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International debt architecture reform and human rights

The below questionnaire addressed to Member States and other stakeholders is meant to assist 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 elaborate a comprehensive report on the on international debt architecture reform and human rights. The report will be presented to the General Assembly during its 76th session in October 2021.

Published:
4 August 2021
Issued by:
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
Presented:
At 76th session of the General Assembly
Link:

Summary

In this report, the former Independent Expert focuses on international debt architecture reform and human rights, Ms Yuefen Li, by examining the weaknesses and limitations of proposed reforms and analysing past attempts at reforms.

The Independent Expert argues that, in order to respond to the unfolding debt crisis, it is imperative that any reforms prioritize social justice, equity and human rights and address structural issues, so as to prevent a vicious circle. Among many of its impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore a much needed discussion on reforming the international debt architecture to make it more effective and responsive to current and future challenges, especially in the developing world.

The Independent Expert sets a two-fold objective for this reform: first, the debt architecture should have the capacity to respond to debt crises in an effective and timely manner; and second, it should most importantly serve to prevent future crises. Upholding human rights should be an ultimate drive for the reform. The Independent Expert offers conclusions and recommendations to States and the international community.

Call for information and contributions

For the preparation of this report, the Independent Expert invited States, international financial institutions, NHRIs, civil society organizations, academics, networks, and other relevant stakeholders to share information, documents, statements or analysis to address the following topics, as relevant. If available, please provide information or analysis that might provide links of these issues to specific human rights legislation, policies or programmes. Deadline was 4 June 2021.

Responses can address some of the questions or all of them, as feasible or preferred. Please refer to the number of the question in your response for easier reference.

  1. Measures and steps already taken or planned regarding increasing liquidity provisions for countries to respond to the pandemic and address debt service burden.
  2. Measures and steps already taken or planned to address the high foreign and public debt because of the pandemic at national and subnational level.
  3. In the case that foreign debt repayments represent more than 15% of your Government’s annual budget, as approved by national law and internal mechanisms, what steps have been taken to ensure that the obligation to use the maximum of available resources for human rights is safeguarded in times of COVID-19 crisis?
  4. In the case that foreign debt repayments represent more than 10% of the country’s export revenues, what steps have been taken to ensure that the obligation to use the maximum of available resources for human rights is safeguarded in times of COVID-19 crisis?
  5. What measures and mechanisms have been adopted to protect the fiscal space required to respond to the exceptional needs of the population during the pandemic, in areas such as health, food, education and social security?
  6. How could assessments of a debtor’s capacity to repay its creditors incorporate the safeguarding of maximum available resources for human rights?
  7. If there are legal, policy or regulatory frameworks that can assert the primacy of access to essential services over the repayment of foreign debts, please explain and provide relevant documentation. 
  8. If available, what is your Government’s position/ Institution’s position with regard to the aspects of national and international debt architecture that need to be reformed in order to make it more robust?
  9. Which stakeholders should be consulted, at national and/or international level, in order to identify existing gaps in the international debt architecture? Why? What sort of mechanisms should be used for these consultations? What would be some of the benefits and shortfalls of consultation for the process?
  10. If your Government made use of the new measures by the G20 and IMF, what was the domestic process for consultation and approval of such a decision? What are the existing mechanisms and safeguards to ensure that decisions take into account consistency with human rights obligations?
  11. With regard to the G-20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), adopted in April 2020 and valid until June 2021: What have been the benefits and what have been the drawbacks of this initiative? If available, what is your Government’s position/ Institution’s position regarding how the DSSI could be improved, and why would this initiative need extension and improvement?
  12. One of the alternatives to supply needed emergency liquidity is through a new issuance of special drawing rights (SDR): How could a new issuance of SDRs be beneficial for your State in the short and mid-term?
  13. If available, what is your Government’s position/ Institution’s position with regard to the following issues:
    1. Debt cancellation
    2. How to ascertain how much debt relief should take place and to which States
    3. Multilateral framework for debt restructuring
    4. Market-based improvements to international debt architecture
    5. Independent international body on debt crisis resolution and prevention
    6. Reform of credit rating agencies
  14. According to your Government’s position/ institution’s position, how can changes on the global level of international debt architecture be reflected and consistent with international human rights obligations?

Inputs and contributions received

States

UN Agencies, Economic Commissions and other international organizations

Civil society organizations and networks

Academics and individuals