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Lebanon: Decision to restructure debt “in line with human rights standards”, says UN expert

GENEVA (12 March 2020) – A UN expert expressed his support of the recent decision by the Lebanese Government to postpone its debt repayment and urged Lebanese authorities to put human rights at the centre of any future financial negotiations.

“In light of the human rights concerns expressed for months by the people in the streets of Lebanon, the decision of the Government to postpone the payment of its foreign debt is in line with human rights standards,” said Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights.

“State authorities correctly link the issue of foreign debt repayment to its impact on the economic and social rights of the Lebanese people. The primary duty of the State is to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of its population.” 

In a televised address announcing the decision on Saturday 7 March, Prime Minister Hassan Diab stated that Lebanon is stuck in a spiral of deficit and that half of the State's revenues go to servicing the debt rather than improving healthcare, education and infrastructures.

“Debt cannot be called ‘sustainable’ if the social and human rights dimensions are not taken into account. Projections of repayment capacities of borrowing States need to ensure that the obligations of States to protect economic, social and cultural rights can be effectively fulfilled,” Bohoslavsky said.

The UN expert urged the Lebanese authorities to consider the consequences of any future negotiations with creditors and financial institutions on the human rights of the population, including poverty and inequality.

“Creditors and debtors should engage constructively with Lebanon in debt relief and restructuring negotiations with the aim of safeguarding the Government’s capacity to meet its human rights obligations,” he noted. “A relevant tool in this context is certainly the Guiding Principles on human rights impact assessment of economic reforms.”

“A human rights approach to finance is crucial to sustainably address the legitimate demands that Lebanese people have expressed in the streets,” Bohoslavsky said.

ENDS

Mr Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (Argentina) was appointed as Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 8 May 2014. He has previously worked as a Sovereign Debt Expert for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) where he coordinated an Expert Group on Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing. He is independent of any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

The Independent Expert presented in 2019 the Guiding Principles on human rights impact assessment of economic reformsto guide States, international financial institutions and creditors in designing, formulating or proposing human rights compliant economic reforms.

Follow the Independent Expert’s work on Twitter: @IEfinanceHRs

UN Human Rights, Country Page — Lebanon

For more information and media requests, please contact: Mr Ciaron Murnane (+41 22 928 9390 / cmurnane@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9445 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter
@UN_SPExperts.

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