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Greece: UN rights expert to assess impact of austerity measures

GENEVA (17 April 2013) – United Nations expert Cephas Lumina will visit Greece from 22 to 27 April 2013 to assess the impact of the austerity measures adopted in response to the country’s current economic crisis on the realization of human rights. This is the first fact-finding mission to Greece by an independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the impact of foreign debt and related policies on the enjoyment of human rights.

“I will evaluate the impact of economic reforms agreed between the Government of Greece and the Troika (the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) on the enjoyment of all human rights,” said Mr. Lumina, who will look into reports of reduced access to essential public services, increased poverty, homelessness and attacks on foreigners in the context of the country’s economic crisis.

“The economic crisis in Greece and the austerity measures, structural reforms and privatization of State assets imposed under several bail-out packages have contributed to an unprecedented rise in unemployment, particularly of the younger generation, and reports point to increased levels of poverty as well as reduced access to basic social services such as healthcare, education and social security,” he noted.

“My visit will provide an opportunity to gather first-hand information about the difficulties the country is facing and propose strategies designed to enhance the ability of the State to ensure the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights,” the expert said

The Independent Expert stressed the need to strike a careful balance between austerity and the realization of human rights, given the primacy of States’ human rights obligations. “Even in times of austerity basic social services need to be assured for all people in Greece, in particular, for the most vulnerable sectors of the population such as the poor, elderly, unemployed and persons with disabilities,” he said.

Mr Lumina, who visits the country at the invitation of the Greek authorities, will meet with senior Government officials, including representatives of various Ministries and members of Parliament. He will also hold meetings with representatives of international organizations, national human rights bodies and civil society, as well as persons affected by the economic crisis.

The Independent Expert will hold a press conference to share the preliminary findings of his visit on Friday, 26 April 2013 at 13:00 at the Divani Palace Acropolis Hotel, 19-25 Parthenonos, 11742 Athens.

His final findings and key recommendations will be presented in a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014.

Cephas Lumina is an Advocate of the High Court for Zambia and an Extra-Ordinary Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Pretoria. He has extensive experience in human rights and holds a PhD in international human rights from Griffith University. He 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 United Nations Human Rights Council in 2008. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. The mandate covers all countries. Learn more, log on to:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Development/IEDebt/Pages/IEDebtIndex.aspx

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

Read the Independent Expert’s statement on Greece (June 2011): “Keep in mind the people’s basic human rights” -
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11195&LangID=E

For more information and media requests please contact:
Gunnar Theissen (+41 22 917 9321 / + 41 79 444 3993, during the visit / gtheissen@ohchr.org) or write to ieforeigndebt@ohchr.org
Dimitri Fatouros (+32 2 788 84 68 / greece@unric.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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