A Growing Clamor for Relief

After months of intense lobbying by Jubilee 2000 campaigns, leaders of the world’s industrialized countries agreed at their meeting in Cologne, Germany, this summer to cancel $45 billion of debt for the world’s most impoverished countries. The G8 also emphasized the need to connect debt relief to poverty reduction and, surprisingly, suggested a role for civil society in the design of programs associated with debt relief.

Though it may open a hairline crack in the steel wall of structural adjustment programs and may significantly reduce the debt service payments of at least 16 countries, this latest proposal, while an important step, is far from enough. Debt reduction, for example, will be even more strictly linked to the highly controversial Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility of the IMF, and the power of the international financial institutions to condition and control the process of debt relief has been enhanced.

What the changes reflected in the Cologne proposal do demonstrate, however, is the remarkable impact of Jubilee 2000. In fact, advocates for cancellation of the debt are heard in every corner of the world—increasingly, in the mainstream and popular media. Jubilee campaigns in the global South, particularly in Africa and Latin America, are more and more clear in articulating their demands. In Europe, Jubilee 2000 is everywhere. Religious leaders continue to advocate for this as a necessary expression of economic justice. Celebrities with a social conscience, including U-2’s Bono and Muhammad Ali, are helping to animate a vast popular movement. Thousands upon thousands of people in local communities around the world are signing and circulating petitions and finding other ways to express their intention to see this major moral task accomplished soon.

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