IMF continues to disregard UN Human Rights Commission concerns about its surcharge policy

5 April 2023

In August 2022, responding to numerous serious concerns about the negative human rights consequences and legality of the IMF’s surcharge policy (see Dispatch Annuals 2022; Observer Spring 2022), nine UN Independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs sent a letter under the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva requesting a response to specific apprehensions outlined in the letter (see Observer Winter 2022). In a stark disregard for the international human rights system, the managing director has not yet responded to the request.

The refusal of key IMF shareholders, and in particular the US, to reconsider the policy contradicts both the IMF and its shareholder concerns about the global debt situation and economic and political instability. The policy also disregards statements from the G20, G24 and states such as Argentina and Barbados, which have called for a review and suspension of the policy, which also impacts Ukraine.

The lack of response from the managing director comes as the world celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. Within the context of the anniversary and given the urgency of action required, 495 civil society organisations sent a letter to the new UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Volker Türk, raising concerns about the human rights impacts of IMF policies and requesting that he encourage the IMF managing director to respond to the allegation letter.

Noting the lack of response from the IMF, UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights Attiya Waris stressed: “I remain concerned about the differentiated impact of the IMF’s surcharge policy on the ability of low-and middle-income countries to comply with their international obligations to progressively realize the human rights of their populations. Surcharges double down on countries already facing large liquidity constraints that are either close to defaulting on servicing their debt burdens or are buckling under the pressure of unsustainable levels of debt while increasing borrowing costs for them.”