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Thematic reports

A/75/164: Addressing, from a human rights perspective, the debt-related problems of developing countries caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic: report


07 July 2020

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Foreign and external debt


In the report, 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, Yuefen Li, looks into pre-existing debt vulnerabilities and the existing financing gap affecting efforts to contain the pandemic, highlighting the impact of debt on emergency response efforts of and resources available to States.

The report also provides an analysis of a series of proposed solutions aimed at tackling debt challenges in the context of the pandemic from a human rights lens and a discussion of various options available in that regard, including fiscal stimulus packages and emergency financing, as well as debt standstill, restructuring and cancellation.

The Independent Expert concludes that debt problems, especially those of developing countries, must be addressed as quickly and effectively as possible in order to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve and to prepare for an equitable, resilient, greener and sustainable economic and social recovery. She offers a set of recommendations for States, international financial institutions and other stakeholders, to enable them to address current debt challenges from a human rights perspective and prevent and mitigate future dire socioeconomic impacts.


This report is focused on debt servicing and debt sustainability of low income and developing countries in the context of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and its impacts on human rights.

Key questions

In order to facilitate responding to questions by Special Procedures, a joint questionnaire was developed including a list of common questions and specific thematic questions responding to information required by participating mandates.

It is available in English, French and Spanish. Questions of particular interest to the Independent Expert on debt and human rights are published on the last page.

To inform her report Ms. Li welcomed contributions from States, regional and local governments, international and regional organisations, International Financial Institutions, Regional Banks, national human rights institutions, civil society organisations, academics and other stakeholders, on the following issues:

  1. Did your Government benefit or have been allocating (as a creditor, lender or donor) any forms of debt alleviation including debt standstill, relief, moratorium, restructuring or cancellation. Was human rights a major consideration in making decisions and the use of the financial resources? Were there any specific groups at risks identified and if so, please detail specific measures considered to protect their human rights.
  2. How much additional resources have been deployed to deal with the pandemic and COVID-19 relief if applicable? If any forms of debt alleviation have been allocated/received, were there any adjustments made to social spending and COVID relief programmes? If so, please provide further details.
  3. In addition, have the debt repayment requirements pressed your Government to cut some of the social expenditures, including on health? If so, do you think that this has hampered the current response of the health system to the COVID-19 crisis?
  4. Going forward, what measures or policy recommendation are being considered by your Government/institution for economic recovery and debt sustainability and to prevent and mitigate human rights impacts of the COVID-19 economic fallout?

All submissions received are published on OHCHR website, except if confidentiality of the submission is explicitly requested.

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

Delivered To:

75th session of the General Assembly in 2020