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UN expert says human rights must shape economic policy in Tunisia

Tunisia democracy

28 February 2017


GENEVA –TUNIS (28 February 2017) – A United Nations expert today said that investment in economic and social rights would foster inclusive growth, prevent violent extremism and consolidate democracy in Tunisia.

Speaking at the end of an official visit to Tunisia, the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, noted that the Tunisian revolution of 2011 has resulted in significant improvements in civil and political rights, and that the liberties gained should now be consolidated by similar progress in the field of economic, social and cultural rights.

Mr Bohoslavsky stressed that the notion of social inclusive growth was absent in economic reform policies supported by international financial institutions during the period of the regime of former President Zine Ben Ali. The assumption, he said, was that economic growth alone would improve living standards. However, the reality was that many people were left out.

“Economic policies in Tunisia should be guided by the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and binding human rights obligations of Tunisia. Nobody should be left behind,” Mr. Bohoslavsky emphasized.

“International financial institutions, bilateral lenders and Tunisian authorities should make economic and social rights a priority and continue to support national efforts to combat corruption and illicit financial flows.”

He also stressed the importance of the international community living up to its obligations under the United Nations Convention against Corruption and ensuring a timely return of stolen public assets misappropriated during the Ben Ali regime in close cooperation with the Tunisian authorities.

“In no way should there be impunity for large scale misappropriation of public funds,” stressed Mr. Bohoslvaksy. “There must be accountability for severe financial crimes during the Ben Ali regime, and also for intermediaries that facilitated the flow of illicit funds.  The role of foreign lenders and donors which financially assisted the Ben Ali regime for many years should also be critically examined.”

Mr Bohoslavsky added: “Responsible lending and borrowing, transparency and public participation are crucial for ensuring that public resources are directed towards realizing human rights and the Sustainable Development Goals. Public debt should not create economic, social or political vulnerabilities, but contribute to inclusive social growth and development.”

“Human rights, social justice, and accountability should not be forgotten when setting an enabling environment for productive domestic and foreign investment. They are a prerequisite for inclusive growth,” the expert concluded.

Mr. Bohoslavsky, who visited the country at the invitation of the Tunisian authorities, met several Ministers, senior State officials and members of Parliament. He also held meetings with representatives of international financial institutions and international organizations, national human rights and anti-corruption bodies, civil society and academics.

His findings and key recommendations will be presented in a comprehensive report to a future meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.


Read his full end-of-mission statement 

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.  Before, he 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. His mandate covers all countries and has most recently been renewed by Human Rights Council resolution 25/16. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

The Special Rapporteurs 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 organization and serve in their individual capacity. 

UN Human Rights, country page: Tunisia 

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