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Guiding Principles on foreign debt and human rights


Background

The Mandate of 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 was established by the United Nations Human Rights Council in its resolution 7/4 (2008). This resolution continued three mandates that had existed earlier: (a) the Independent Expert on structural adjustment policies (Mr. Fantu Cheru, 1997-2001); (b) the Special Rapporteur on the effects on foreign debt on the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights (Mr. Reinaldo Figueredo, 1998-2000); and (c) the Independent Expert on the effects of economic reform policies and foreign debt on the enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights (Mr. Bernards A.N. Mudho, 2002-2008).

In March 2008, the Human Rights Council appointed Mr. Cephas Lumina as 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. Resolution 16/14 (2011) extended his mandate.

In resolution 2004/18, the then Commission on Human Rights requested the Independent Expert on economic reform policies “to draft general guidelines to be followed by States and by private and public, national and international financial institutions in the decision-making and execution of debt repayments and structural reform programmes, including those arising from foreign debt relief, to ensure that compliance with the commitments derived from foreign debt will not undermine the obligations for the realization of fundamental economic, social and cultural rights, as provided for in the international human rights instruments, and to present a preliminary draft on this matter to the Commission at its sixty-first session and a final draft at the sixty-second session of the Commission.”

By its decision 2/109, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to convene an expert consultation for the purpose of contributing to the process of drafting the general Guidelines. The consultation was expected to provide: (a) an overall picture of how foreign debt and debt relief programmes, as well as different kinds of economic reform programme, impact on the capacity of States to comply with human rights standards; and (b) identify suggestions on possible recommendations to States, international organizations and other stakeholders regarding possible policy elements to promote and protect human rights in developing countries while implementing debt and economic reform programmes”.

Following the expert consultation, Mr. Mudho informally presented a preliminary draft of the guidelines to the seventh session of the Human Rights Council (March 2008), and noted in his report that the guidelines needed further consultation and work (A/HRC/7/9).

In subsequent resolutions (7/4, 11/5, and 12/119), the Council requested 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 to continue to work on the guidelines, including by seeking “the views and suggestions of States, international organisations, United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, regional economic commissions, international and regional financial institutions and non-governmental organisations”. The Council also called on OHCHR to assist the Independent Expert in the organisation and holding of regional consultations on the draft general guidelines.

Consultations on the Draft General Guidelines on Foreign Debt and Human Rights

With the support of OHCHR, the Independent Expert held four regional consultations on the draft general guidelines between June 2010 and June 2011 (Latin America and Caribbean in June 2010; Africa in November 2010; Asia Pacific in February 201; and Western Europe and other groups in June 2011). The purpose of the regional consultations was to generate ideas, based on regional experiences and perspectives, on the form and content of the draft guidelines with a view to improving them.
The regional consultations brought together government representatives, members of Parliament, regional economic commissions, individual experts, civil society organisations and other stakeholders to formulate ideas and recommendations on how best the guidelines could serve the purpose of assisting States and public and private, national and international financial institutions in the decision-making and execution of debt repayments and structural reforms programmes, including those arising from foreign debt relief, to ensure that compliance with the commitments derived from foreign debt do not undermine the obligations for the realisation of fundamental economic, social and cultural rights”. A report on the regional consultations was presented to the seventeenth session of the Human Rights Council in June 2011 (A/HRC/17/37).

In November 2011, the Independent Expert convened an expert meeting to review a new draft that he had prepared based on the insights from the regional consultations. In February 2012, he convened a public consultation in Geneva on the updated text of the guiding principles that had been prepared following the aforementioned expert meeting. Several States and civil society organizations participated in this consultation. The text of the principles was also placed on the Independent Expert’s web page together with an invitation for public comments. Several stakeholders, including States, international financial institutions, regional economic commissions, civil society organizations and individuals provided written comments on the new draft.

Final text of the guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights

The final text of the guiding principles were submitted and endorsed by the Human Rights Council in June 2012. It is the outcome of the broad and inclusive process of consultation outlined above.

Check the Guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights: E F S A R C

Check the resolution of the Human Rights Council endorsing the Guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights.

In June 2012 the Human Rights Council requested the Independent Expert to develop a commentary to the guiding principles by inviting comments from States, international financial institutions, regional economic commissions, civil society organizations, the private sector and academia (see HRC/RES/20/10).