$70 billion debt cancellation ‘not enough,’ says Jubilee 2000

Published September 1, 1999


Organizers of the Jubilee 2000 movement – which is calling for the cancellation of debts owed by the world’s poorest countries – have criticized as “too little” the proposals by the leaders of the world’s main industrialized countries to ease the debt crisis.

But Jubilee 2000 organizers insisted that the proposals would never have been made if they had not campaigned for debt cancellation.

On June 19, to hammer home their calls for “a debt-free start to the new millennium” for the world’s poorest countries, tens of thousands of campaigners from around the world formed a 10-kilometre long human chain around the centre of the German city of Cologne where the leaders were meeting.

They were joined by Cardinal Joachim Meisner, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cologne and by several pop stars – Bob Geldof, U2’s lead singer Bono, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, and the African musician Youssou N’Dour.

At 2 p.m. the protesters blew whistles and banged drums, and church bells were rung throughout the city, as demonstrators paraded a golden calf – a symbol of the worship of riches – outside the meeting place of the summit.

A petition bearing more than 17 million signatures supporting the campaign was also presented to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, who was hosting the G8 heads of government meeting, which brought to Cologne leaders of the world’s seven major industrial powers, and Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

The actions marked the climax of the Jubilee 2000 movement, which has taken the lead in calling for debt cancellation. The campaign was launched in Britain in 1996 and has now taken root in more than 50 countries. It has been endorsed by many church leaders – including Cape Town’s Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey – and by prominent ecumenical organizations such as the World Council of Churches.

On June 18 heads of government from the world’s seven leading industrial nations pledged to write off US$70 billion of debt owed by 36 of the most indebted developing countries.

But Ann Pettifor, co-founder and director of Jubilee 2000 in the United Kingdom, told ENI: “It’s too little, I’m afraid. It’s really depressing. These countries owe $370 billion. In Birmingham (in 1998) the G8 promised to cancel $25 billion. That moved up to $50 billion. Yesterday it moved up again to $70 billion.

“That is the achievement of this campaign, but it’s still far from dealing with the fundamental problems of debt.”


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