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Wrap up and goodbye from the former mandate holder


Dear friends and colleagues,

My tenure of the mandate on debt and human rights is coming to an end. The last 6 years have been a unique and learning experience in every possible way.

Through thematic reports I have explored a number of issues from a human rights perspective including responsibility of lenders for financing criminal regimes, debt restructurings, debt sustainability analysis vulture funds, illicit financial flows, tax paradises, austerity and adjustment, labour market deregulation, debt crises and inequality, economic reforms and discrimination against women, bilateral investment treaties and debt disputes, IFIs' responsibility for promoting retrogressive economic policies, private debt and lastly the coronavirus-induced economic recession.

During these years, I have conducted missions in all regions. While conscious that every country has its own particularities, I have witnessed and reported that finance, as run in the last decades, consolidates and exacerbates inequality within and among countries.

Against the prevailing view, human rights law is indeed well equipped to contribute counterbalancing this finance/inequality trend. This certainly explains powerful stakeholders’ attempts to marginalize the human rights discourse in financial debates.

There are successful cases in which governments have put human rights at the core of their financial policies and made the economy inclusive and sustainable, ensuring it serves the people and not vice versa.

These policies are now becoming more appealing in the context of the pandemic. Whether they become part of the new emerging social contracts will depend to a great extent on a number of factors, including continued participation of all stakeholders in this discussion.

Finally, I am co-editing with Prof. Aoife Nolan a Special Issue – which should be out in a couple of months – for the International Journal of Human Rights, with articles written by prominent economists and legal scholars reflecting on the implications and operational aspects of the Guiding Principles on human rights impact assessments of economic reforms endorsed last year by the Human Rights Council. We took this opportunity to reflect why and how the Guiding Principles, in the context of the Covid-19, are applicable and can make a difference to deal with the economic recession.

Last, but not least, I want to heart warmly thank you all for your support during these years. I hope we will keep in touch and continue working to advance human rights in finance.

My successor, Ms. Yuefen Li, whom I have worked with at UNCTAD for a number of years, will be taking up her functions as of 1 May 2020. I would like to wish her all the best in her endeavours as the new Independent Expert on debt and human rights. I am confident she will be able to count on your support as much as I did.

Best wishes,
Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky