuania greeted those who fleeted the war in Ukraine. Other asylum seekers from Belarus had been pushed through the Lithuanian borders. The Government was not welcoming those who were entering illegally. Further, 90 per cent of the people coming from Belarus left their country, aiming to move elsewhere in Europe.
The delegation said in 2021, Lithuania’s asylum and reception systems had been overwhelmed, but were currently functioning and accordingly to international law. Asylum seekers had access to legal aid. Children could attend school. Asylum procedures were prioritized for vulnerable groups. Asylum seekers were provided with essential medical assistance and health care services for free. Unaccompanied minors were provided health insurance and child rights protection services were always present. The Government promoted amendments to laws on the legal status of Aliens to create the most favorable conditions for foreigners to request asylum. The Parliament would discuss this in the spring session in March.
To meet the national determined contributions, Lithuania had adopted a national climate change management agenda, and was updating its energy and climate action plan. The Ministries of Environment and Energy had set up sectoral decarbonization working groups where representatives of businesses, science and non-governmental organizations gave suggestions for greenhouse gas reduction measures. In total, 43 meetings had been organized with social partners and more than 500 proposals received. 1.8 million euros had been allocated to encourage the use of solar energy. Actions were taken to promote greener mobility.
VYTAUTAS ŠILINSKAS, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of the delegation , said that his Government initially aimed to reach 50 per cent of green energy production by 2030. The Ministry of Energy planned to reach 90 or even 100 per cent green energy production by the same year.
Questions by Committee Experts
PREETI SARAN, Committee Expert and country rapporteur, asked the delegation to provide information on questions related to best practices related to COVID-19 measures.
MOHAMED EZZELDIN ABDEL-MONEIM, Committee Chair, said that illegal immigration should be viewed from a historic perspective. Migrants taking the risk to cross the Mediterranean were escaping misery. Had the requirement of international cooperation properly been fulfilled, maybe these tragedies might not have occurred in such dimensions.
A Committee Expert asked about reforms needed to bring the country fully in line with the Covenant. Could information be provided on concrete actions to implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights?
Responses by the Delegation
VYTAUTAS ŠILINSKAS, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of the delegation, said COVID-19 response measures included supporting workers, including when workplaces were closed. The State had supplemented salaries during the pandemic. Lithuania had ranked second in reaching pre-COVID levels of the economy.
The delegation said that during the pandemic, the State provided subsidies for employed people, and in the recovery period, to the most affected sectors and the self-employed. Further, it had issued job allowances for those who had not been employed during the pandemic. Additional legal changes were needed to bring the law on equal opportunities fully in line with the Covenant. The need to ensure the Ombudsperson’s work in the pursuit of its mandate was recognized. Several steps had been taken to develop a law on civil union. The Government was considering steps on how to legally implement a law on gender change. Lithuania was intensifying its development cooperation activities: more than 1.5 million vaccine doses had been provided through the COVAX mechanism. The country had allocated more than 57 million euros to humanitarian and financial aid for Ukraine in 2022.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said that there was a list of certain professions prohibited by law for prisoners, such as working as a lawyer. According to some information, prisoners were forbidden access to the Internet, so they could not work online. He asked the delegation to clarify this information. Lithuania had one of the largest gaps, 31.9 per cent, of European Union countries in the employment rates of persons with and without disabilities. The Expert asked the delegation to provide statistics for 2021-2022, explain the reason for the gap and indicate measures taken to reduce the gap. What measures had been taken to address the adverse effects of COVID-19 for migrant workers? When would the new strategy document on the integration of foreigners be finalized and concrete actions taken to implement it? What measures had been taken to support migrant workers and inform them of their rights to reduce labour exploitation and trafficking?
The Expert asked about measures to ensure the exercise of the right to form and join trade unions, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike by migrant workers. Could the delegation provide statistics for 2022 on the number of people and categories of citizens receiving social financial support? Could the delegation indicate the outcome of the revision of the Unemployment Social Insurance Act in 2022?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that convicts serving sentences in semi-open or closed places of detention had the right to use a limited internet connection, allowing access to State and educational institutions. In 2022, a new law had been adopted to promote integration of people with disabilities in the labour market. The number of employed disabled people in Lithuania had increased by five per cent compared to 2018. In 2022, more than 13,000 persons with disabilities had registered with and received support from employment services. More than half had been hired or started self-employment during that period. About 1,000 persons were identified as needing professional rehabilitation, after which more than 65 per cent of persons with disabilities were reintegrated in the job market.
VYTAUTAS ŠILINSKAS, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of the delegation, said that during the pandemic, no distinction had been made between Lithuanian or migrant workers when issuing benefits.
The delegation added that the second action plan for combating trafficking of human beings for 2022 had been recently implemented, the third action plan for 2023-2025 would be drafted in March. In 2020, Lithuania had conducted 11 pre-trial investigations into trafficking of human beings, in 2021, the number was seven. In 2020, a mobile app was created for the prevention of human trafficking, designed for teachers and students. The State Labour Inspectorate had established two pilot groups of labor inspectors working on human trafficking. Since 2020, only seven migrant exploitation cases had been found and presented to authorities for further investigation. As many migrants had come from Ukraine, information was made available in Ukrainian, Russian and English. Migrant workers had the same rights as Lithuanians when it came to joining trade unions and participating in strikes. The Social Safety Net had been approved in recent years as a tool to combating poverty. In 2021, amendments to the social security pension were adopted.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about the employment of migrants coming from Belarus. Were transparency measures in place to make information on men’s salary available for women? Who would deal with work harassment? In the Third Action Plan, was the State party dealing with support measures for victims? How was the minimum social benefit pension calculated? Did self-employed people have adequate protection with regards to health insurance and pensions?
PREETI SARAN, Committee Expert and country rapporteur, stressed the challenge posed by the lack of statistics on the issues related to the right to work. What had been done to overcome such challenges? Social security benefits were commendable but insufficient for certain groups.
A Committee Expert said that Lithuania has one of the highest levels of poverty in the European Union. Persons with disabilities were at higher risk of social exclusion. The gender gap was very significant; 48.5 per cent of women with disability lived in poverty, over 14 percentage points higher than men. What measures had been taken regarding social protection and entitlements? Had the Government discussed reforms to the tax system to redistribute resources?
Another Committee Expert asked if the State had considered the possibility of acceding to the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Their Families. How did the Lithuanian legislation consider migrant workers and migrants in general - irregular or illegal? The Expert asked about social protections for the self-employed and multidimensional strategies tackling poverty.
Responses by the Delegation
VYTAUTAS ŠILINSKAS, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of the delegation, regarding the gender pay gap, said that information on salaries was transparent and public for companies with more than 20 employees. Reforms were ongoing to better use statistics through the Agency of Data. On sexual harassment, the labour code had been changed, and the Labour Inspectorate was now responsible for responses.
The delegation said that self-employed people who paid social insurance contributions for compulsory health insurance, sickness, maternity and pension insurance were entitled to related benefits. The country was considering expanding the scope of insurance for self-employed persons. Attention had been paid to increasing the minimum monthly wage and the guaranteed minimum income. A 2022 study had comprehensively analysed how social benefits could reduce poverty more effectively. When inflation rose sharply, most of the benefits were increased by 15 per cent, while the benefits reaching persons with disabilities were increased by 20 per cent. A new model of disability assessment would begin to operate from 2024. People would be invited to find the best solutions for themselves based on individual needs, with the support of municipalities and communities.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert cited an amendment to the law on parental leave being submitted to the Parliament to make several months of parental leave non-transmissible between parents. What was the status of said amendments, and the true impact of measures promoting fair distribution of domestic tasks? Had the country conducted a survey to track men and women’s time dedicated to remunerated work, domestic tasks and caring activities?
Were there specific services available for young people who left guardianship and how did Lithuania ensure that they were properly prepared for independent living? Could information be provided on the impact of the action plan to prevent domestic violence and support victims of violence? The 2019 Legal Assistance Act extended secondary legal assistance to include the victims of domestic violence. What had been the impact of that extension? How many women had used secondary legal assistance? Could statistics about domestic violence, including cases reported to specialized assistance centres, be provided? What was the budgetary allocation for these specialized assistance centers?
Reportedly social assistance was not very effective for Roma families facing social exclusion, and social workers working with the Roma community were not properly skilled and did not have enough resources. What measures had been taken to improve the quality of social services, particularly for Roma families? What has been done to improve the skills of social workers and increase budgetary resources? What had been the impact of measures taken to reduce homelessness? The Expert asked for disaggregated data on housing for low-income families, including single parent families, families with three or more children and children with disabilities.
Concerned that the elderly and people with low levels of education faced the biggest health gaps, and there continued to be disparities between rural and urban areas, the Expert asked about the impact of the health care reform. What measures had been taken to combat the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; to ensure that tests, treatment and vaccinations had been made accessible and reliable information shared? Could the delegation inform of the efforts made to identify and correct the mental health problems prevalent in the State party? What progress had been made in implementing the mental health system reform? What measures had been taken to prevent coercive hospitalization and to extend the scope of HIV treatment?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said a new law on non-transferable months of parental leave came into force in 2023. On domestic tasks sharing, the latest data from 2016 showed higher engagement by women, though statistics were close to the European Union average. To change perceptions, outreach campaigns were being carried out with great success. An action plan on domestic violence would come into force in July this year. Funding had been increased for specialized assistance centers. From 2023, another measure would be put into place establishing training for providers of services for children and families. Several initiatives were ongoing not only to close children’s institutions but also to prevent children from being separated by their families. Until last year, the only support available for people who left the care system had been financial support. However, from 2022, after care support services were also provided to children and young people. In 2022, a new measure had been implemented to provide training for social workers and other specialists. In 2023, this measure was expected to reach over 8,000 professionals. Training had also been provided to specialists engaging with the Roma.
The number of homeless persons had decreased significantly since 2017. Lithuania had implemented a programme aiming to provide homeless persons with short term housing and access to basic facilities for hygiene and health care. Special attention was paid to reintegrating homeless persons into society, including through addressing their psychological wellbeing and employment. Municipalities and parishes played an active role in the programme.
Since 2022, more favorable conditions had been created for people to receive subsidies for rising heating costs. National health insurance was compulsory. The State supported the most vulnerable, including the elderly and persons with disabilities. Reproductive health care services were integrated in compulsory insurance. The reform of the health care system aimed at improving the quality of services provided, including through prevention and effective intervention. Measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic included communication campaigns to tackle disinformation and new mental health services focused on building resilience and offering consultations. One fifth of consultation users were youth. A mental health reform policy had been launched in 2022. The suicide rate had halved from 2013 to 2022.
Questions by Committee Experts
PREETI SARAN, Committee Expert and country rapporteur, asked about the response to a letter by the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures regarding preventing potash from Belarus being exported. Were steps taken to rectify the issue, so that the fertilizer shortage in other parts of the world was not impacted? Ms. Saran described the State party’s mental health reform and the decrease in the suicide rate as reassuring. Who were the most vulnerable groups regarding mental health, and what remedy measures were proposed to protect these groups?
A Committee Expert asked why the Istanbul Convention had not been ratified yet, and how it differed from the country’s measures to prevent domestic violence.
Another Committee Expert stressed the State party’s obligation to respect, protect and fulfill economic, cultural and social rights, including of asylum seekers, and ensure that the minimum essential Covenant rights were guaranteed. What steps had been taken to refrain pushback policies of migrants and asylum seekers and to guarantee individual assessments? Were measures taken to guarantee access to food, clothes, health care and information on their rights in a language that they understood?
A Committee Expert asked what other measures had been taken to promote equal distribution of care tasks between men and women and to expand on the support provided by the State. She further asked about support services allowing persons with disabilities to lead independent lives. Was access to health and education for irregular migrants and asylum seekers guaranteed whilst their cases were being considered? On the rights of drug users to health care, what policies were in place?
Responses by the Delegation
VYTAUTAS ŠILINSKAS, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of the delegation, said the decision on potash export from Belarus was not a Lithuanian choice but a European Union decision, stemming from human rights violations in that country. The issue of differences between the Istanbul Convention and domestic legislation related to translation, as in Lithuanian there were not different words for sex and gender.
On mental health issues, the delegation said the most vulnerable groups included those affected by schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. A long-term campaign had been started to tackle mental health stigma. Prisoners received psychological care within detention facilities or specialist health clinics as required. Psychosocial support for asylum seekers and migrants was provided.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked the delegation to provide information on whether Roma children, migrant children, children with disabilities, children living in rural areas and children from low-income families had been integrated into the general education schools in Lithuania, and on enrolment numbers. Had pre-school education been organized in 2022 into educational institutions in the municipality of residence?
Could information be provided on measures to address barriers that disadvantaged families encountered in accessing and using early childhood education and care services? Barriers included costs, poverty-related barriers, geographical locations, inadequate provisions for children with disability, cultural and linguistic barriers, and lack of information for parents. How did the State Party intend to strengthen training for the special education needs of early childhood teachers for children with disabilities?
Could the delegation provide information on efforts to close the inequality gaps that existed in education among schools, especially in rural and minority areas? How was the State addressing the unequal distribution among schools of learning support specialists, laboratories and high-quality teachers? Why were children from low-income families usually segregated into low-quality schools and poorer neighborhoods? The Expert asked about the strategy for inclusive education to cover the needs of migrants and refugee children, as well as Roma children. Could the delegation provide information when the State Party intended to sign the Charter for Regional and Minority Languages?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the number of students with disabilities in school was more than 75,000. Answering questions on addressing barriers, including in relation to cost and transport, reference was made to a 2021 measure that might be applied to particularly vulnerable students. Through compulsory preschool education, the Government provided extra education support. Support was also provided for transport and other expenses that families normally encountered. In 2023, the Government started to implement a teacher training measure fostering inclusive education, and a center for inclusive education started its work. In four years, the Government had doubled its spending in educational support, aiming at having more specialists in schools, including psychologists, trained teachers and speech specialists. Actions had been taken to provide additional Lithuanian language courses for migrants. Additional budget had been allocated to soften the issue of educational disparities between municipalities, especially between big cities and rural areas, including through Quality Basket initiatives and the Millennium Schools Programme.
A series of measures had been implemented to facilitate the inclusion of Roma children in education, including regarding non-formal education. An action plan allocated funds for minorities in Lithuania, including the possibility to participate in Sunday schools. Funds were allocated each year to support cultural centers and reinforce cooperation. In this regard, cooperation was very intense with the three Baltic states, and Lithuania was a very active member in international organizations and platforms also focused on Roma issues.
Questions by Committee Experts
PREETI SARAN, Committee Expert and country rapporteur, commending that national minorities would be given special classes to allow better access to education, asked if any new restriction had been introduced since last year. She further asked if education in national minorities’ mother tongues referred to all subjects. Could information be provided on the intention to close or demolish Russian culture centers?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said there were no new restrictions for the schools or classes of national minorities. It was possible to choose whether to study all subjects in minority languages or just some.
VYTAUTAS ŠILINSKAS, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of the delegation, said the Moscow House in Vilnius would be demolished for non-compliance with building regulations.
PREETI SARAN, Committee Expert and country rapporteur, said she was extremely impressed by the level of participation of the whole delegation, which had participated with comprehensive responses. She was also impressed by the positive spirit the delegation had showed in the constructive dialogue and the progress made by the State party in delivering action for economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee would provide additional recommendations to ensure the Covenant remained protected in Lithuania.
VYTAUTAS ŠILINSKAS, Vice-minister of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania and head of the delegation, said the dialogue had been very helpful, including in identifying weak spots. He acknowledged that there were important issues in Lithuania facing minorities, who represented 2.6 per cent of the population. Due to these important challenges, the Government was concerned about potential delays in the delivery of reforms, but it would be able to implement long-term reforms to help other categories of the population as well. The State party awaited the Committee’s recommendations, and would do its best to implement them.
MOHAMED EZZELDIN ABDEL-MONEIM, Committee Chair, said among the six State parties the Committee had examined, Lithuania had the highest per capita gross domestic product, but the smallest population. Becoming an economic giant was a great ambition, but sustainability needed to be considered. Non-discrimination, as the basis for human rights, required immediate implementation of the State party’s obligations.
Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the media;
not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.