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Debt Relief in 1999: Only One Step on a Long Journey

By Eric A Friedman


According to a top official in the Clinton Administration, the 1999 Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, set forth by the world\u27s Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations in Cologne, Germany in June 1999, would have \u22an enormous impact on poorer countries, perhaps more than any other single action taken by the developed countries at any time.\u22 A United Nations Special Rapporteur on the effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights and an independent expert on structural adjustment had a markedly different opinion of the same initiative: \u22As it stands now, [this] initiative is grossly inadequate.. . .\u22- Despite their sharply contrasting views, these commentators would doubtless all agree on the gravity of the subject of the initiative: the large debts that many impoverished developing countries owe to wealthy countries and international financial institutions (IFIs). Indeed, while the world\u27s poorest countries spend tens to hundreds of millions of dollars-and in several cases, over one billion dollarsannually servicing their debts, large segments of their populations remain without access to minimal health care, education, nutrition, clean water, adequate shelter, and other human needs. Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), States Parties are legally obligated to guarantee access to minimum essential levels of these basic human rights, and to use all available resources to progressively achieve full enjoyment of such rights for all. By continuing to insist that poor States use their scarce resources for debt service payments, rather than for improved access to health care, education, food, and basic shelter for their impoverished populations, the international community becomes complicit in the wide-scale violation of human rights

Topics: Human Rights Law, Law
Publisher: Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository
Year: 2014
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