National campaign “Indebted to Rights”
Source: ILSA

The campaign "INDEBTED TO RIGHTS" is an initiative promoted by different social and non-governmental organizations (1) concerned about the problems that have been caused so far by Colombia’s public indebtedness and its regressive consequences in terms of social, economic, cultural and environmental rights.

Background information

The Latin American Institute of Alternative Legal Services (ILSA, its acronym in Spanish), whose mission is aimed at promoting a network of grassroots alternative legal services in Latin America and the Caribbean, has proposed to open a space for debate on the issue of the Colombian debt. The aim is to contribute to raising awareness and motivation among social organizations, the human rights movement and unions in order to favour a closer understanding of the debt phenomenon and its negative impacts on the fulfilment of ESCRs, thus opening possibilities for social resistance regarding debt payment and structural adjustment neo-liberal policies.

The initial topic of discussion, prior to implementing the campaign, was the Colombian External Debt, which shares the political aims of social struggles in Latin America, being this a widespread problem experienced by Third World countries and the more critical problem to be faced by the social movement that fights for the enforcement of the economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. The Colombian social movement has devoted little time and efforts to the issue of understanding poverty causes and social exclusion as direct effects of the debt and structural adjustment policies, since concerns have been mainly focused on the human rights violations arising from the armed conflict.

At the present time, the campaign has adopted the name of National Campaign “Indebted to Rights”, in view of the fact that not only Colombia’s external debt deserves to be researched and monitored, but nowadays the country’s internal indebtedness represents the main concern for the Colombian economy, since within the period 1988-1992 external debt flows were stabilized and the government’s financing policy has been redirected to the substitution of external debt for internal debt – a policy that appears to be in agreement with the opening-up process implemented in the country. In a consistent fashion, an outstanding increase in private expenditure has been noticed and the policy of internationalization of markets within the framework of the neo-liberal model has been strengthened. Between 1992 and 2002, the private sector external debt flows were outstandingly reduced as a result of the 1997 international financial crisis, while the public sector external debt was increased, thus bringing about the highest levels of fiscal deficit..(2)

By the end of 2004, the amount of the Colombian gross public debt grew by $167.4 trillion pesos(3), that is to say, 65.4% of the country’s GDP. This implies that in terms of state budget, resources allocated to social expenditure are increasingly lower, while the costs of social opportunities not provided by the State are increasingly broader. This is due to the fact that the Government is concentrated on covering its growing fiscal deficit and complying with structural adjustments translated into economic policy, demanded by the IMF.

General objective of the National Campaign “Indebted to rights”

To contribute to the joint interpretation and assimilation by broad sectors of the social movement of the structural effects brought about by the country’s external indebtedness, aiming at the enforcement of integral human rights. And this could be done by providing pedagogical tools that would favour the understanding of problems related to the external debt and would approach and engage the Colombian social movement into the different resistance proposals existing within the perspective of debt cancellation.

General objectives:

- To inform and raise awareness among broad sectors of public opinion and social movements regarding the issue of public, social and ecological debt, its dimensions at national, international, territorial and sectoral level.

- To explain how the public debt impacts on people’s lives.

- To lay the basis for social mobilisation around these issues with a view to creating political and economic alternatives.

Specific objectives:

- To contribute to determine and assess the effects of public debt (external and internal) on the enforcement of some social, economic, cultural and environmental rights.

- To cooperate with social organizations to improve their levels of understanding with respect to the issue of public, social and environmental debt, and to include this issue in their work agendas.

- To invite different sectors within the country to discuss public indebtedness, with emphasis on the problems related to the environment, public services, territorial indebtedness and violation of social rights.

Likewise, the Campaign intends to succeed in the implementation of the following strategies:

Research strategy

- To develop our own interpretation of the process of national and territorial indebtedness.

- To develop proposals for financial and economic alternatives to debt to be applied both at national and Latin American levels, which could be put forward by democratic governments and social movements.

Media strategy

- To develop a wide dissemination strategy on debt-related issues, reflecting regional and sectoral peculiarities.

- To promote training activities on debt issues for media activists.

- To prepare and disseminate a set of pedagogical materials on debt.

- To foster the organization of debates and regional and sectoral fora on the issue of public debt and its effects.

Capacity-building strategy

- To support the organization of training workshops, dissemination events and other training activities on debt issues.

- To encourage the production of sectoral and regional didactic materials which may contribute to study and get to know the effects of debt.

- To design advanced courses on the different aspects and alternatives to public debt, aimed at social leaders with political and economic training.

Advocacy strategy

- To carry out political lobbying and advocacy activities before Congress, administrative institutions and multilateral financial institutions in terms of the Campaign’s objectives.

Organization strategy

- To promote joint actions of resistance and movilisation around the issue of indebtedness.

- To facilitate the integration of social organizations fighting against debt at national and Latin American level.


For social and political control over the processes of public indebtedness!

For the dismantling of market makers as being responsible for public debt!

NO to the rise in public services resulting from external debt costs!

For the enforcement of economic, social, cultural and environmental rights!

Note: for further information, please write to the following e-mail addresses:;


(1) Organizations taking part in the campaign: Censat Agua Viva, Unión Nacional de Trabajadores Bancarios (UNEB), Centro de Estudios Escuela para el Desarrollo (CESDE), Asociación de Trabajo Interdisciplinario (ATI), CUT, Gran Coalición democrática, Unión Nacional de Empleados Bancarios (UNEB), the Colombian Platform of Human Rights, Democracy and Development and ILSA in representation of the platform “Diakonía”.
(2) Paper: Rubio M Orlando., Ojeda J.Jair and Montes U Enrique. “DEUDA EXTERNA, INVERSIÓN Y CRECIMIENTO EN COLOMBIA, 1970 – 2002”; December 3, 2003.
(3) Report: “Situación de la deuda Pública, Informe 2004”; General Comptrollership of the Republic of Colombia.

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