The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net) called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to cancel this year’s debt of $3.77 billion, owed by poor and middle-income countries to the IMF. These demands by the ESCR-Net, whose members include dozens of civil society organizations from around the world, were prepared for the occasion of the IMF’s annual spring meetings, which are currently taking place virtually. Ahmad Awad – the director of Phenix Center for Economic Studies, which is a coalition member of the ESCR-Net and which has participated in the preparation of the statement – noted that there is an urgent need to drastically reform the IMF’s policies to support countries that are experiencing economic challenges so that these countries can provide social protection for their citizens and residents and alleviate socio-economic inequality.
According to the ESCR-Net member’s joint statement, “The IMF has consistently imposed neoliberal policy reforms amid debt crises rooted in global inequalities and colonial legacies. These structural reforms have weakened labor rights and social protection, led to the privatization and commodification of basic necessities, undermined food sovereignty, promoted regressive taxation, and imposed austerity on the majority, leading to impoverishment, dispossession, and growing inequalities, including for women who face disproportionate burdens of care and are heavily represented in informal and precarious work sectors, along with many communities.”
The statement further urged the IMF to “refrain from exercising pressure on lower and middle-income countries to depreciate their currencies.” The Network’s joint statement stressed the need to “Ensure all financing, safeguards, and guidance provided to countries give primacy to human rights obligations and environmental protections and promote a just and equitable transition towards a zero-carbon and a caring economy.”
It also called for the development of mechanisms for cooperation with civil society and other local non-governmental parties for the provision of health care and social services, especially in areas of conflict. The joint statement also called on the IMF to re-assess the efficacy of loans to ensure they safeguard the rights of communities and their environment and protect civic space.
The ESCR-Net join statement further called on the IMF to incorporate stronger social protection measures in the “prior actions” of the IMF programmes, noting that the IMF “continues to require austerity measures as a ‘prior actions’ that must be implemented before the Board can approve of its programmes, while social protection spending is treated as a ‘structural benchmark’ that is significantly less binding.”
Finally, the members of the ESCR-Net called for the close monitoring of private sector and public projects to ensure respect for human rights, labor, and environmental standards.”