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Time to Align Financial Institutions With Human Rights

HRW Oral Statement - ID on the OHCHR Report on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and COVID-19 Recovery - HRC54

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High Commissioner,

We welcome your vision for reinforcing the Office’s work on economic, social and cultural rights and your reflections on the impacts of the debt crisis on the realization of rights and the reforms to the international financial architecture needed to address inequalities and align economies with human rights.

Human Rights Watch has documented how international financial institutions are failing to support economies rooted in human rights. Next week, we will publish a report documenting how IMF loans that affect over 1 billion people pose a threat to rights.

The report finds, for instance, that over half of programs approved between March 2020 and March 2023 contain or reduce public wage bills that can reduce access to public services such as healthcare and education. Over half seek to increase revenues from value-added taxes that raise the cost of goods and services essential to rights.

As the IMF and World Bank are getting ready for historic annual meetings in Marrakech in October, we urge states to carry to that meeting three simple, feasible, demands that could radically improve the impact of the IMF’s programs on rights. The IMF should:

  1. Embed its approach in the realization of human rights, in particular by systematically conducting and publishing human rights impact assessments.
  2. Redesign social spending floors to align with human rights and avoid trade-offs between different areas of social spending.
  3. Commit to universal social security and avoid promoting means-tested programs.

High Commissioner, in your view what could the World Bank and IMF do to ensure their policies better align with human rights?

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