Human Rights Council Fortieth session

25 February–22 March 2019

Agenda item 3

Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 21 March 2019

40/8. The effects of foreign debt and other related international financial

obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights,

particularly economic, social and cultural rights

The Human Rights Council,

Guided by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and other relevant international

human rights instruments,

Reaffirming all resolutions and decisions adopted by the Commission on Human

Rights and the Human Rights Council on the effects of structural adjustment and economic

reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly

economic, social and cultural rights, the latest being Council resolution 37/11 of 22 March


Reaffirming also Human Rights Council resolution 34/11 of 23 March 2017,

Reaffirming further Human Rights Council resolution S-10/1 of 23 February 2009

on the impact of the global economic and financial crises on the universal realization and

effective enjoyment of human rights,

Bearing in mind paragraph 6 of General Assembly resolution 60/251 of 15 March


Stressing that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to achieve international

cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or

humanitarian character,

Emphasizing that the World Conference on Human Rights agreed to call upon the

international community to make all efforts to help to alleviate the external debt burden of

developing countries in order to supplement the efforts of the Governments of such

countries to attain the full realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of their


Stressing the primacy of the means of implementation for the 2030 Agenda for

Sustainable Development, and in this regard underlining the fundamental principles of

international cooperation, which are pivotal for the practical achievement of the Sustainable

Development Goals,

United Nations A/HRC/RES/40/8

Stressing also the determination expressed in the 2030 Agenda to assist developing

countries in attaining long-term debt sustainability through coordinated policies aimed at

fostering debt financing, debt relief and debt restructuring, as appropriate, and to address

the external debt of highly indebted poor countries to reduce debt distress,

Recognizing the commitments made in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third

International Conference on Financing for Development, and noting that, despite

international debt relief efforts, many countries remain vulnerable to debt crisis and some

are in the midst of a crisis, including a number of least developed countries and small island

developing States and some developed countries,

Mindful of the role, mandate and activities of other United Nations agencies, funds

and programmes in dealing with the issues of foreign debt and international financial


Acknowledging that there is greater acceptance that the increasing debt burden faced

by the most indebted developing countries, in particular the least developed countries, is

unsustainable and constitutes one of the principal obstacles to achieving progress in people-

centred sustainable development and poverty eradication, and that, for many developing

and some developed countries, excessive debt servicing has severely constrained their

capacity to promote social development and provide basic services to create the conditions

for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights,

Expressing its concern that, despite repeated rescheduling of debt, developing

countries continue to pay out more each year than the actual amount they receive in official

development assistance,

Recognizing that States have the obligation to respect and protect human rights, even

in times of economic and financial crisis, and to ensure that their policies and measures do

not result in impermissible retrogression in the realization of human rights, as recognized in

relevant international human rights instruments, and acknowledging that the guiding

principles on human rights impact assessments of economic reforms 1 constitute an

important reference for Member States in that regard,

Recognizing also the sovereign right of any State to restructure its sovereign debt,

which should not be frustrated or impeded by any measure emanating from another State,

Recognizing further that illicit financial flows, including tax evasion by high net-

worth individuals, commercial tax evasion through trade misinvoicing and tax avoidance by

transnational corporations, contribute to the build-up of unsustainable debt, as Governments

lacking domestic revenue may resort to external borrowing,

Emphasizing that inequality continues to increase worldwide, and that it often

contributes to social exclusion and the marginalization of certain groups and individuals,

Recognizing the severe human rights impact of the recent financial crisis, and that

human rights have not always being taken into account in the development of policy

responses to the crisis,

Affirming that debt burden further complicates the numerous problems facing

developing countries, contributes to extreme poverty and is an obstacle to sustainable

human development, and is thus a serious impediment to the realization of all human rights,

1. Welcomes the work and contributions of the Independent Expert on the

effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the

full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights;

2. Takes note with appreciation of the guiding principles on human rights

impact assessments of economic reforms, as presented in the most recent report of the

Independent Expert, 2 and drafted in consultation with States and other relevant


1 See A/HRC/40/57.

2 A/HRC/40/57.

3. Encourages Governments, relevant United Nations bodies, specialized

agencies, funds and programmes and other intergovernmental organizations to consider

taking into account the guiding principles in the formulation and implementation of their

economic reform policies and measures, and encourages national human rights institutions,

non-governmental organizations and the private sector to give due consideration to the

guiding principles in their work;

4. Requests the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human

Rights to disseminate the guiding principles on human rights impact assessments of

economic reforms;

5. Recalls that every State has the primary responsibility to promote the

economic, social and cultural development of its people, and to that end has the right and

responsibility to choose its means and goals of development and should not be subject to

external specific prescriptions for economic policy;

6. Recognizes that debt relief can play a key role in liberating resources that

should be directed towards activities consistent with attaining sustainable growth and

development, including poverty reduction and the achievement of development goals,

including those set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and therefore that

debt relief measures, where appropriate, should be pursued vigorously and expeditiously,

ensuring that they do not replace alternative sources of financing and that they are

accompanied by an increase in official development assistance;

7. Reiterates the call on industrialized countries to implement the enhanced

programme of debt relief without further delay and to agree to cancel all the official

bilateral debt of those countries covered by the programme in return for their making

demonstrable commitments to poverty reduction;

8. Stresses that the economic programmes arising from foreign debt relief and

cancellation must not reproduce past structural adjustment policies that have not worked,

such as dogmatic demands for privatization and reduced public services;

9. Urges States, international financial institutions and the private sector to take

urgent measures to alleviate the debt problem of those developing countries particularly

affected by HIV/AIDS so that more financial resources may be released and used for health

care, research and treatment of the population in the affected countries;

10. Reiterates its view that, in order to find a durable solution to the debt

problem and for the consideration of any new debt resolution mechanism, there is a need

for a broad political dialogue between creditor and debtor countries and the multilateral

financial institutions, within the United Nations system, based on the principle of shared

interests and responsibilities;

11. Also reiterates its request to the United Nations High Commissioner for

Human Rights to pay more attention to the problem of the debt burden of developing

countries, in particular of least developed countries, and especially the social impact of the

measures arising from foreign debt;

12. Takes note of the work of the Advisory Committee on the activities of vulture

funds and their impact on human rights, and looks forward to the submission of the final

report thereon to the Human Rights Council at its forty-first session;

13. Encourages the Independent Expert to continue to cooperate, in accordance

with his mandate, with the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, special

rapporteurs, independent experts and members of the expert working groups of the Human

Rights Council and its Advisory Committee on issues relating to economic, social and

cultural rights and the right to development in his work;

14. Requests the Independent Expert to report regularly to the Human Rights

Council and the General Assembly in accordance with their respective programmes of


15. Requests the Secretary-General to provide the Independent Expert with all

necessary assistance, in particular all the staff and resources required to carry out his


16. Urges Governments, international organizations, international financial

institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to cooperate fully with

the Independent Expert in the discharge of the mandate;

17. Requests the Independent Expert to submit a report on the implementation of

the present resolution to the Human Rights Council at its forty-third session;

18. Decides to continue its consideration of this matter under the same agenda

item in accordance with its programme of work.

52nd meeting

21 March 2019

[Adopted by a recorded vote of 27 to 14, with 6 abstentions. The voting was as follows:

In favour:

Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Cuba,

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Fiji, India, Iraq, Nepal,

Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal,

Somalia, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, Uruguay


Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Hungary,

Italy, Japan, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and

Northern Ireland


Afghanistan, Argentina, Bahamas, Iceland, Mexico, Peru]