UNITAR / PFT Online Course on

  Course Information
Introduction and Background

For more than two decades unsustainable debt burdens have been the important development barrier of most countries in the South, restricting their policy space. Many years of "Structural Adjustment", multilateral "debt management", and several debt reduction schemes arbitrarily designed by creditors have not overcome the problem. After a brief historical summary of sovereign overindebtment since the 19th century, sovereign debts are connected with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are a form of debtor protection. This general principle first totally denied to the South is meanwhile accepted, although practice remains to be improved. Specific issues, such as sustainability or sovereign insolvency models are analysed.

This UNITAR online course aims at providing facts and an economic understanding of sovereign debts issues as a basis of both theoretical and practical work. It discusses generally recognized principles such as the Rule of Law, debtor rights, and human rights, so far still not fully granted to Southern debtors, arguing in favour of Rule of Law based solutions, especially the principle that creditors must not be allowed to be the debtor's judges. It shows that the preferred creditor status claimed by multilateral creditors has no legal base and makes reaching the MDGs more difficult. It discusses the concept of sustainability and how creditor decisions have made sustainable recovery elusive, the question whether aid or loans should finance the MDGs, and technical problems of debt statistics and indicators. One Unit describes the important role Non-Governmental Organisations have played in bringing about positive changes.

This course argues that Southern sovereign debtors and their inhabitants are unjustifiably discriminated against, showing how easily this could be changed if general principles of all civilised legal systems were accepted.

Registration Status: OPEN
Deadline for Enrollment: when slots are full
Course Dates: November 1 to December 17, 2010
Estimated learning time: Minimum of 35 hours
Format: Online/Internet-based (asynchronous)
Language of Instruction: English
Fees: US $ 400/-
Helpline: UNITAR Geneva (Course Administration and Technical Questions)
  Overall Course Objectives  
This course is designed for professionals working on sovereign debts, interested individuals or researchers. Putting the issue in the larger context it hopes to improve understanding of the background and essence of sovereign debt crises, why solving them has had so little success, and how debts impede reaching the MDGs. It provides arguments against present discrimination of Southern debtors.
  Intended Audience  

This course is designed for professionals from government ministries, public or private entities involved with sovereign debt issues, as well for academics working on this issue, employees of international organisations, NGO-people or interested individuals.

  Expected Course Outcomes

This course aims at:

  • Providing background knowledge to understand present sovereign debt issues in a larger context.
  • Connecting present international efforts to finance the MDGs with the problems of debt service and debt overhang, showing that the MDGs are one form of debtor protection.
  • Clarifying that general and efficient principles dealing with unpayable debts accepted by any civilized legal system have so far been denied to only one class of debtors, Southern sovereigns and their inhabitants.
  • Showing how easily the usual solution of insolvency protection could be applied to sovereign debts by internationalizing US protection of overindebted public entities, and how it combines perfectly with reaching the MDGs.
  • Providing arguments in favour of equal treatment of all debtors, which means stopping the unjustifiable discrimination Southern sovereigns are subjected to and of applying the same legal principles to anyone on the globe. 
  Course Structure / Outline  

Course Outline

Module 1: Brief History of Debt Management until 1988

Module 2: Brief History of Debt Management after 1988

Module 3: Present Proposals and Strategies: Sovereign Insolvency Proposals, Uruguay’s Voluntary Debt Reprofiling, Argentina’s Unilateral Cancellation, and Nigeria’s Deal

Module 4: An International Chapter 9 for Countries

Module 5-7: (3 Units) Debt Distress and the MDGs

Module 8: Debtor Rights, Rule of Law Based Insolvency Systems, Sustainability

Module 9: NGO Advocacy for Debt Reduction cum Debtor Protection

Module 10: The Concept of Sustainability of International Financial Institutions

Module 11: The Problems of Overoptimism and Ownership

Module 12: The Gleneagles Decision of the G8 and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative

Module 13: The MDGs and Preferred Creditor Status

Module 14: Lending or Granting: ODA and the MDGs

Module 15: Problems of Present Debt Statistics and Indicators


This course is designed as an online course in which participants will be primarily responsible for their own learning. Each lesson will consist of the following components:

1) Basic Reading Materials (Compulsory Reading Materials): these materials are intended to educate the participants about the basic concepts and principles applicable to the subject-matter of the lesson. It will include, where appropriate, sample materials. These materials will constitute the required reading materials for the lesson

2) Advanced Reading Materials (Optional Reading Materials): this will consist of optional reading materials for participants who wish to learn more about the topic than what is covered in the lesson.

3) External Links: This will refer the interested participants to additional books, articles, documents, and websites that deal with the issues raised in the lesson.

4) Glossary: A glossary of terms tailored to the online course will be provided to the participants and act as a learning support during the entire course.

5) Quizzes: At the end of each lesson there will be a set of quizzes for participants to answer. These quizzes are designed to test the participant's understanding of the lesson. Participants are required to pass each quiz and obtain at least 80% or more passing grade in order to be eligible for a certificate. All quizzes will need to be taken online.

6) Community Discussion Board: There will be a community discussion board available on which participants can post questions or comments that can be seen by the instructor and the other participants. This discussion board will be moderated by the course director and UNITAR. Structured discussion strings will be posted on a weekly basis.

All successful participants will be eligible to a certificate after completion of this online course.


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