25 June 2009
GENEVA – NEW YORK -- Two United Nations human rights experts* urge the UN General Assembly to adopt human rights as a framework for analysis, action and accountability in their responses to overcome the world financial and economic crisis.
The experts on extreme poverty and foreign debt submitted briefing notes for the General Assembly to take into account during the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development (New York, 24-26 June). They call on States to respond to the crisis “with measures that promote long-term recovery, focusing on the human rights of those suffering its worst effects.”
“Neglecting social protection pushes millions more towards poverty,” says Magdalena Sepúlveda
The crisis has revealed how neglecting the right to social security has left millions across the world trapped into poverty, claims the UN Independent Expert on extreme poverty. "US$18 trillion have been allocated to rescue financial markets," she says. "Such a unique demonstration of political will must be seen in contrast to the continuous failure to honour long-standing commitments to reduce poverty and inequality."
The crisis, she explains, offers an opportunity for States to strengthen their social protection systems in order to prevent more people from sliding into poverty and to contribute to economic recovery and growth. Urging States to set up long-lasting social protection systems, Ms. Sepúlveda encourages the adoption of the “Social Protection Floor”, as a step towards breaking “the myth that social protection is unaffordable and unworkable in low income countries”, recommending the establishment of a joint funding mechanism to support national social protection floors.
“States must address the debt problem through a human rights lens,” argues Cephas Lumina.
Countries which are already struggling to fulfill their basic human rights obligations will face increasingly difficult obstacles as national funds grow scarce, and conditions for contracting loans grow increasingly stringent, stresses the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt. Mr. Lumina highlights that the decline in income from exports and fiscal revenues due to the crisis will almost inevitably constrain countries to seek funds in the form of loans.
“States must address the indebtedness of low and middle-income countries as a matter of urgency and support the establishment of an international debt dispute resolution mechanism, as part of a longer term solution to the debt problem,” states Mr. Lumina. He also encourages “a revision of the Debt Sustainability Framework so that the ability or capacity of States to fulfill their human rights obligations is considered as part of the definition of debt sustainability.”
(*) Magdalena Sepúlveda, Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty; Cephas Lumina, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.
The complete text of the briefing notes can be found on the experts' respective websites:
Independent Expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/poverty/expert/index.htm
Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/development/debt/index.htm
For more information or interview requests, contact:
Mr. Marcelo Daher (extreme poverty): +41 22 917 94 31
Ms Vanessa Edwards (foreign debt): +41 22 917 91 98