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UN alert: freezing of public spending for 20 years in Brazil will violate human rights

09 December 2016
"This amendment would lock in inadequate and rapidly dwindling expenditure on health care, education and social security, thus putting an entire generation at risk of social protection standards well below those currently in place", says Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, Government plans to freeze social spending in Brazil for 20 years are entirely incompatible with the country’s human rights obligations. He alerts the poors will be the most harmed by PEC 55, proposal of an amendment to the Constitution that seeks to implement a fiscal austerity in Brasil.

"If adopted, this amendment would lock in inadequate and rapidly dwindling expenditure on health care, education and social security, thus putting an entire generation at risk of social protection standards well below those currently in place", Alston says in a press release.

"One thing is certain. It is completely inappropriate to freeze only social expenditure and to tie the hands of all future governments for another two decades. If this amendment is adopted it will place Brazil in a socially retrogressive category all of its own". 

The UN rapporteur acknowledges that the South American country is experiencing a sharp recession and an increase in unemployment rates, but believes the PEC 55 is "a radical measure, lacking in all nuance and compassion". According to Alston, this measure violates Brazil’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which it ratified in 1992, not to take ‘deliberately retrogressive measures’ unless there are no alternative options and full consideration has been given to ensure that the measures are necessary and proportionate. But, for him, this is not the case, so he recommends to the Michel Temer's Government that it estimates its impact on the poorest segments of society, and identifies alternative measures to achieve the goals of austerity.

Alston also recommends that the Executive ensures a proper public debate on the amendment, once it has been rushed through the National Congress by the new Government with limited participation by the groups affected, and without studying its impact on human rights.

"International economic studies, including research by the International Monetary Fund, show that fiscal consolidation typically has the short-term effect of reducing incomes, raising unemployment and increasing income inequality.  And in the long-term there is no empirical evidence to suggest that these measures will achieve the objectives suggested by the Government", says.

Alston’s appeal to the Brazilian authorities has been endorsed by the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Koumbou Boly Barry.

Read the press release in English and in Portuguese.

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