Does a Contract That Violates Human Rights Have Any Legal Standing?

Poverty in Athens

The situation that has developed in Greece is a fascinating example of how commercial contracts, and within that MONEY, oftentimes (EVERY TIME?) takes precedence over Human Rights, even though international laws dictates that it should be the other way around. In this article I will expand on the possibilities that exist within international law to repudiate and cancel debt contracts when these makes it difficult for the debtor to fulfill its Human Rights obligations.

For starters, lets recap on the situation in Greece. What has happened is that the country, for various reasons, has accumulated a substantial amount of debt. Greece was close to defaulting on its outstanding debt and many private creditors were exposed to great risk. That is when the European Central Bank, the IMF and the European Union, otherwise known as the Troika, decided to step in. The Greece government apparently received bailout funds to handle their debts, however, these monies were only used to bailout the private creditors and transfer the risk of the debt to the Troika. As such, what happened was that the bonds switched owners – and much private debt was transformed into public debt; the winners being the private creditors, aka banks, and the losers being, the public.

For Greece to be eligible to the alleged ‘rescue packages’ it had to agree to implement structural adjustment programs, and within that enforce measures of austerity. In a less refined language, we would call that, forcibly living in dirt poor conditions to save up money, to pay of the pissed of creditor, otherwise he will hurt you. And these agreements were signed in 2010 and 2011 respectively, and in 2013, the Human Rights Council evaluated the conditions of Greece and how the adjustment programs had affected the people of Greece [1]. And then in 2015, we have a report submitted by the Truth Committee on Public Debt, a committee created by the Greece Hellenic Parliament with the purpose of investigating the debt of Greece [2]. Both these papers tell a similar story, that Greece is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis – and the reason – paying back debt. Does this make any sense?

It is no exaggeration to say that the situation in Greece has gotten completely out of hands, literally speaking, and that there has been substantial damages made to the economical and social fabric of the nation. Peoples access to housing, health, nutrition, education, freedom of expression and assembly, judicial services, and primarily WORK have diminished significantly. Greece’s GDP have lessened with 20%, and there is no bright future ahead, rather the GDP is expected to continue its downward spiral – because in trying to pay back the debt Greece have been forced to cut back on A LOT of public spending. 150 000 public sector jobs have been cut, pensions have been cut, wages have been cut, benefits have been cut, and as the economic freedom dwindles, so does the ability for the average Greece citizen to consume, which in turn affects the entrepreneurs negatively. In summary, Greece is going downhill, and with that, Greece’s ability to fulfill its international commitments on ensuring Human Rights for its citizens [3]. And here comes the interesting question: Can a contract, and more specifically a debt, be suspended or cancelled, because that very contract directly, or indirectly makes it impossible for the creditor to fulfill its obligations under international law to respect Human Rights?

According the International Law, Yes it is in-fact possible to suspend or cancel a debt with reference to Human Rights. The 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, Cephas Lumina, expressed himself this way:

It is increasingly accepted that non-State actors including international financial institutions, have obligations to ensure that their policies and activities respect international human rights standards. This obligation implies a duty to refrain from formulating, adopting, funding, promoting or implementing policies and programmes that directly or indirectly impede the enjoyment of Human Rights.

If you look at the point, it is common sense, that in order for Human Rights to be realized, commercial agreements must be subservient to Human Rights. If commercial agreements, and within that, debt contracts, are allowed to take precedence, then we will end up with situations as the one in Greece, where fundamental Human Rights are violated in the name of money. To have your debt repaid is obviously NOT a human right, and one can in-fact argue, that the creditor should always stand the risk that the debtor cannot or refuse to repay the loan, as that way, credit will not be awarded carelessly and without thorough research on the potential debtor.

Looking at Greece’s current creditors, the European Union, and the European Central Bank, we can conclude that both of these non-State actors are bound the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. And in the charter we find the Right to Work, the Right to Fair and Just Working Conditions, a Right to Health Care, which involves a high level of human health protection and that shall be pursued in all the Unions policies and activities – and as was mentioned previously – all of these rights have been severely compromised through the austerity measures imposed on Greece. Hence, it is possible to argue that the European Union and the European Central bank in-fact are obligated under EU-law to forgive the debt, or at least, stop all imposed measures of austerity.

The Human Rights are clear, however, as per usual, the fault is not with the legal instruments, but rather with those that interpret and apply them. We can write a ton of Human Rights Laws, that sound super cool on paper, yet if we do not make an effort to live by and realize these words, they are useless. Thus, for Human Rights to become a reality, they must be actively considered in all political decisions, and not just looked at as an ideal to hopefully be realized sometime in the future. In-fact, Human Rights should be the very foundational elements of our political system, the principles that determine each action and each decision – because we ALL know – that when Human Rights are compromised – People will Suffer.

And this brings me to the last point, our responsibility as ordinary citizens. Because it is interesting to notice that surveys done on Germans, as to whether Germany should forgive Greece’s debt, indicates that the general opinion is that there should be no forgiveness of the debt [4]. Many Germans, which are part of the nation that have the highest amount of outstanding debt to Greece, and thus stand to loose the most if Greece’s debt would be forgiven, feel that they have a right to their money – and that the austerity measures are just because Greece deserve it. However, what is not understood is that Human suffering can NEVER be justified on the basis of commercial principles, regardless of the amount of outstanding debt. The fact of the matter is that the moment we accept and allow ourselves to stand for what is apparently fair, and just, we disregard what is BEST for all – which might not be that which is just or fair. Look at it like this, the children born in today’s Greece, do they bear any guilt in the debt of Greece? Is it just and fair, and is it BEST, that they grow up in horrendous living conditions, only to repay a debt connected to money they have never benefited from?

Forgiveness is the way forward – forgiveness and honoring our Human Rights. That way we can create a world that is safe, were we all can feel secure in facing and waking up to a new tomorrow, as we know that regardless of what might happen, our basic needs are respected.

[1] Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent Export 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, Cephas Lumina, 2014 (http://cadtm.org/IMG/pdf/A_HRC_25_50_Add1_AEV.pdf)

[2] Truth Committee on Public Debt, Preliminary report, 2015 (http://cadtm.org/IMG/pdf/Report.pdf)

[3] Politaki, Alex, The Guardian, Greece is facing a humanitarian crisis, 2013 (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/11/greece-humanitarian-crisis-eu)

[4] McHugh, Jess, International Business Times, Greek Crisis: Young Germans React With Solidarity, Anger to Greece Debt Problem, 2015 (http://www.ibtimes.com/greek-crisis-young-germans-react-solidarity-anger-greece-debt-problem-2001511)

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Living On Stolen Money – Decision or Consequence?

VehicleCrime350A life of crime is two-part documentary (I’ve posted embeds of the videos in the bottom of the post), where a filmmaker follows some criminals during two periods in their lifetime. The first time he meets them they are in their late twenties and still quite strong and vigorous, and they are sustaining themselves through shoplifting. In part two he meets them when they are in their middle thirties and life has begun to take a toll on them.

What is so interesting about this documentary is that it reveals the mindset of the criminals, the WHY of their decision to become criminals. Several times throughout the documentary they exclaim that they are able to make much more money through stealing than through having a regular job. Working one day as a shoplifter makes them around 3000 dollars, while working one day at McDonald’s makes them about 80 dollars. Thus, what is clear is that these people are not driven by some form of bad moral, or psychopathic desire to cause harm to others. No – in-fact these shoplifters are economist’s showing to us what kind of consequences our current economic system create.

It’s obvious that thieves, shoplifters and burglars are not an incident or mishap, they are consequence, they are not an anomaly, they are a predictable outcome – the result of an equation. For those of us that have led a life of money, it’s hard to relate to and understand what goes through a person’s mind when he or she decides to become professional shoplifter, because most of us born in economically stable environments would perceive it as immoral, wrong and barbarian. However, for someone born at the very low end of the hierarchy theft and a criminal life is a way of escaping a permanent sentence to a life poverty, and hard work.

Economists would probably agree with me, because it’s simple mathematics, when there is no support for those at the bottom, no hope for a better life, no ability to rise and build a life for oneself, then crime is a way out = supply and demand = cause and effect = problem and consequence.

Thus, realize, when crime rise, it’s not something bad, it’s actually an indication that something is very, very wrong with society, and that there are some drastic changes required. Realize that when prisons are filled to the brim with people, then we have a sick society, and that sickness can be traced back to the unequal distribution of money and resources.

This is where we require embracing a paradigm shift, because in order to make our lives better, our society more safe, our life experiences more rewarding, we must learn to give – we must learn to give, as we’d like to receive. Most of us have extremely difficult to grasp this concept, and when confronted with it, we shiver and turn inside, immediately out of our mouths comes the statements that “it’s unfair!” – “they should work for their money!” – “we can’t change that!” – “there will always be crime!” – but see, this is not common sense, this is assumptions, ideas, projections, and in actuality useless opinions that have no significance in terms of how reality actually works.

The fact is that, when we make the decision to give all an equal opportunity to make something worthwhile of themselves in this world, we are doing ourselves a significant favor. We will in doing that release so much pressure, fear, and society will become a completely different place, where crime will be significantly less.

One of the solutions we’re able to implement is a minimum wage, and not just any minimum wage, but a big minimum wage with which one can buy luxurious items, start a family and make one’s life comfortable and enjoyable. Manual labor such as working for McDonald’s, or similar, shouldn’t be awarded with a salary that merely puts one on the breadline. Instead dedicating oneself to contributing to society should be awarded amply; it should be more profitable to live honestly than to make living as a criminal.

So, the key to designing a successful society is to ask us the question WHY? Because everything that happens in this world does so for a reason – our physical reality is filled with equations and these in turn produce various results, and through changing the variables, we’ll change the result.

Investigate the Living Income Guaranteed and allow yourself to step up and become a social engineer, question the movement of your daily life, what happens, why it happens, and how it could be changed in such a way that all are included. Because it’s clear that – there are SOLUTIONS – we must simply be brave enough to see and apply them.

Are We Really Free?

I’ve for some time now been studying law, and in about a year and a half I’ve actually completed the entire education, and this places me in a position of considering what type of direction I should go into after I’m done, in terms in terms of finding a job.

I’ve thus been researching this point quite extensively for a couple of months and the conclusion I’ve made is that, in essence, there are no good jobs out there, most of them are difficult and arduous. Some jobs are easy to do, yet you get a low pay at the end of the month. Other jobs seems more stressful and demanding, yet they pay higher at the end of the month – yet regardless of what kind of job I select – the fact remains that I will have to spend at least 8 hours, 5 days every week, working away.

mmw_psychology_free_willThis place into question the notion we in the western world have of freedom and free-choice – because looking at this point that stands before me, can I in self-honesty say that I have a choice in regards to whether I work or not? The obvious answer is NO – there is absolutely no choice – because if you do not make sure that you have a stable income in this world then you’re simply not allowed to continue existing and we’ve thus developed a invisible form of slavery – where the slave-master is money and where we’re constantly running around trying to make sure we have the acceptance of this invisible money god.

It’s also not possible to say the freedom exists for those lucky few that have managed to accumulate so much wealth that they do not have to work a single hour more in their life – because these people are just as much as everyone else a prisoner of their own fear, a prisoner of their own greed – unable to live for real because they fear what they might loose.

We’ve thus, as humanity, managed to create a economic system that limits us as individuals, and that places us into these very small individual worlds where we are completely alone with ourselves and our fear – where we care for nothing else but ourselves and our fear – fascinating isn’t it?

What is even more fascinating is that most people will defend our current monetary system tooth and nail believing that it sets them free – not realizing that they are speaking in fear, defending their fear, honoring their fear, and strengthening the walls of their own prison.

What I’ve often heard is that, apparently, this system is based upon conscientiousness, because when there is a demand someone by their free will make sure to supply. Really, let’s take a look at it – do human beings supply by their own free will, or do they supply for the sake of their survival?

For example, why does porn exist? Some will say that it exists because there is a demand for it and naturally there will be a supply – though if all the young women that now seek their way into porn would’ve been economically stable, would there then have been such a constant stream of “new flesh” arriving into the porn industry, as we see today? Is it really a rational economical decision made by these woman based upon considering a career in porn, it’s effects and consequences? Is it really true that the demand for porn creates a supply of porn actresses?

No, it’s not true – because what creates a supply even to the most outrageous and immoral of demands is fear of survival and lack of economic stability – socioeconomic situations that push people into the most degrading of the circumstances just so that they can earn their living and survive and obviously there is no freedom what-so-ever to find in this – it’s just plain abuse.

What is important to understand is that our current economic system doesn’t work, it has never worked, and it will never work – it might seem to work for some people, though those some people are in minority and are able to prosper only because those born in less lucky conditions make it possible through their slavery.

Why then not change the system? Who has the power to change the system? Who has been part in co-creating this system?

The answer is YOU!

Thus, please make your voice heard and place your vote for a new economic system where we can give everyone the freedom that they deserve – from birth till death – investigate the Living Income Guarantee.