World leaders attending a summit in Paris today must ensure that wealthier nations commit to comprehensive debt relief for lower-income nations, including the cancellation of loans and the scaling up of international assistance to vulnerable states, Amnesty International said today.
Amnesty International is calling on the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact (PACT) to ensure wealthier nations honour previous financial pledges they have failed to meet and adopt new ones which guarantee the rights of people in lower-income countries.
The rights to an adequate standard of living and to social security are enshrined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which has been ratified by more than 170 countries. Article 2 of the ICESCR obliges states to take steps, including through international cooperation and assistance, to support other states to meet their economic and social rights obligations.
“Many vulnerable, lower-income states have been overwhelmed by economic shocks, debts they cannot pay, and the effects of climate change – a crisis to which they contributed very little, but which is costing people in these countries dearly. These are unprecedented challenges that require a rethink of how the world’s financial architecture is set up,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.
“The rights of many people in vulnerable countries to access health care and social protection are not met at even the most basic level. There is a vital need to provide financial and technical assistance to these countries so that they can scale up social protection schemes to guarantee people’s right to an adequate standard of living.
“Unsustainable levels of debt can have grave implications for economic and social rights. The cost of servicing existing debt can divert essential financing away from crucial social spending. Coordinated international action offering debt relief can transform the ability of governments to invest in economic and social protections, supporting their capacity to protect the rights of their people.
“All creditors – states, private creditors, and international financial institutions – should cooperate to ensure timely debt relief for all countries in and at risk of debt distress and consider all options, including debt restructuring and debt cancellation.
“All states should support and fund the establishment of a global social protection fund to help countries that are struggling to provide adequate protections, as advocated by the International Labour Organization and UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.
“It is regrettable that many states, and civil society organizations and social movements representing communities worst affected by these crises, will not be represented at the summit. Those most exposed to the effects of climate change and national indebtedness should be allowed to contribute to discussions and engage in reforms that can achieve climate justice and economic security.
“Whether the Paris meeting, called by France’s President Macron outside of the usual UN framework for discussions, is an appropriate forum for the substantial reforms required is questionable.
“Nonetheless, we urge the summit’s participants to recognize the urgency of this unfolding crisis and encourage them to harness the growing momentum for change. It is crucial that they enable further progress at the G20 Leaders’ Summit and COP28 climate meeting later this year.”
Lower-income countries cannot fairly phase out fossil fuels, protect people from the harms of the climate crisis and provide remedies to those most affected if wealthier states continue to evade their obligations of international cooperation and assistance under human rights law and the commitments taken under the 2015 Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to provide climate finance to developing countries.
Countries have failed to fulfil a pledge to provide US$100 billion annually to help states mitigate and adapt to climate change. A separate loss and damage fund has yet to be funded and become operational. A climate meeting in Bonn this month was hampered by disputes between wealthy and developing countries over climate finance.
“Commitments to ensure urgent and sufficient relief for nations in debt distress and more grants, are required to support those states struggling to protect the rights of people against the devastating impacts of the climate crisis and other disasters,” said Agnès Callamard.
“With average global temperatures rising and set to far exceed the 1.5˚C increase over pre-industrial levels previously agreed to, the world is standing on the precipice of a climate disaster. This summit should offer a chance for global leaders to protect the rights of the world’s most marginalized people, not move the burden further onto those who are suffering the most but contributed the least to causing this crisis.”
Tax and financial reform
The global financial system has failed the people most at risk from an unprecedented combination of crises, and fundamental reform to make it more inclusive, sustainable, and equitable is long overdue.
Amnesty International shares many of the concerns about this summit made by civil society organizations and some Global South countries, including the absence of a scheduled discussion on a UN Tax Convention and Tax Body to create fairer global tax governance, and the imperative to shift finance away from fossil fuels and towards economic and social rights.
PACT is a two-day event, called last year by France’s President Macron. It will be held in Paris from 22-23 June. More than 50 heads of state or government are expected to attend.
The meeting was inspired by the Bridgetown Initiative, a framework agreed in 2022 in Barbados to reform the global financial system and address the debt, climate, and cost-of-living crises.
Amnesty International has set out its recommendations for how economic and social rights should be financed.
The UN guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights provide specific guidance on the human rights obligations and responsibilities of all debtors, and state and non-state lenders, including multilateral development banks.