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The Extraterritorial Scope of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
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Are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bound to respect the obligations expressed in the United Nations Charter, including the obligation to respect Human Rights? If it is true that as specialized institutions of the UN, they are independent for their operations, they must, however, respect Human Rights and common law in general. As a rule, it goes without saying that no international organization that claims to act as a subject of international law and to have an international legal status can seriously argue that it is exempted from respecting international obligations, in particular the rules for the protection of Human Rights.
This article outlines the history of these two institutions from their inception within the United Nations system. It describes their relations, their roles, and their obligations in terms of international law and Human Rights. It pleads in favor of taking the World Bank to court in every country, in answer to its policy of loans that have damaged hundreds of millions of citizens.
The IMF and the World Bank are not bound to take into account respect of Human Rights; however, from a historic point of view and contrary to what they claim, they are specialized agencies of the UN, and as such, they are bound by the United Nations Charter. The UN system is based on international cooperation, and in particular on international economic and social cooperation.
According to the article 57 paragraph 1 of the United Nations Charter, the various specialized institutions set up intergovernmental agreements and given, in the terms of their bylaws, broad international assignments in the fields of economics, social issues, intellectual culture and education, public health, and other related fields, are bound to the UN through its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
These financial institutions are therefore bound to respecting Human Rights in the elaboration and implementation of their policies: no subject of international law can avoid these obligations by invoking the absence of an explicit mandate or an argument of "non politicization," even less a restricted interpretation of the economic, social, and cultural rights as being less binding features than civil laws and policies.
The World Bank, like the IMF, leans on this assumption to clear itself of any responsibility in terms of non-respect of economic, cultural, and social rights. Yet, civil laws and policies are inseparable from economic and cultural social rights.
Since the World Bank began granting loans, a large part of these has served to implement policies that have damaged hundreds of millions of citizens. In addition, the World Bank has on very numerous occasions assisted dictatorial régimes that have been confirmed as perpetrating crimes against humanity. The bank has also granted loans to the colonial powers for the exploitation of the natural resources of the countries that they dominated until the 1960s, loans that were then added to the external debt of the states as soon as they obtained their independence.