Notes on Friday 5th June 2009-06-07
Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, the UN independent Expert of Human Rights and Extreme Poverty presented two reports to the Council, an annual report and a report on her visit to Ecuador. Both reports are concerned with the relationship between extreme poverty and human rights and aim to establish concrete initiatives to alleviate the situation of those living in poverty.
Mrs. Carmona addressed the cash transfer programs (CTP) that have been implemented in various regions such as Latin America, Africa and South Asia. These programs provide payments to those living in extreme poverty with the aim of improving their conditions. She stated that CTPs have been conceptualised by many states as effective tools for poverty eradication, the reduction of economic inequalities and the intergenerational transmition of poverty.
Mrs. Carmona asserted that CTPs have had significant benefits with regards to obtaining adequate standards of living, health and work. However she stated that CTPs are not necessarily the most appropriate or effective means of tackling extreme poverty and ensuring the protection of human rights. She emphasises the need to implement CTPs within a wider social protection system due to the multidimensional nature of poverty.
Her report stresses the necessity of ensuring that human rights are respected in the implementation of CTPs, and that this needs to be done in a fair and transparent manner.
With regards to Ecuador, Mrs. Carmona focused upon the adoption of a human rights-based approach to the elimination of poverty. She stressed that there is a continuing prevalence of socio-economic inequalities in Ecuador which are exacerbated by historically rooted differences between ethnic groups, regions and genders. She focused on the CTP in place in Ecuador, emphasising the need for the improvement of access to this program by indigenous groups for example.
Mrs. Carmona concludes her report by stressing the necessity of combining CTPs with broader social protections systems so as to ensure the promotion of universal access to social security.
Mr. Cephas Luminas, 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.
Focuses particularly on foreign debt as a human rights issue so as to establish best practices concerning these issues and to generate draft general guidelines on foreign debt and human rights to ensure that compliance with commitments arising from debt do not undermine the capacity of States to fulfil their human rights obligations.
Mr. Luminas proposed a preliminary conceptual framework which is premised upon the notion that foreign debt is a human rights issue because it entails the diversion of scarce national resources away from programmes aimed at improving a variety of social conditions.
He highlights the limits of current debt relief programmes and focuses upon Norway and Ecuador as creditor and debtor states.
Most importantly he highlights the lack of an internationally accepted definition of illegitimate debt. He emphasises the need to restructure the current global financial system, and the development of a framework for responsible financing.
Ecuador: The state has conducted an audit which has shown alarming outcomes with regards to debt, including huge inequities which have adversely affected much of the Ecuadorian population
Most states concur that while CTPs are effective to a certain extent, they are not a substitute for a comprehensive approach to alleviate the debt burden, and that the achievement of the MDGs are looking increasingly unlikely, especially in light of the current global economic crisis.
USA: asserts that debt is not necessarily a negative tool, and is concerned that a rights based approach to foreign debt could be problematic.
India: states that the challenge is to find a socially just and viable approach and that CTPs are necessary within its governments approach, and asserts each states autonomy in deciding the best manner in which to implement universal human rights principles.
Ghana: Raised the question of the interrelation between CTPs and civil and political rights and the implications of these relations.
Palestine: Stresses that the Palestinian economy is unable to develop and grow and that the exchange of goods and trade are severely restricted by the occupying power. The economy is being reduced to a state of total destitution and there is a lack of acknowledgment of this at the international level.
Brazil: calls for a reform of the IMF and World Bank so as to ensure appropriate multilateral policies, and highlights its high development index. It also states that CTPs are low cost initiatives, much less than 1 % of its GDP, and a useful tool especially in South-South cooperation to further human rights.
Egypt: States that debt servicing hampers poverty reduction attempts, and the impact of this is most acute in African countries which constitute the highest number of LDCs.
CETIM: Assert the need for debt audits to establish which debts are legal and illegal, and creditor states also need to examine obstacles and the effects of their policies upon their own populations as well as those of developing countries.
Dr. Luminas: emphasise this need for states to establish a voluntary set of standards that determine the illegality of particular debts, and advocates the cooperation of lending institutions such as the IMF and World Bank in establishing these standards.
Right of Reply
Sri Lanka: The government suggests that if there will be an examination of human rights abuses by the Council, then it is necessary to not only apply this examination to states such as Sri Lanka, but to also examine the abuses that began before this time, and to therefore not ignore those that were committed by states such as the United States or various European states amongst others. This is especially important because the normative goals of the Council are concerned with universality and therefore it is necessary to apply its principles to all member states unequivocally.
Brazil: criticises Alston’s report on extrajudicial summary, stating that there is data concerning the reduction of violence in Brazil, for example in research conducted by Sao Paolo University. Brazil thus asserts that Alston’s’ report is prejudiced and does not reflect the information that does exist concerning violence in Brazil.