United Nations experts concerned over delay in Zambia’s debt restructuring

United Nations experts concerned over delay in Zambia’s debt restructuring

UN independent human rights experts expressed deep concern over the delay in reaching an agreement on the restructuring of Zambia’s debt and its corresponding negative human rights impact on peoples’ lives in the country, according to a press release.

“We are worried that despite positive reforms undertaken by the Government of Zambia, the delays in sovereign debt restructuring compromise its ability to mobilize and maximize resources for the full realization of human rights, as per its obligations under international human rights law,” the experts said on Monday.

Zambia secured a 38-month Extended Credit Facility of USD 1.3 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in August 2022.

At the end of its first review of this programme on 6 April 2023, the IMF Mission recognized Zambia's progress as a result of robust structural fiscal and other reforms. However, extended delays on debt restructuring pose real risks and the potential for setbacks, including with respect to the country’s economic transformation agenda and aspirations for improved standards of living across Zambia.  

The experts stated that while social spending had increased, the economic dividends stemming from sustained reforms and debt relief will go much further in expanding opportunities.

As per a 2022 UNDP report, more than 54 low-and middle-income countries are under critical debt distress and need urgent relief.

The experts urged the Official Creditor Committee for Zambia to aim for and share a concrete timeframe for the conclusion of its deliberations.

“One of the major reasons for this delay in debt restructuring is the lack of a globally coordinated multilateral sovereign debt mechanism that places traditional and private lenders at an equal footing,” the experts said.

“Despite the proactive steps taken by Zambia, undoubtedly the delay will affect the efficacy of the credit facility programme. There is a window of opportunity in 2023 to enable Zambia and its people to consolidate recent successes and all of Zambia’s partners must step-up,” they added.

The UN independent human rights experts are in dialogue with relevant stakeholders, including private lenders, concerning the impact of the unsustainable sovereign debt level on the country’s ability to ensure the realization of human rights of its population.