Protestors in Colombo © Getty Images

Sri Lanka: Government must ensure human rights are central in its response to economic crisis


Responding to media reports that the government is currently in conversations with a range of lenders regarding its debt obligations and announcement of austerity measures amidst a serious economic crisis, Thyagi Ruwanpathirana, Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Researcher said,

“Amnesty International is particularly concerned that the government’s response to the crisis may result in a further erosion of economic and social rights. We would like to use this opportunity to remind the government of its human rights obligations. Sri Lanka has ratified a number of treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, under which the government must respect, protect and fulfil all persons’ economic and social rights. These apply even during times of economic crisis.”

“The Government of Sri Lanka must ensure that discussions with lenders include the urgency to put in place adequate social security measures to protect people from the negative impacts of the economic crisis. It must develop a mechanism for consultation where the people can effectively participate in and contribute to discussions about budgets and public expenditure. The government must also ensure that any austerity measures introduced are temporary, legitimate, necessary, reasonable, proportionate and subject to meaningful review and accountability procedures.”

“Lastly, the authorities must ensure that any future commitments around Sri Lanka’s debt, including around future debt servicing obligations, must not undermine the government’s ability to fulfil its human rights obligations”


On 20 June 2022, the first in-person talks with the IMF on Sri Lanka’s bailout request commenced in Colombo.

Last week, Amnesty International wrote to the Government of Sri Lanka outlining a range of measures to ensure human rights remains central in its response to the country’s economic crisis, as the people in Sri Lanka risk austerity measures. The full text of the letter and recommendations is available here.