Greek Austerity Measures Could Violate Human Rights, Un Expert Says

kristy Reforming Global Finance

New York, Jun 30 2011 4:05PM
The United Nations independent expert on foreign debt and human rights
warned today that the austerity measures and structural reforms proposed to
solve Greece?s debt crisis may result in violations of the basic human
rights of the country?s people, the Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights (OHCHR) reported.

?The implementation of the second package of austerity measures and
structural reforms, which includes a wholesale privatization of state-owned
enterprises and assets, is likely to have a serious impact on basic social
services and therefore the enjoyment of human rights by the Greek people,
particularly the most vulnerable sectors of the population such as the poor,
elderly, unemployed and persons with disabilities,? said Cephas Lumina, who
reports to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

?The rights to food, water, adequate housing and work under fair and
equitable conditions should not be compromised by the implementation of
austerity measures,? he said, urging the Government to ?strike a careful
balance between austerity and the realization of human rights, taking into
account the primacy of States? human rights obligations.?

Mr. Lumina also called upon the authorities to maintain some fiscal leeway
to meet its people?s basic human rights, particularly economic, social and
cultural rights.

?Tax rises, public expenditure cuts and privatization measures have to be
implemented in such a way that they do not result in unbearable suffering of
the people,? he said.

?Debts can only be paid out of income,? Mr. Lumina said. ?A shrinking
economy cannot generate any revenue and contributes to a reduced capacity to
repay the debt. More time should have been allowed for the restructuring
measures already in place to work.?

The independent expert also called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
the European Union (EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB) to remain aware
of the human rights impact of the policies they design in attempting to
resolve the sovereign debt crises in Greece and other countries.

?There will be no lasting solution to the sovereign debt problem if the
human rights of the people are not taken into account,? said Mr. Lumina, who
serves in an unpaid capacity.
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