Botswana under UN pressure to sign cultural rights treaty

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes has expressed disappointment at Botswana’s failure to sign the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

In a report seen by APA on Wednesday, de Varennes noted that while Botswana is not a State Party to the ICESCR, various provisions of the country’s Constitution and other pieces of legislation implicitly recognise them.

“The Special Rapporteur is disappointed that the Government has not started progress in considering the signing and ratification of the ICESCR and its Optional Protocol,” de Varennes said.

He said the explanation of the government as to why the ICESCR and its Optional Protocol have not been ratified indicates that Botswana has the ambition to respect, protect and fulfil the rights contained within the covenant and already recognises the importance of some of the provisions within its national laws.

Fernand de Varennes

“Whilst Botswana may currently regard itself as being unable to ratify the ICESCR and its Optional Protocol as it is not yet in a position to implement the provisions therein, the Special Rapporteur makes clear that ratification of the ICESCR is a necessary step towards achieving the government’s ambition to ensure these rights,” de Varennes said.

The official said when he visited the southern African country, the government explained that “Botswana is not oblivious to the importance of the treaties”. 

“The ratification by Botswana of recommended treaties will always be undertaken when the country is in a position to implement the provisions of the different conventions,” he said.

The Botswana government has told the special rapporteur that it currently has no plans to ratify the ICESCR and its Optional Protocol.

De Varennes said the ICESCR is a framework to guide State Parties towards the progressive realisation of cultural rights.


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