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Abstract

According to a top official in the Clinton Administration, the 1999

Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, set forth by the

world's Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations in Cologne,

Germany in June 1999, would have "an enormous impact on poorer

countries, perhaps more than any other single action taken by the

developed countries at any time." A United Nations Special Rapporteur

on the effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of economic, social,

and cultural rights and an independent expert on structural adjustment

had a markedly different opinion of the same initiative: "As it stands

now, [this] initiative is grossly inadequate.. . ."- Despite their sharply

contrasting views, these commentators would doubtless all agree on the

gravity of the subject of the initiative: the large debts that many

impoverished developing countries owe to wealthy countries and

international financial institutions (IFIs).

Indeed, while the world's poorest countries spend tens to hundreds

of millions of dollars-and in several cases, over one billion dollarsannually

servicing their debts, large segments of their populations

remain without access to minimal health care, education, nutrition,

clean water, adequate shelter, and other human needs. Under the

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

(ICESCR), States Parties are legally obligated to guarantee access to

minimum essential levels of these basic human rights, and to use all

available resources to progressively achieve full enjoyment of such

rights for all. By continuing to insist that poor States use their scarce

resources for debt service payments, rather than for improved access to

health care, education, food, and basic shelter for their impoverished

populations, the international community becomes complicit in the

wide-scale violation of human rights.

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