Article Title

Odious, Not Debt


Anna Gelpern


The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 revived public and academic debate about a wobbly old doctrine of international law: the Doctrine of Odious Debt. This doctrine allows governments to disavow debts incurred by their predecessors without the consent of or benefit for the people, provided creditors knew of the taint. It has roots in nineteenth century jostles over colonial possessions. However, for the past eighty years, Odious Debt's rhetorical appeal has vastly outstripped its "legal vitality." Here, Gelpern argues that the Doctrine of Odious Debt frames the problem of odious debt in a way that excludes a large number, perhaps the majority, of problematic obligations incurred in the second half of the twentieth century.

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