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IMF programs and human rights, 1981–2003

Abstract

We examined the effects of International Monetary Fund (IMF) supervised programs on changes in government respect for physical integrity rights in developing countries between 1981 and 2003. A longer period under an IMF program increased government use of torture and extra judicial killing and also worsened the overall human rights conditions in developing countries. The use of a two-stage model ruled out the possibility that human rights practices would have worsened even if IMF programs had not been in effect. Previous studies of the impacts of IMF programs also found that they had worsened government respect for human rights. However, those studies did not control for the effects of selection. We found preliminary evidence that the worsened human rights conditions persisted even after the reforms in program lending of the late 1990s.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The ESAF was renamed to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) in 1999.

  2. 2.

    We include all four different types of IMF facilities.

  3. 3.

    The formal mission of the World Bank, when it was first established as a UN agency, was to address issues of economic development, while the IMF was to focus on helping to correct balance of payments problems. Since 1980, the missions of the two international financial institutions have become more similar, and there is increasing cooperation between them in developing country-specific strategies to promote economic development (Abouharb and Cingranelli 2007; Blackmon 2008; Jayarajah et al. 1996).

  4. 4.

    IMF program lending had no effect on the frequency of a government’s use of political imprisonment or disappearances.

  5. 5.

    Some scholars have argued that a weak state is necessary for the protection of physical integrity rights. According to this view, a relatively limited government is fundamental to all human freedoms. Limited government reduces barriers to the functioning of the free market, allowing human beings to pursue their own interests in their own ways and allowing them to pursue opportunities that are likely to be lost if human freedom is restricted (Friedman 1962; Hayek 1984). With regard to the physical integrity human rights examined here, Cranston (1964) has argued that respect for these rights only requires forbearance on the part of the state.

  6. 6.

    Only two of those studies controlled for selection effects (Abouharb and Cingranelli 2006, 2007).

  7. 7.

    For a more nuanced view, see Abouharb and Cingranelli (2007).

  8. 8.

    Subsequently, the HIPC was strengthened and renamed “the Enhanced HIPC Initiative” (Blackmon 2008).

  9. 9.

    Thorough reviews of studies examining the selection biases of the IMF can be found in Abouharb and Cingranelli (2007), Stone (2004) and Vreeland (2003).

  10. 10.

    See for example the findings of Landman (2005).

  11. 11.

    Note that the value of numbers of years under IMF programs maximizes at 22 rather than 23 because we exclude the first year a government enters into a program unless it is already under conditionality from a previous loan.

  12. 12.

    These are available from the authors upon request.

  13. 13.

    These results are available as a web appendix on the Review of International Organization’s website.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank David Clark, Axel Dreher, David Sobek, Randall Stone and James Vreeland for their comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This research was supported by a grant (No.SES-0318273) from the Political Science Division of the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to M. Rodwan Abouharb.

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Abouharb, M.R., Cingranelli, D.L. IMF programs and human rights, 1981–2003. Rev Int Organ 4, 47 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11558-008-9050-5

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Keywords

  • International Monetary Fund
  • Conditionality
  • Human rights
  • Physical integrity rights

JEL Codes

  • F33
  • F34
  • F35
  • F53
  • F55
  • F59