The role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in relation to social protection: Report

May 2018
Issued by:
The Special Rapporteur for extreme poverty
To the Human Rights Council at its 73rd session, 18 June–6 July 2018


The Special Rapporteur presented this thematic report focusing on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and its impact on social protection to the GA at its 73rd session in September 2018.


The majority of low-income developing countries are already included in IMF programmes or are likely to be so in the near future, yet fewer than one in five of the poorest 20 per cent of people in those countries is covered by any form of social protection. Any assistance they receive will only cover a mere 13 per cent of their consumption needs. Even in lower-middle-income countries, fewer than half of those living in poverty receive such assistance.

Since the vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people thus living in penury and without any form of social protection are unable to enjoy most of their human rights, the question arises as to what their own Governments are doing in response, and what role the international community plays.

No international institution exerts greater influence than IMF over issues such as distribution, including social protection. But for many years, it took the position that these issues were not its concern; it could take account only of narrowly defined macroeconomic issues. Other institutions were left to pick up the pieces in the social area, but could only do so within the confines of the fiscal space, if any, left open after IMF prescriptions had been adopted.

This report examines the approach of the IMF to human rights issues, particularly relating to poverty.