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DRC / International development: first mission by UN expert on foreign debt and human rights

GENEVA (22 July 2011) – UN Independent Expert Cephas Lumina will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 25 July to 5 August 2011 to assess the impact of foreign debt on the realization of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in the country.

The UN Independent Expert’s mission takes place in a context in which debt relief provided to the resource-rich country represents potentially a unique opportunity to improve the delivery of basic social services to the people of the DRC. Mr. Lumina will focus on learning from the Government how it intends to make use of this situation.

“I will also explore the impact of the global financial crisis on the country’s debt burden and the effect of vulture funds litigation on the capacity of the State to honor its human rights obligations,” Mr. Lumina said. “Vulture funds exploit the voluntary nature of international debt relief schemes by acquiring defaulted sovereign debt at deeply discounted prices and then seeking repayment of the full value of the debt through litigation, seizure of assets or political pressure.”

The upcoming visit will be the first fact-finding mission to the country by an Independent Expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the effects of foreign debt on human rights.

During his twelve-day visit, Mr. Lumina will meet with Government officials, donor countries and with civil society representatives. He will also have discussions with international financial institutions, development agencies and academics.

A press conference on the preliminary conclusions of the visit will be held on Friday, 5 August at 9 am, at the headquarters of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Congo.

At the end of his mission, Mr. Lumina will prepare a report containing recommendations on how best development policies, programmes and practices could be more sensitive to human rights and effectively advance human development in the country.

Mr. Lumina was appointed ‘Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights’ by the Human Rights Council in 2008. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. The mandate of the Independent Expert covers all countries.

Learn more about the mandate of the Independent Expert, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/development/debt/index.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Democratic Republic of Congo: http://ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ZRIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Mr. Boris-Ephrem Tchoumavi (Tel: +41 79 752 0481 / email: betchoumavi@ohchr.org or ieforeigndebt@ohchr.org) or Ms. Biriyai Theophilus (Tel: +243 0818993815 / email: theophilus@un.org).

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