Argentina has shown resilience in the face of a chronic debt situation over the past 40 years as the country journeyed towards democracy, upholding of human rights and the strengthening of its social services, a UN expert said today.
“Argentina must maximise its resources to uphold human rights and prevent regression,” said Attiya Waris UN Independent Expert on foreign debt, international financial obligations and human rights, at the conclusion of a 10-day visit to the country.
“Argentina is rich in all types of resources (human and natural), and if well directed should take the State a long way in realizing its human rights obligations through pluralism and inclusion,” Waris said.
Sharing preliminary observations at the end of her visit, the expert said it was key to rebuild the people’s confidence in Argentina’s institutions and resources. “The State must lead by aligning public policy towards the realisation of human rights for its tapestry of diverse people,” she said.
The UN expert acknowledged that challenges remain. The burden of public debt that Argentina had acquired over the years, while useful to keep the economy stable, has not translated into corresponding human rights investments and rebuilding of livelihoods, Waris warned.
“The surcharges that Argentina has been required to pay in relation to public international debt have more than doubled the cost of the agreements, thus depleting the country’s resources that could be used to support public policy and programmes aimed at protecting and promoting human rights,” she said.
“With very high poverty levels in the country, lack of adequate communication across all parts of the country and declining living standards, the use of maximum available resources is called into question,” Waris said. “The situation is deteriorating daily due to soaring inflation, launching large projects, multiple exchange rate practices and a regressive tax system, largely reliant on VAT, that particularly affects people living under the poverty line, among them indigenous communities,” she warned.
The expert said budget cuts for education and housing programmes were consistent and concerning while support for indigenous communities was unstructured.
Waris commended efforts by the Argentinian authorities to achieve gender equality but expressed concern that the gender pay gap, disparities in women’s participation in the labour force as well as gender disparities in State institutions such as the judiciary had continued.
The expert also noted with regret the lack of accountability over the country’s history with public foreign debt. “All branches of the State should play a part in holding those responsible for taking on unsustainable debt to account and seek repatriation of state assets. Projects launched to generate revenue and repay the debt must have the informed and participatory consent of the people,” Waris said.
She also expressed surprise that the country had no truth-seeking mechanism to conduct investigations on the country’s debt-history and share the findings with the people. “Argentina’s debt problem dates back to the times of dictatorship, cutting across several different administrations. Yet despite efforts by the State to provide redress and reparation to victims of human rights violations committed during the dictatorship, it is surprising that a similar truth-seeking process has not been established to deal with the country’s history of debt,” Waris said.