Recently, talks between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan broke down. The real reason behind the breakdown in talks, at a stage where Pakistan is suffering from a balance of payments crisis, was the attempt of Imran Khan’s newly elected government to avoid the unpopular economic decisions that the IMF put up as a condition of lending funds to the country. While many commentators in the country focused on the economic consequences of an IMF bailout, a certain perspective was missing from the debate altogether. This perspective is philosophical in nature, and concerns the question of the collective human right to development.Human rights are a fundamental part of international law. There is however a popular belief that the theoretical basis of human rights found in its international charters and conventions is useless in factually ameliorating the material conditions of the poorest sections of the world. Underlying the neutral and abstract concept of human rights is a plethora of philosophical and political ideas from all nooks and corners of the world. The ”Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (UDHR) was a reaction to the dictatorial Nazi regime and while the majority of its values, such as the protections against torture might find global approval, its provisions for economic rights have never been enforced since the power centers in the West do not favor such rights. The conception of human rights enforced to date has been built on a disproportionately Western perspective. In fact under the UDHR there are no specific provisions about the economic inequalities between the first and the third world, or on how to alleviate such inequalities. The UDHR also reinforces this economic inequality by not taking into account that some underdeveloped states do not have the capacity to enforce some rights contained in the Declaration such as the right to suitable housing.Malaysia immediately refused economic aid packages from the IMF and the World Bank owing to its stringent conditions unlike Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. The economies of these other countries were severely affected by the conditions imposed by these financial institutions, while Malaysia not only recovered its GDP but became the best performing economy in Asia, going as far as pegging the Malaysian Ringgit to the American DollarThe discourse on human rights law has for far too long ignored ‘third generation’ rights which consist of the claimed rights of the third world to economic and infrastructural development. These human rights do not define the rights and obligations of the economically unequal states and are seen by Western governments as demands for charity. Civil and political rights are seen as enforceable but economic and social rights are seen as too vague to be enforced and are paid only lip service. This view has been challenged by certain states. Malaysia sees the UDHR incompatible with its needs of development. The Malaysian economy was hit significantly by the ”Asian Financial Crisis”, and Malaysia’s GDP shrunk from US$100.8 billion in 1996 to US$72.2 billion in 1998. Malaysia immediately refused economic aid packages from the IMF and the World Bank owing to its stringent conditions unlike Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. The economies of these other countries were severely affected by the conditions imposed by these financial institutions, while Malaysia not only recovered its GDP but became the best performing economy in Asia, going as far as pegging the Malaysian Ringgit to the American Dollar.Under the principle of sovereign equality each state is equal in terms to rights and liabilities with all other states. Yet financial institutions, the IMF and the World Bank, were run by votes based on the economic strength of the states. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were formed to prevent international economic recession and to promote development. The real purpose of the IMF was to facilitate the expansion and balanced growth of international trade but in attempting to help poor countries with the maladjustments of balance of payments, the adequate safeguards that the Fund was empowered to impose turned into ‘structural adjustment lending’, which led to most of the agitation and complaints the IMF has received from the Third World. The policies of the poor states in enforcing fundamental economic and social protections for its poverty ridden masses such as subsidized food, medicines and petrol were seen as the biggest challenges to the IMF lending these states any sort of funds.The responsibility of the wealthiest in the world to help the Third World with development has not been recognized, even with the UDHR charter sharply providing for promotion of economic and social rights. The IMF opens the states it helps to international private investment and is therefore aligned with the interests of the richest countries in the world which also call the shots at the IMF due to their voting powers sine quo non their economic strength. This is an unsatisfactory position of the law, it is high time that international law develops to recognize the right of the poorest countries in the world to sustainable development.Pakistan has lost a large part of its economy due to the War on Terror, which it leads as a vanguard state. Rather than letting the country sink into a debt trap diplomatically at the hands of countries like China and Saudi Arabia, it is pertinent now that the International Financial Institutions and states with influence over them act now, and assist Pakistan with its balance of payments crisis without stripping the poorest sections of the country from the already meagre social and economic protections that they possess. It can reasonably be argued that withholding such minimal protections would itself be a violation of international human rights law.The writer is a barrister, who has an interest in Pakistani current affairsPublished in Daily Times, January 29th 2019.