Abouharb, M. Rodwan. 2012. “International Financial Institutions and Their Impacts on Human Rights: Current & Prospective Research.” In Thomas Cushman (Ed) Handbook of Human Rights. Pp 455-465.
How can we be sure that the effects of World Bank and IMF structural adjustment worsen the human rights of citizens in developing countries? Another way of asking this question might be: would these countries have worsened their human rights record even if the World Bank and International Monetary Fund had not become involved? Similar critical questions might be: Don’t these institutions help countries in crisis, which may also be those countries most likely to have a bad human rights record anyway? All these questions indicate that there may something particular about the countries that go under these programs in the first place, what has been described as a ‘selection issue’ in the literature. Indeed, it may be that these countries already had bad human rights records and that one should not blame the World Bank and IMF for helping countries most in need. Defenders of these institutions and the structural adjustment process (Rogoff, 2003) make a number of compelling arguments. Most importantly is the argument that these institutions assist those countries who are in economic difficulties. In fact, they argue that if these international financial institutions had not entered the fray, the consequences would have been much worse. Thus, any negative human rights consequences are not because of the IMF or World Bank but rather the underlying difficult situation that these countries faced in the first place. Moreover, why should structural adjustment programs (SAPs) have any consequences for human rights violations? Has the academic community generated any answers when trying to assess the impact of these institutions?
In short, yes, the conclusions of recent studies, which have controlled for what have become known as “issues of selection” have concluded that SAPs promoted by the World Bank and IMF have worsened government respect for a variety of human rights (Abouharb & Cingranelli 2006, 2007). They examined the effects of World Bank and IMF SAPs in 131 developing countries between 1981-2003, and found after controlling for the effects of selection that the effects of SAPs have been to worsen government respect for physical integrity rights that includes the right not to be murdered, politically imprisoned or extra-judicially killed. The consequences of these SAPs have also worsened government respect economic and social rights, as well as workers rights (Abouharb & Cingranelli, 2007).
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Strategic Shift to Forced Disappearance
- Do Non–Human Rights Regimes Undermine the Achievement of Economic and Social Rights?
- The WTO helps member states keep the peace only when it increases trade
- Does the WTO Help Member States Clean Up?
- Does the WTO Help Member States Improve Governance?
- Is More Trade Always Better? The WTO & Human Rights in Conflict Zones
- De Facto Judicial Independence and Physical Integrity Rights
- The Paradox of the WTO: Development, Good Governance and Human Rights