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Private debt and human rights

The report on private debt and human rights (A/HRC/43/45) was presented at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council.

The report is available here:


In many countries of the world, private debt is growing fast, including not only business debt, but also consumer debt such as student loans, medical debt, micro debt, housing debt, and credit card debt. Such growth of private debt is not only a microeconomic concern, but also a macroeconomic issue. Some evidence indicates that deepening financialization and rapid private debt growth can lead to further economic inequality and financial crises, and impede economic growth.

Furthermore, private debt raises a number of concerns from a human rights perspective. It has come to the attention of the Independent Expert that private debt entraps many people in a cycle of debt and poverty, as they struggle to make loan repayments and to afford their basic needs, such as food, water, housing and electricity. There are also reports about aggressive and abusive debt collection practices, including the use of psychological and physical intimidation and violence. In some jurisdictions, debtors may be arrested and imprisoned for unpaid debt, or threatened with such. At a macro-level, adverse macroeconomic conditions attributed to an excessive level of private debt may limit resources necessary to progressively realize economic, social and cultural rights. 

Call for contributions

The Independent Expert would like to invite all interested governments, civil society organizations, academic, experts, businesses, and other stakeholders to provide inputs for his next report.

While all submissions are welcome, the Independent Expert is particularly interested in receiving case studies, information on theoretical developments, analysis and comments on general trends, or on one or more of the following issues:

1. What human rights concerns might arise in connection with private debt, which includes, but is not limited to:
a)Mortgage loans;
b)Student loans;
c) Debt arising from out-of-pocket medical costs;
d) Debt arising from fines and fees charged by State and local governments; 
e) Unpaid utility bills;
f) Credit card debt; and
g) Microfinance debt.

2. What are the implications of private debt on macroeconomic conditions and public debt? How does it affect States’ obligation to use maximum available resources to progressively realize human rights?

3. What is the impact of private debt on the enjoyment of human rights by specific groups such as women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, minorities, LGBTI and other groups specially protected under international human rights law?

4. What are the consumer protection, monetary, financial, banking and bankruptcy practices and regulations that govern and should govern private debt, in order to ensure the effective protection of human rights?

Respondents are requested to limit their comments to a maximum of 2,500 words. Additional supporting materials, such as reports, academic studies, and other types of background materials may be annexed to the submission.

Contributions received



Civil Society