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Interactive Dialogue on the Effects of Foreign Debt and Extreme Poverty – Item 3
June 5, 2009

Human Rights Council 11th Session
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
June 5, 2009

The United States takes note of the reports of the independent expert on the effects of foreign debt and other international financial obligations on human rights and development as well as the report on extreme poverty and human rights. We appreciate the opportunity to comment on both.

The United States has long recognized the potentially harmful effects that excessive debt burdens can have on development. Debt is not necessarily a negative thing–debt financed projects can enhance development and human rights. Through the G8 and the World Bank, the United States has been a leader in programs for debt forgiveness and those that provide assistance to developing nations without adding to their debt burden.

The United States is concerned that a human rights based approach to foreign debt is a concept that, in practice, would be difficult to implement either fairly or effectively. While we too want to ensure fair and manageable debt repayment schedules for debtor nations, determining “illegitimate” debt would be problematic. Finally, we support the Special Rapporteur’s noting the importance of export diversification as a means for developing countries to escape dependence on a single export commodity to finance debt obligations.

The report of the independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty helpfully notes the centrality of human rights principles, including equality and non-discrimination, accountability, transparency, access to information and participation, in supporting national efforts at economic development and in addressing extreme poverty. Although her report takes up the specific example of cash transfer programs (CTPs), her conclusions recognize that “CTPs are not necessarily the most appropriate and effective means of tacking extreme poverty and protecting human rights in all contexts” and her recommendations emphasize the importance of integrated social security systems based on solid legal and institutional frameworks. The United States agrees and notes that strong institutional frameworks are a key component for eligibility for our Millennium Challenge grants.