Financial crisis : “Iceland managed better than others, but no one should be left behind” – UN rights expert

REYKJAVIK / GENEVA (15 December 2014) – Other countries can learn from Iceland’s management of its financial crisis, the United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, said today at the conclusion of his first official fact-finding visit* to the country.
“The adjustment policies implemented in Iceland were largely implemented in a manner that ensured respect for core social and economic rights,” Mr. Bohoslavsky noted. “However, access to social security benefits of last resort should be on an equal and fair footing.”
“More attention is required to address difficulties that immigrants face reintegrating into the labour market,” the human rights expert said. “Targeted further debt relief is still needed for a relatively small number of poor and highly indebted households.”
“A society that is rightly proud of its comprehensive social welfare system and highly values children and the family, should not tolerate that the risk of children growing up in poverty is still higher than that of adults,” the Independent Expert underlined.
Mr. Bohoslavsky drew attention to Iceland’s particular response to the crisis that included accountability and citizens’ participation, referring to snap elections, referenda, the prosecution of bankers, and the work of the Parliamentary Special Investigative Commission that investigated the causes of the banking collapse.  
Immediately after the crisis, the expert said, the Icelandic Government established Welfare Watch -an independent body with representatives from all relevant Ministries, municipalities, trade unions, employers and civil society organizations- to  monitor the social impact of the crisis and regularly submitting recommendations to Parliament and other institutions.
“Further enhancing the regulatory framework and the institutional design of oversight on the banking industry, enhancing laws on governmental officials’ accountability and strengthening judicial independence are certainly changes that would contribute to the prevention of a similar crisis,” Mr. Bohoslavsky said.
“Yet, it is also necessary to reflect on the driving forces of the colossal over-borrowing that lead an entire country into the crash,” the UN Independent Expert stressed.
During his visit to Iceland the expert met senior officials from Ministries and other state institutions, Members of Parliament, ombudspersons, the President of the Supreme Court, the Special Prosecutor, and representatives of the Central Bank, the Financial Supervision Authority, the International Monetary Fund, representatives of municipalities, the banking industry, former bankers and their lawyers, civil society organizations and scholars.
His final findings and key recommendations will be presented in a comprehensive report to the UN Human Rights Council next year.