UN letter of allegation outlines concerns about the impact of IMF surcharge policy on human rights

8 December 2022

On 26 August, nine UN Independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs sent a letter to the IMF managing director expressing concerns “with the impact of the surcharge policy on the enjoyment of the human rights in affected countries.” The letter was sent under the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council.

The IMF has to date deemed the communication unworthy of a response. A group of 350 civil society organisations (CSO) and experts sent a follow-up letter on 22 November calling on the IMF board to guarantee a response and address the contradiction between “its stated support for a just transition and its actions.”

This letter was part of a wider CSO campaign aimed at ending IMF’s surcharge policy, which – in line with what the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings 2022 G24 communiqué stated (see Dispatch Annuals 2022) – has proven to be counter-productive, unfair, unnecessary and in contravention of international human rights law (see Observer Spring 2022). This is especially true in the current context where an increasing number of climate-vulnerable countries may resort to the Fund for help to recover from climate disasters.

Former UN Independent Expert on Debt and Human Rights Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky noted that, “The IMF has the obligation to respond to the requirements of mandate holders since it is part of the United Nations system…. You cannot afford not to answer if the questions you are asked are difficult to answer, as would be the request to justify surcharges.”

Argentina and Barbados are already calling for a review of the policy, and the November G20 Indonesia statement also voiced support towards continuing “the discussion of the IMF surcharge policy.”