Purpose of the mandate
Despite repeated rescheduling of debt, developing countries continue to pay out more each year than the amount they receive in official development assistance. The increasing debt burden faced by the most indebted developing countries is unsustainable. It presents one of the greatest obstacles to developing sustainably and eradicating poverty.
For many developing countries, excessive debt servicing has severely limited their ability to promote social development and provide basic services to create the conditions for the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights.
The Independent Expert sets out to examine:
- the problem of the debt burden of developing countries, in particular of the least developed countries,
- the social impact of the measures arising from foreign debt,
- the impact of illicit financial flows on the enjoyment of human rights.
Learn more about why foreign debt is a human rights issue.
About the mandate
The mandate was initially established as a Special Rapporteur position by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1998. It has undergone many changes since that date. The current terms of the mandate of the Independent Expert are contained in Human Rights Council resolution 43/10, from June 2020, where the mandate was renewed for a period of three years. Two additional resolutions were adopted at the HRC’s 46th session, resolution
46/8 on the effects of foreign debt on the enjoyment of human rights, and
46/11 on non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin.
Read more on this history of this mandate.
Current mandate holder
Professor Attiya Waris, UN Independent Expert on foreign debt, other international financial obligations and human rights
Professor Attiya Waris (Kenya) was appointed the UN Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights by the Human Rights Council at its 47th
session and took up this function on 1 August 2021. She holds a PhD in Law and is a specialist in Fiscal Law, Policy and Development. She is the first female Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Nairobi. Ms Waris teaches at the Law School, University of Nairobi, Kenya and has previously taught in South Africa, Rwanda, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. Prof Waris has researched and published on global, African, Asian, European as well as Latin American issues.
Read Professor Attiya Waris'full biography
Guiding Principles for assessing the human rights impact of economic reform policies: Based on existing human rights obligations and responsibilities, the guiding principles underline the importance of systematically assessing the impact of economic reforms on the enjoyment of all human rights before decisions are taken to implement such reforms, as well as during and after their implementation. The Independent Expert submitted the Guiding Principles (A/HRC/40/57, also in
Portuguese) to the Human Rights Council in February 2019.
View report page | PDF (user-friendly version):
Guiding principles on foreign debt and human rights: Endorsed by the Human Rights Council in June 2012, these Guiding Principles (A/HRC/20/23) are designed to assist States and all relevant actors in the conduct of their respective activities relating to external debt.
View report page
Latest thematic reports
Taking stock and identifying priority areas: a vision for the future work of the mandate holder: in this report, her first to the HRC, the Independent Expert, establishes a preliminary work plan for her mandate, focusing on six priority areas: Fiscal legitimacy and human rights; Engaging the evolving nature and role of the State; Crises, natural emergencies and financial obligations; The environment, illicit financial flows, debt and financial transactions; Transparency of financial and tax information and digital systems; The global fiscal system and its implications for human rights. She will provide advice and recommendations based on international human rights law and existing empirical evidence to place human rights at the heart of development and fiscal law and policies.
View report page | View document A/HRC/49/47
International debt architecture reform and human rights: in the present report, the Independent Expert focuses on international debt architecture reform and human rights by examining the weaknesses and limitations of and attempting to evaluate past and recently proposed reforms. In order to respond to the unfolding debt crisis, it is imperative that any reforms prioritize social justice, equity, and human rights and address structural issues to prevent a vicious circle. The Independent Expert sets a two-fold objective for this reform: first, the debt architecture should have the capacity to respond to debt crises in an effective and timely manner, and second, it should most importantly serve to prevent future crises. Upholding human rights should be an ultimate drive for the reform.
View report page | View document A/76/167
Latest country reports
Visit to Mongolia (2 to 11 September 2019)
Visit to the Plurinational State of Bolivia (6 to 15 May 2019)