Open letter to the International Monetary Fund on social protection

9 January 2018 by Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky


ON December 21st 2017, the Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, sent jointly with several other UN human rights experts an open letter to the International Monetary Fund on the IMF’s approach to social protection.

The letter follows the publication of the report “The IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
and Social Protection” by its Independent Evaluation Office. In the letter, the human rights experts express concern that the evaluation lacked a more thorough examination of whether policy advice or lending conditionalities of the Fund were adequate to protect effectively the right to social security of individuals and groups in situations of vulnerability.

The experts call upon the IMF to:

- include in IMF policy documents and in staff guidance that efforts to improve the financial sustainability of social protection systems should pay due regard to the right to social security, as set out in international, and regional human rights law or in the respective national legislation;

- undertake human rights impact assessments before, during and after recommending social protection reform and fiscal consolidation measures affecting the right to social security and other rights;

- monitor the impacts of macroeconomic policies on gender equality, particularly the impacts of austerity measures, and take action to ensure the right to social security is enjoyed equally by women and men through gender-responsive social protection, provision of essential services, including care services, and measures to ensure women’s rights to work and rights at work;

- focus on the extension of social protection to all, supporting countries to achieve universal coverage with adequate benefits, according to the right to social security embodied in international human rights treaties, ILO Conventions and Recommendations;

- enhance the collaboration with human rights experts, UN agencies and the International Labour Organization, the lead agency of the United Nations which has the core mandate to work on social security and social protection; and to

- ensure meaningful participation, consultation and open social dialogue with all representative stakeholders in countries in which programmes of the Fund are implemented. This should include trade unions, employer organizations, civil society organizations of persons with disabilities, older persons, minorities, children and women or other relevant groups that may in the country specific context be at risk of vulnerability or marginalization.

The UN human rights experts also suggest that the development of Guiding Principles for assessing the human rights impact of economic reform programmes under the auspices of the Independent Expert of foreign debt and human rights may be an opportunity to continue engaging in a constructive a dialogue on the issue of social protection with the Fund.

The letter was co-signed by the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Ms. Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas Aguilar, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Ms. Hilal Elver, the Chair of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, Ms. Alda Facio, and the Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ms. Maria Virginia Bras Gomes, the Chair of the treaty body monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Read the open letter at:

Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky

is the coordinator of the postgraduate program on “Public policies and human rights in Covid-19 times,” Universidad Nacional de Río Negro, Argentina. Previously, he was the United Nations Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights (June 2014–May 2020).

Other articles in English by Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky (17)



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