NGOs at the forefront of cautioning against rising public debt in developing countries
The “Public Dialogue on the Impact of Public Debt on Enjoyment of Human Rights: Sri Lankan Disaster, a
Warning to Africa and Beyond” took place on 24 June 2022. The event occurred during the 50th Regular
Session of the Human Rights Council.
It was co-organized by the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies, the Centre du
Commerce International pour le Développement (CECIDE), the International Centre against Terrorism,
and La Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO).
Panellists and participants from diverse backgrounds discussed the debt burden and its adverse effects
on the socio-economic development of developing countries. The event also came at a critical time when
developing countries are calling for solutions to mitigate their debt crisis.
Opening the event, the Secretary-General, Interfaith International, and the RADDHO Programme
Manager at the UN, Mr. Biro Diawara, highlighted the crucial need to act now. He stated that high
“public debt affects social rights and development. Do nothing, and several countries will collapse”. He
further highlighted the Chinese debt trap, which has given rise to China’s indirect control in Sri Lanka,
Zambia, and Madagascar, amongst other developing countries.
The General Secretary, British Tamils Forum (BTF), Mr. V Ravi Kumar, focused on the adverse
effects of high public debt in Sri Lanka. He underlined that such public debt has resulted in increased
human rights violations against the Tamil people. Consequently, he called for justice and accountability
for the Tamil people – and for the acquisition of Chinese loans to be stopped as – “China is only using Sri
Lanka for its gain”.
Mr. Aimable Uwizeye Mapendano, a Consultant at the United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development (UNCTAD), flagged that countries in Africa also face high debt/spending. Such actions are
leading to food insecurity and human rights violations. However, to combat illicit financial flows and
economically recover, civil society, parliaments, and Governments must engage in active dialogues.
Author and Geopolitical Analyst, Mr. Priyajit Debsarkar underscored that the Chinese debt trap
represents a new type of colonialism. He, therefore, advised developing countries to pay close attention
to the high nterest rates of Chinese banks.
Whilst the Main Representative to the UN Office in Geneva, African Centre for Democracy and
Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Mr. Abdelbagi Jibril, noted that although international organizations
are aware of the debt crisis faced by developing countries, no solution exists. In this case, he called for
the international community to write off such debt to avoid collapsed states.
In conclusion, the message is clear: “the time to act is now”. Developing countries risk a permanent debt
loop if urgent solutions do not exist. Nevertheless, the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights
Studies, the Centre du Commerce International pour le Développement (CECIDE), the International
Centre against Terrorism, and La Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO)
are ready and eager to act. Through this coalition, a submission will be made on the current debt crisis in
Sri Lanka, at the next session of the Human Rights Council in September 2022.