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  • 1.5 billion people living in countries at highest risk of debt distress
  • Common Framework on debt relief yet to deliver any support to countries requesting assistance
  • Low income countries yet to receive single dollar of channeled SDRs

G20 Finance Ministers must remove blockages that are preventing the world’s poorest countries from accessing essential financial support, or risk fueling humanitarian emergencies and political instability. The call from anti-poverty organization, The ONE Campaign, comes as finance chiefs meet this weekend against a backdrop of global economic stagnation, rising prices and increasing food insecurity, driven by the aftershocks of COVID and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

ONE’s latest research shows that these global crises are adding further pressures on the high number of low income countries that are at risk of bankruptcy. Despite this situation, vulnerable countries have still not benefited  from billions of dollars of support through channeled Special Drawing Rights that was promised in 2021. Meanwhile, a year and a half after its announcement, the Common Framework is yet to deliver the debt relief promised to indebted countries. Just Zambia, Ethiopia and Chad have applied and not one has received any relief. 

Further research released in the past week shows that 1.5 billion people – a fifth of the world’s population – now live in the 25 countries at highest risk of debt distress, increasing the prospect of mounting political instability as more people become trapped in extreme poverty and are forced to go without basic food and provisions. ONE is urging the G20 to address this situation urgently, by accelerating efforts to support vulnerable countries and make faster progress on the process of reforming multilateral development banks, which could release up to $1 trillion in support for developing countries.

Edwin Ikhuoria, Executive Director for Africa at The ONE Campaign, said: “The whole world is experiencing economic pressures at the moment – but for people in the poorest and most vulnerable nations these pressures could have devastating consequences. 

“We are already seeing an escalating food emergency in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With countries also dealing with the aftershocks of the pandemic there is a real risk that millions more people will be plunged into the nightmare of extreme poverty.

“Wealthy nations promised to do more to support vulnerable countries, but to date that support has not arrived where it is needed most. We urgently need to unblock the system and provide the investment and debt relief that will prevent these crises becoming a humanitarian catastrophe.”


Notes to editors:

  • Africa’s debt service costs are at their highest in over a decade and, despite G20 initiatives like the DSSI and Common Framework, will remain so until at least 2025.
  • Debt service costs eat directly into government budgets, with many low income countries spending more on debt than health. Only 7 low income countries worldwide, and no African country, is categorised as low risk of debt distress.
  • ONE’s research on debt can be found here
  • Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) are a reserve asset that sits within the IMF that every member country has access to. These reserve assets can be drawn on in times of need, by exchanging SDRs for hard currency (dollars, euros or yuan) from other members. 
  • SDRs are distributed in allocations by the IMF, the most recent of which took place in August 2021 when an allocation of $650 billion in SDRs was approved by the IMF Board. SDRs are allocated according to IMF quota shares, which means countries who have larger shares within the IMF receive a larger allocation.
  • G20 countries received almost USD 443 billion in SDRs, with only USD 33 billion going to African countries. In 2021, the G20 reiterated a G7 commitment to channel USD 100 billion of their excess SDRs to the poorest countries. To date, just over 60% of that commitment has been met.
  • ONE’s tracking of SDR use and pledging is here.
  • Recent research from Bloomberg ranks 25 countries as having the highest risk of debt distress based on a series of indicators (in order from highest debt vulnerability): El Salvador, Ghana, Tunisia, Pakistan, Egypt, Kenya, Argentina, Ukraine, Bahrain, Namibia, Brazil, Angola, Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, Costa Rica, Gabon, Morocco, Ecuador, Turkey, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Columbia, Nigeria, Mexico. Using the UN’s latest population data, 1.5 billion people live in these countries.