The United Nations General Assembly has voted to accept new rules to guide sovereign debt restructurings. At a vote in New York on Thursday evening, the set of nine principles were adopted with 136 votes in favour, just 6 against and 41 abstentions. However, implementation of the principles is in doubt as the majority of international debt is governed by US or UK law. Both the US and UK were amongst the just six countries which voted against. The other four countries which voted against were Canada, Germany, Israel and Japan.
Commenting on the vote, Tim Jones, policy officer, Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:
“This could prove to be a historic breakthrough. The vast majority of nations have spoken out for a change to the broken debt system. From the Greek debt debacle, to Argentina being held to ransom by vulture funds, to decades-old debt crises in Jamaica and El Salvador the need for change has never been clearer. It is outrageous that the UK has chosen to put reckless lenders ahead of people around the world by voting against these principles.”
The vote adopted nine principles that should be respected when restructuring sovereign debt: sovereignty, good faith, transparency, impartiality, equitable treatment, sovereign immunity, legitimacy, sustainability and majority restructuring. The principles come from negotiations over the last year, which most EU countries refused to take part in.
The discussions took place following a September 2014 vote to establish a multilateral legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring, which passed by 124 votes in favour to 11 against, with the UK voting against and the majority of EU countries abstaining.
Ukraine and Iceland were among the countries which voted in favour of the principles, having previously abstained in September 2014. Both have suffered form debt crises in recent years.