New book addresses shortcomings of traditional approaches to debt and economics 

13 December 2023

A new book edited by Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, former UN special rapporteur on debt and human rights, and Mariana Rulli of Argentina’s National University of Rio Negro, titled Sovereign Debt and Feminist Political Economy, lays out a feminist take on issues of sovereign debt.

The book contains chapters by Francisco Cantamutto, Agostina Costantino, Dorothy Estrada Tanck, Iolanda Fresnillo, the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, Corina Rodríguez Enríquez, among many others.

Professor Diane Elson of Essex University authored the book’s prologue and explained during the launch on 25 October that the book counterposes “the rights of international creditors to the human rights of people living in debt-distressed countries, proposing that human rights should take precedence” (see Observer Winter 2023). Bohoslavsky noted the edited volume covered the gendered human rights impacts of austerity, a measure imposed on Global South states by the IMF to help them satisfy the profit-driven demands of their creditors rather than the human rights of their own populations (see Observer Summer 2023, Winter 2022, Winter 2022).

Elson said that promoting women to positions of leadership, as advocated by the IMF in its current gender strategy released in July 2022, would not resolve the gendered human rights impacts of austerity, as it does not address structural barriers to gender equality. For instance, IMF policies often ignore the unpaid care economy, which is vital for social reproduction and props up entire economies (see Observer Winter 2019). An Oxfam report launched in August noted that 65 per cent of women’s overall working hours are unpaid, which is a hidden subsidy to the market economy. Meanwhile, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates unpaid care is worth between 10 and 39 per cent of countries’ GDP.