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Call for contributions: Thematic report on private debt and human rights


Background

The Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, is preparing a thematic report to the Human Rights Council on private debt and human rights. The report will be presented to the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in February / March 2020.

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.

Deadline and how to send submissions

Submissions can be sent to ieforeigndebt@ohchr.org by 31 July 2019.  By default, all submissions will be treated as confidential and the inputs received will not be attributed to specific individuals or organizations. However, if you would like your submission to be published on the Independent Expert’s official webpage, please explicitly indicate consent to publication in the submission.

If you would like to send your input via encrypted email, please send a message to ieforeigndebt@ohchr.org, requesting an encrypted communication.  If you have any concerns about digital security, you may wish to contact an organization working on these issues. The organization Access Now has a free digital security helpline to help keep individuals and organizations safe online. Inquiries can be sent to help@accessnow.org