Header image for news printout

UN human rights expert calls for debt relief to boost inclusive growth in Greece

Greek version

ATHENS / GENEVA (8 December 2015) – “After five years of adjustment policies, indicators tracking economic, social and cultural rights in Greece have not improved”, said the United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, concluding a visit to the highly indebted country.*

The expert voiced concern that an estimated number of 2.5 million people is without health insurance and that public health services are frequently overburdened to ensure affective access to health care.

“The rights to work and social security are in a state of disarray”, said Bohoslavsky, noting that youth unemployment has remained at 47.9 per cent, while only 1 out of 10 of the registered unemployed persons receive unemployment benefits and that millions are left without basic social security.
Greece is one of the few countries in Europe that does not yet have a nationwide social security benefit of last resort.

Bohoslavsky stressed that 3.76 million people in Greece are considered at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and that the number of people facing material deprivation has nearly doubled between 2009 and 2014.

“It is justified to speak about a human rights and humanitarian crisis in Greece” said Bohoslvasky, adding that the country is as well ill-equipped to deal adequately with the largest refugee crisis facing Europe since the end of the Second World War.

“Both the Greek Government and the Eurozone countries must act now decisively to prevent that the social crisis undermines prospects for a successful economic reform.”

Bohoslavsky stressed that Greece and European countries have assumed binding obligations to protect human rights and guarantee essential minimum levels of economic, social and cultural rights. However human rights have been side-lined both in the design of adjustment policies and the implementation of much needed structural reforms.

Bohoslavsky called upon the Government of Greece and its European lenders to undertake a comprehensive human rights impact assessment of the adjustment programme that should as well include an assessment of what had gone wrong in the past.

“Greece needs debt relief in order to trigger socially inclusive growth”, said Bohoslavsky. “Debt relief should be turned into an investment package to boost the real economy through public investment in infrastructure, research, education.”

“The country needs a modern social welfare system that is just, efficient, sufficiently funded, targeted to those in need, and protecting core social, economic and cultural rights in a comprehensive and non-discriminatory manner.”

Greece is facing a challenging structural reform agenda. “It is hard to believe that such far-reaching reforms can be implemented effectively, if they appear to be imposed by lenders with the sole goal of repayment and the views of the Greek people are not seriously taken into consideration”, concluded the expert.
Mr. Bohoslavsky visited the country at the invitation of the Greek authorities. He met the Deputy Prime Minister and several members of the Greek Cabinet, senior Government officials, the Presidents of the Supreme Court and Council of State, members of Parliament and of other public institutions. He held as well meetings with representatives of the European Commission and IMF, national human rights bodies, civil society and academic experts.

His final findings and key recommendations will be presented in a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council.
(*) Read his comprehensive end-of mission statement at:

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. Learn more, log on to:

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. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Greece: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/GRIndex.aspx

For more information please contact:
Gunnar Theissen (+41 22 917 9321 / gtheissen@ohchr.org) or write to ieforeigndebt@ohchr.org
For media requests please contact Dimitrios Fatouros (+32 2 788 84 68 / fatouros@unric.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

For your news websites and social media: Key messages about our news releases are available on UN Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles
Twitter: UNrightswire
Facebook: unitednationshumanrights
Google+: unitednationshumanrights
Youtube: unohchr