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TWN Info Service on Finance and Development (Jul15/01)
1 July 2015
Third World Network

UN experts welcome Greek referendum on debt crisis
Published in SUNS #8053 dated 1 July 2015
 
Geneva, 30 Jun (Kanaga Raja) -- Two human rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council have welcomed the referendum scheduled to be held in Greece on 5 July on its current debt crisis.
 
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Independent Experts on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, and on human rights and international solidarity, Virginia Dandan, underlined that there is much more at stake than debt repayment obligations.
 
In this regard, they echoed a warning, issued on 2 June by the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, who had called on the European institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Greece to show courage and reach a deal on the Greek debt crisis that respects human rights.
 
"If there is no compromise, Greece may sooner or later default, making the crisis in Greece even worse. Economic and social rights could be further undermined in Greece by lack of flexibility and courage to find a mutually benefiting deal that respects human rights," he had said.
 
At stake are not only debt repayment obligations, but as well the very foundations on which the European Union is built: a union of nations that has respect for human rights, human dignity, equality and solidarity at its core, he added.
 
Mr Bohoslavsky had noted that the harsh conditionalities of the Greek adjustment programme have resulted in severe cut-backs in social spending, health care and education, raising concerns about the ability of the Greek government to ensure basic economic and social rights.
 
The austerity and reform policies implemented since 2010 have so far not been able to bring Greece back on track. They have rather deepened the social crisis in Greece, and clearly not stimulated the national economy to the benefit of the Greek population, he had said.
 
He had noted that unemployment has remained at 25 percent, affecting disproportionately women and young jobseekers.
 
According to latest available data, one out of two young adults is jobless. The number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion has increased to 35.7 per cent, the highest percentage in the Eurozone.
 
In their present statement, Mr De Zayas and Ms Dandan said: "All human rights institutions and mechanisms should welcome the Greek referendum as an eloquent expression of the self-determination of the Greek people in conformity with article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR] and in pursuance of article 25 ICCPR on public participation."
 
Indeed, they said, a democratic and equitable international order requires participation by all concerned stakeholders in decision-making and respect for due process, which can best be achieved through international solidarity and a human rights approach to the solution of all problems, including financial crises.
 
The rights experts said that it is disappointing that the IMF and the EU have failed to reach a solution that does not require additional retrogressive austerity measures.
 
"Some leaders have expressed dissatisfaction with the idea of holding a referendum in Greece. Why? Referenda are in the best traditions of democratic governance," they stressed.
 
"No one can expect the Prime Minister of Greece to renounce the commitments he made to the people who elected him with a clear mandate to negotiate a fair solution that does not dismantle Greek democracy and lead to further unemployment and social misery."
 
Capitulating to an ultimatum imposing further austerity measures on the Greek population would be incompatible with the democratic trust placed on the Greek Prime Minister by the electorate.
 
By nature, every State has the responsibility to protect the welfare of all persons living under its jurisdiction.
 
This encompasses fiscal and budgetary sovereignty and regulatory space which cannot be trumped by outside actors, whether States, inter-governmental organizations or creditors, the rights experts said.
 
Article 103 of the UN Charter stipulates that the Charter provisions prevail over all other treaties, therefore no treaty or loan agreement can force a country to violate the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of its population, nor can a loan agreement negate the sovereignty of a State.
 
The rights experts said that any agreement that would require such a violation of human rights and customary international law is contra bonos mores (against good morals) and hence null and void pursuant to Art. 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
 
"A democratic and equitable international order requires a commercial and financial regime that facilitates the realization of all human rights. Inter-governmental organizations must foster and under no conditions hinder the achievement of the plenitude of human rights."
 
Foreign debt is no excuse to derogate from or violate human rights or to cause retrogression in contravention of articles 2 and 5 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
 
The rights experts noted that in 2013, the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights had stated that the policy austerity measures adopted to secure additional financing from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank had pushed the Greek economy into recession and generally undermined the enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.
 
"This is the moment for the international community to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Greece, to respect their democratic will as expressed in a referendum, to proactively help them out of this financial crisis, which finds a major cause in the financial meltdown of 2007-08, for which Greece bears no responsibility," they said.
 
"Indeed, democracy means self-determination, and self-determination often calls for referenda - also in Greece," they added. +

 


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