GENEVA (29 March 2019) – “The realisation of economic, social and cultural rights in Mozambique should not be jeopardised by the servicing of the country’s debt and in particular its ‘secret loan’ component. Human rights and devastating impacts of Cyclone Idai must imperatively be considered in debt discussions,” says UN human rights expert Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky.
“I am extremely concerned about the impact of the disaster on human rights both in the short and long term. Human rights must be at the centre of efforts to deal with the cyclone’s consequences: the disaster should not deepen the debt crisis while debt repayments should not limit the necessary fiscal space for adequate response,” said the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights.
In 2013 and 2014, undisclosed Government-guaranteed loans, reportedly totalling US$ 2bn, were received by State-owned entities in Mozambique, without parliamentary approval and exceeding official public limits. Investigation and judicial proceedings are ongoing, and both debt restructuring and cancellation are being considered.
“In 2016, a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry concluded that the guarantees were illegal and unconstitutional, as in violation of the budget law. An audit also established that the process for providing the guarantees appeared to have been inadequate while also identifying potential conflict of interest,” the Expert explained.
Following the disclosure of the loans in 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a number of creditors suspended their financial support for Mozambique. Public debt was heightened. The IMF recently
stressed that Mozambique needs to achieve significant debt relief.
“The principle of
debt sustainability goes way beyond economic considerations: it includes a more comprehensive understanding of sustainability including respect for human rights and environmental issues,” Bohoslavsky said.
“I urge Mozambique and its creditors, including the IMF, to conduct a human rights impact assessment of debt strategies, potential debt relief programmes and restructuring, as well as of economic reforms recommended, such as further fiscal consolidation” he said, highlighting the Guiding Principles on
human rights impact assessments for economic reform policies.
“The impact of debt servicing on the realisation of human rights, and core values of transparency, public participation and accountability, must be considered in borrowing decisions.”
“Lenders have a duty to ensure that government officials are authorised under domestic law to enter into such agreements. In an
open letter to the Thun Group of Banks, I questioned the role of private financial institutions in evaluating lending risks linked to the lack of transparency, underlining important lacuna in discussions on human rights due diligence”.
“While sovereign debt contracts are binding obligations, exceptions do exist. Allegations of bribes and corruption that emerged when the secret loans came to light should be considered. In this context, loans allegedly taken out against rules aimed at ending corruption could be considered as void; and they should simply not be repaid.”
“Illicit financial flows are important concerns as they drain a significant portion of public resources and impact debt repayment. Combating bribery and corruption is essential to making greater progress in realising international human rights obligations. I thus strongly encourage the Government to step up ongoing efforts and ensure independent investigation of alleged corruption cases in Mozambique”
“In short, the secret loans should not and cannot be repaid,” the Expert concluded.
The issue was
brought to the attention of the Government, the IMF and Mozambique’s private creditors Credit Suisse and VTB in 2016.
Note: An unofficial translation of the Guiding principles on human rights impact assessment in Portuguese is now
Mr. Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (Argentina) was appointed as
Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and human rights by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 8 May 2014. He has previously worked as a Sovereign Debt Expert for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) where he coordinated an Expert Group on Responsible Sovereign Lending and Borrowing. He is independent of any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.
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