Typhoon Haiyan: UN human rights expert calls for urgent debt relief for
reconstruction in the Philippines
8 April 2014
GENEVA – United Nations human rights expert Cephas Lumina today urged
international creditors to cancel Philippines’ debt and to provide
unconditional grant-aid instead of reconstruction loans in the aftermath
of Typhoon Haiyan.
“Grant aid, not new loans, is needed to overcome the impact of the
tropical cyclone which struck the country five months ago on 8 November
2013,” said the Independent Expert charged by the UN Human Rights
Council to monitor the effects of foreign debt on the enjoyment of all
human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.
Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Typhoon Yolanda, left around 4 million
displaced and 500,000 houses destroyed. The cyclone had a devastating
impact on the country’s infrastructure, hospitals, schools and public
services causing an estimated damage of $12 billion.
“I welcome the international support provided to the Philippines in the
aftermath of the cyclone, but am concerned that more than $22 million
leave the country every day paying off overseas debts,” Mr. Lumina said.
“While around $3 billion have left the country to serve its debt since
the typhoon struck, the country has received so far only $417 million
for its strategic response plan by international and private donors,
about half of the total relief requested,” the expert stressed.
Although 26.5 per cent of the total population lives below the poverty
line, the country has been excluded as a lower Middle-Income Country
from international debt relief initiatives. The Philippines are expected
to pay $8.8 billion in debt service this year alone.
“The reconstruction, development and realisation of economic and social
rights will be undermined if the high debt stock of the country is
further augmented to unsustainable levels,” Mr. Lumina warned.
“By definition, loans for reconstruction cannot generate returns to
enable the debt to be paid,” the Independent Expert noted.
“International lenders should rather consider cancelling debt, to ensure
that the country can recover.”
The Asian Development Bank has provided nearly $900 million of
assistance, but most of it in the form of new loans. Only $23 million
was given in grants. In addition, the World Bank has offered a $500
million budget support loan and a $480 million loan for rebuilding
infrastructure and social services in affected areas.
As of December 2013, 20.6 percent of Philippines external debt was owed
to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The countries’ largest
bilateral lenders are Japan, the United States of America, United
Kingdom, France and Germany.
“The disaster should rather serve as an opportunity for lenders to
acknowledge that odious debts emanating from the rule under Ferdinand
Marcos should be cancelled,” Mr. Lumina underscored.
Up to $10 billion is thought to have been embezzled or stolen during the
Marcos regime (1965-1986), but international lenders that had provided
loans continued to demand repayment after he was deposed.
This statement has also been endorsed by the UN Independent Expert on
the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred
Cephas Lumina is an Advocate of the High Court for Zambia and an
Extra-Ordinary Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of
Pretoria. He was appointed Independent Expert on the effects of foreign
debt and other related international financial obligations of States on
the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social
and cultural rights by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008. He is
independent from any government or organization and serves in his
individual capacity. The mandate covers all countries.
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