IMF policies undermine human rights, says UN expert

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The International Monetary Fund's lending policies are undermining United Nations human rights and development goals, an independent expert commissioned by the UN said Wednesday.

In nations facing poverty and health crises, the global crisis lender's conditions on support can weaken social spending and hinder countries' respect for human rights, increasing unemployment, lowering labour standards and harming public health and the environment, according to a report by the expert.

"The human rights dimension in lending can no longer be ignored," said its author, Alfred de Zayas, appointed by the UN's Human Rights Council and tasked with promoting fairness in the international order.

"I deplore the fact that the lending practices of the international financial institutions sometimes go against the aims of the United Nations, not just in the field of human rights, but also in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals."

In his report, de Zayas said the IMF insisted on aggressive privatization and austerity measures. Following political crises and in times of debt and economic distress in Greece, Argentina and Tunisia, the report said, IMF policies imposed "extreme conditions" that required cuts to social spending while millions lacked health care or were jobless but not receiving unemployment benefits. This year, according to de Zayas, the IMF suspended loan disbursals to Tunisia while demanding the privatisation of state-owned banks and the abolition of 10,000 public sector jobs.

The UN expert also cited academic commentary according to which conditions on IMF support — which required borrowers to demonstrate rapid growth and conservative fiscal policies — weakened African countries' ability to respond to the 2014 Ebola epidemic.

IMF representatives told AFP they had no comment on the UN report and referred questions to a recent statement from the Fund's steering committee, which welcomed IMF support for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which call for eradicating poverty by 2030.

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