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“Transparency and accountability” – UN expert urges DRC Government to audit the country’s debt

KINSHASA (5 August 2011) – The United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina, urged the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to undertake an audit of the country’s debt, as a first step to increase transparency and accountability in the management and use of public resources.

“The Government needs a clear picture of the country’s debt burden to lay the foundation for a transparent and effective public debt management system and avoid a renewed build up of unsustainable debt in the future,” said Mr. Lumina at the end of his ten-day fact-finding mission*.

In July last year, the country qualified for debt relief after completing the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries’ (HIPC) Initiative and was expected to have up to 80 percent of its external debt of $13 billion cancelled.

“I commend the Government for implementing policies that have led to a budget surplus this year and for attaining the completion point under the HIPC Initiative,” Mr. Lumina said. “These achievements will enable the authorities to improve the delivery of human rights-related basic social services, such as water, sanitation, education, health, and housing.”

However, the UN Independent Expert noted, corruption, a narrow revenue base and the fragile security situation in parts of the country remain significant challenges. “Sustainable development will not be possible without resolving them,” he stressed.

“As a party to international human rights treaties, the DRC must use its available resources for the realization of human rights,” the Independent Expert said highlighting his call for a public audit of the country’s debt. “However minimal the gains from debt relief under the HIPC Initiative, the rewards from economic progress must be shared by all on an equitable basis.”

Mr. Lumina also expressed serious concern about exorbitant ‘vulture fund’ claims, estimated at $400 million. He reiterated his “call on all States to take more robust international and national measures to tackle the scourge of vulture fund litigation.”

‘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, eroding the gains from international debt relief efforts.

Mr Lumina visited the DRC at the invitation of the Government from 25 July to 5 August 2011, to assess the impact of the country’s external debt on the capacity of the Government to ensure enjoyment of all human rights and to make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. A full report on the mission will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June next year.

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.

(*) Check the Independent Expert full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11285&LangID=E

Learn more about the mandate of the Independent Expert, please visit the websites: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Development/IEDebt/Pages/IEDebtIndex.aspx

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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