This memo is a brief analysis of a few proposals for the institution of an international arbitration tribunal on debt. The idea is to institute an independent international arbitration body that recognizes the respective responsibilities of debtors and creditors. Facing the seriousness of the problem of external debt, this tribunal is intended as a more realistic proposal than the proposals advocating plain and simple cancellation.
The proposals aim at an in-depth solution through a perfectly natural and traditional means existing in international law: arbitration, an institution extensively used by states and individuals, particularly in private law in international trade. In this sense, it should be noted that arbitration constitutes a much more flexible legal means with a lighter and therefore more accessible procedure than in other types of tribunal. Moreover, the cost of this procedure would be accessible to states, including the poorest ones.
The proposals themselves aim at using a jurisdiction characterized by its neutrality of principle and intended as more advantageous to debtor states. The point is in the end to correct an inequitable and unfair legal relation. The central issue on which the tribunal is to focus is the evaluation of a country's debt in its entirety in order to determine which part is licit and which illicit.
The memo is mainly intended for the international network of the NGO Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) in order to clarify its position and at the same time provide its members with a few working elements. It describes the proposals, the motivations in favor of an arbitration tribunal on debt, its jurisdiction, the practical difficulties, the responsibility of international financial institutions and private creditors, and finally, the position of the committee and the course decided upon.