Calling for Debt Relief

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, a coalition of faith-based and secular humanitarian organizations called world leaders to grant international debt relief to Haiti. The ONE campaign and other groups gathered more than 400,000 signatures on a petition asking the G7 finance ministers who met in Iqaluit, Canada, for their summit meeting on Feb. 6 to call for the cancellation of Haiti’s remaining debt.

“ONE’s core mission is to help the poorest countries reach the Millennium Development Goals, so we work toward long-term reconstruction,” Tom Hart, director of U.S. government relations, told Sojourners. Haiti has an estimated $1 billion of debt owed to the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank’s International Development Association. Without cancellation of this financial burden, the nation’s rebuilding efforts in the wake of this tragedy—which claimed more than 230,000 lives—will be near impossible, says Hart.
Upon receipt of the petition, Canadian Finance Minister James Flaherty released a statement on behalf of the G7 countries saying, “We are committed in the G7 to the forgiveness of debt. In fact all bilateral debt has been forgiven by G7 countries vis-à-vis Haiti.” U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also voiced his support for debt cancellation on Feb. 5. While the U.S. government cannot legislate what the International Monetary Fund or World Bank will decide, Hart hopes they have received the message. “Having the United States and the entire G7 support debt relief is the biggest hurdle,” said Hart.

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