There are two principal aspects to the human rights dimension in debt-for-development exchanges. The first relates to the beneficial potential of the exchanges: they can be a useful mechanism to enhance the realisation of human rights, especially economic and social rights. The second arises when a particular development project or the broader scheme under which it operates has an adverse impact on some human rights in the debtor country.
Development is a variable and contested concept. That said, improving people's social and economic situation, by moving towards higher levels of human health, education, employment and standards of living generally, constitutes a large part of the process of development under most definitions. Likewise, improvements in systems of law and governance, such as greater participation in government, guarantees of free and fair elections and impartial systems of law enforcement, form a large part of most conceptualisations of development. These understandings of development focus on improvements in human well-being, as distinct from, say, narrower notions of industrial or technological development.
Human development goals of this kind are also guaranteed human rights under international law. Indeed, there is a high level of interaction and interdependence between the process of development and the realisation of human rights. This chapter considers debt-for-development exchanges from this perspective. It looks, first, at the human rights obligations of states in the context of development and at what is meant by the term ‘development’.