The Sri Lankan economic crisis demands ‘immediate global attention’: experts  

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“Sri Lanka’s economic collapse needs immediate attention, not just from humanitarian agencies, but also from international financial institutions, private lenders, and other countries that must support the country,” they said.

The nine experts expressed alarm over record inflation, rising commodity prices, power shortages, a crippling fuel crisis, and economic collapse as the country struggles with unprecedented political turmoil.

The crisis has been prolonged.

Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected president of Sri Lanka on Wednesday by lawmakers.

As protestors stormed vital government buildings in Colombo, former leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa stepped down last week.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in March in response to shortages of food, fuel, medicines, and other essentials.

In addition, economic reforms such as deep tax cuts and servicing debt payments drained the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

A structural gap is revealed.

Human rights have been seriously affected by the crisis, according to experts.  People with illnesses, pregnant women, and lactating mothers who need life support have been severely affected by prolonged disruptions in access to food and healthcare.

We have seen the grave systemic repercussions a debt crisis has on countries, exposing deep structural gaps in the global financial system and affecting the implementation of human rights,” said UN independent expert Attiya Waris.

While thousands gathered in front of the President’s office in April demanding his resignation over corruption and mishandling of the economic crisis, UN experts called on the government to guarantee the fundamental rights of peaceful assembly and expression.

At least seven people have been killed in violence that broke out across the country, according to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

The Advocacy Unified Network, as well as a section of Sri Lankan civil society, wrote to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in June to seek his support in finding lasting solutions to the problem. However, the Sri Lankan government was so distraught with its multifaceted woes that a viable solution could not be found.

An approach based on human rights

After foreign reserves ran out, Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in May. The government restructured the debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which noted that significant progress had been made in June.

Human rights must be at the core of any response to the economic crisis, including those in negotiations with the IMF, said Ms. Waris.

Following an expert visit in 2019, a report highlighted Sri Lanka’s rising institutional debt.

According to the report, debt repayments were the country’s most significant expenditure, and complementary alternatives and policies that are less harmful were needed.

This month, inflation hit a record high of 54.6%, while food inflation hit 81%.

According to the experts, the World Food Programme (WFP) has launched an emergency response as nearly 62,000 citizens require urgent assistance due to the government’s hasty and botched agricultural transition.

Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, mandates the experts who issued the statement.

As independent contractors, they are neither UN employees nor paid by the UN.

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