UN human rights expert calls for debt relief to boost inclusive growth in Greece

9 December 2015 by Office of the United Nations Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights

“After five years of adjustment policies, indicators tracking economic, social and cultural rights in Greece have not improved”, said the United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, concluding a visit to the highly indebted country.

The expert voiced concern that an estimated number of 2.5 million people is without health insurance and that public health services are frequently overburdened to ensure affective access to health care.

“The rights to work and social security are in a state of disarray”, said Bohoslavsky, noting that youth unemployment has remained at 47.9 per cent, while only 1 out of 10 of the registered unemployed persons receive unemployment benefits and that millions are left without basic social security.
Greece is one of the few countries in Europe that does not yet have a nationwide social security benefit of last resort.

Bohoslavsky stressed that 3.76 million people in Greece are considered at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and that the number of people facing material deprivation has nearly doubled between 2009 and 2014.

“It is justified to speak about a human rights and humanitarian crisis in Greece” said Bohoslvasky, adding that the country is as well ill-equipped to deal adequately with the largest refugee crisis facing Europe since the end of the Second World War.

“Both the Greek Government and the Eurozone countries must act now decisively to prevent that the social crisis undermines prospects for a successful economic reform.”

Bohoslavsky stressed that Greece and European countries have assumed binding obligations to protect human rights and guarantee essential minimum levels of economic, social and cultural rights. However human rights have been side-lined both in the design of adjustment policies and the implementation of much needed structural reforms.

Bohoslavsky called upon the Government of Greece and its European lenders to undertake a comprehensive human rights impact assessment of the adjustment programme that should as well include an assessment of what had gone wrong in the past.

“Greece needs debt relief in order to trigger socially inclusive growth”, said Bohoslavsky. “Debt relief should be turned into an investment package to boost the real economy through public investment in infrastructure, research, education.”

“The country needs a modern social welfare system that is just, efficient, sufficiently funded, targeted to those in need, and protecting core social, economic and cultural rights in a comprehensive and non-discriminatory manner.”

Greece is facing a challenging structural reform agenda. “It is hard to believe that such far-reaching reforms can be implemented effectively, if they appear to be imposed by lenders with the sole goal of repayment and the views of the Greek people are not seriously taken into consideration”, concluded the expert.

Mr. Bohoslavsky visited the country at the invitation of the Greek authorities. He met the Deputy Prime Minister and several members of the Greek Cabinet, senior Government officials, the Presidents of the Supreme Court and Council of State, members of Parliament and of other public institutions. He held as well meetings with representatives of the European Commission and IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

, national human rights bodies, civil society and academic experts.

His final findings and key recommendations will be presented in a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Read his comprehensive end-of mission statement

Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (Argentina) was appointed as Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 8 May 2014. Before, he worked as a Sovereign Debt Sovereign debt Government debts or debts guaranteed by the government. Expert for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
This was established in 1964, after pressure from the developing countries, to offset the GATT effects.

(UNCTAD) where he coordinated an Expert Group on Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing. His mandate covers all countries and has most recently been renewed by Human Rights Council resolution 25/16. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to:

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Greece: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/GRIndex.aspx



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