Chicago Journal of International Law


The question of sovereign debt restructuring has come up in the last three years, primarily in response to the plight of Argentina, which in 2001 was forced into the largest governmental default in recent decades. The Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism ("SDRM") proposed by the International Monetary Fund ("IMF") in 2002, while failing to win approval from the institution's board, was a very narrow response to a narrowly defined aspect of the global debt crisis. This article discusses the SDRM, but is more concerned with the larger scope of advocacy on debt issues by civil society movements over the last two decades. While it does take up legal strategies being used in those efforts, it is concerned with such tactics only in the context of the urgent calls for the elimination of the destructive cycle of debt afflicting most of the countries of the Global South. Its primary concern is to make the case that governments are obligated first and foremost to protect the interests of their citizens, and therefore should use the necessary political capital at their disposal to repudiate debt payments that handcuff their capacity to improve people's lives and inhibit democratic self-determination of countries' most salient policy decisions.