printer printer Click on the green icon on the right
The CADTM pays tribute to the combat of Cephas Lumina, independent UN expert against odious and illegitimate national debt
by CADTM International
6 June 2014

For many years, the UN Human Rights Council has been preoccupied by the question of public debt. Within this organ of the United Nations, an independent expert is charged with examining the effects of external debt on human rights. Cephas Lumina, who has occupied the post since 2008, has just completed his mandate.

During the last six years, Cephas Lumina has carried out numerous field missions, taken part in many conferences such as the 11th CADTM International Seminar on Debt and Human Rights in 2011 [1] and drawn up numerous reports [2] concerning the relationship between external debt and fundamental rights.

These reports underline :

  • the negative impact of the external debt mechanism and structural adjustment policies on economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to education or healthcare,
  • that external debt and international trade are inseparably linked because indebted States have to exporter their raw materials to pay back the debt in dollars. This mechanism therefore makes them extremely dependant on the quoted price of these products fixed by the international markets,
  • that the debt reductions promised by the World Bank and IMF have not resolved the debt problem in the long term.

These reports take up the CADTM’s strategy for breaking the vicious circle of debt. This strategy consists in auditing the debt with the participation of citizens in order to identify and unconditionally cancel odious and illegitimate debts contracted against the interests of the population with the complicity of the creditors. In this respect, a good example to follow is the audit of public debt (both external and internal) carried out by Ecuador in 2007-2008.

In a report about Argentinian debt published in November 2013, Cephas Lumina encourages the Argentinian authorities also to audit the national debt in order to evaluate the proportion of debt that can be designated as “odious”, which the creditors must unconditionally cancel. Unfortunately, Argentina did not follow this recommendation because it recently concluded, on 29th May, an agreement to pay back the debt with the Paris Club, the informal group bringing together the 19 richest creditor States, even though much of the Argentinian debt is odious and illegitimate. We should remember that the Argentinian Supreme Court had declared this debt to be null and void in a the famous Olmos ruling of 13th July 2000, after having identified no less than 477 infractions in the contracting of the debt [3]. The authorities could have used this ruling to refuse to pay it back but chose not to.

This agreement between Argentina and the Paris Club demonstrates once again that the creditors refuse to accept their responsibilities and put the reimbursement of debts before respect for human rights.

In his last report, released in 2014, Cephas Lumina denounces the lack of cooperation between the United States and the European Union, which undermines the work and recommendations of the Human Rights Council. For most of these governments, the debt issue has no link with human rights and should therefore only be entrusted to the Paris Club, IMF and World Bank, who allow them to pursue their interests as creditors.

Consequently, Cephas Lumina concludes that it is not realistic to hope that these creditors, who do not incorporate human rights in their policies and programmes, will try to find equitable solutions to public debt problems.

The CADTM shares this view and calls on indebted countries to disobey the creditors by refusing to pay back odious and illegitimate debts.

Cephas Lumina reports, although they are not legally binding for governments and international organisations, are one more weapon in the global combat against odious and illegitimate debt. This political combat can only be won by mobilising the population. To that end there is an urgent need to set up citizen debt audits in both Southern and Northern countries.


Renaud Vivien, co- general secretary of CADTM Belgium; 0032 497 04 79 99; renaud at

Omar Aziki, general secretary ATTAC-CADTM Morocco; 00212 66 70 40 421; azikiomar2008 at

Footnotes :

[2Cephas Lumina’s communiqués, studies and mission reports are de accessible at . Read also the interview he granted CADTM: (in French)

[3Read the Olmos ruling at (in Spanish)

CADTM International