Credit is not a right

John Gershman, Jonathan Morduch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Every poor person must be allowed a fair chance to improve his/her economic condition. This can be easily done by ensuring his/her right to credit. If the existing financial institutions fail to ensure that right, it is the obligation of the state and the world community to help find alternative financial institutions which will guarantee this fundamental human right. This is basic for the economic emancipation of the poor, in general, and poor women, in particular. – Muhammad Yunus (1986) Muhammad Yunus, the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, is the most visible leader of the global movement to provide microcredit to world's poor. Microcredit refers to small loans, usually made to poor women with the aim of supporting their businesses. Yunus urges that we add a right to such credit to the list of human rights. We argue that, on empirical grounds, the case for doing so is weak. The notion of “credit as a human right” flows from the argument that if we are concerned with universal access to food, shelter, and health, then we should also be committed to providing access to the tools that are most likely to deliver those basic elements of life. The idea that access to adequate food, shelter, and health are basic human rights was put forward as Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in December 1948 and codified in international treaty law in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, as well as other treaties and human rights mechanisms. Yunus's argument depends on an empirical assertion. Microcredit advocates argue that when credit is directed toward the poor in developing countries, especially women, the access to capital allows them to expand small, informal-sector businesses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMicrofinance, Rights and Global Justice
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781316275634
ISBN (Print)9781107110977
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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