Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 13, 2000
G-7 slow to respond to jubilee debt petition
It is now more than 16 months since the Cologne Debt Initiative, the G-7's response to the global jubilee campaign to cancel the unpayable, odious and illegitimate debt of the poorest countries to the rich nations and their global financial institutions.
"Deeper, faster and broader" debt relief was promised at Cologne, but we have seen little evidence of this at the multilateral level. Most disturbing is that any possible future assistance remains conditional on the structural adjustment programs.
Intense grassroots pressure resulted in some movement at the bilateral level to the point where all G-7 nations have now pledged to completely cancel the debts owed to them by heavily indebted poor countries.
While the G-7 reaction to the jubilee campaign thus far has not been what we had hoped for, we should nevertheless be encouraged that the 17 million ordinary people, worldwide, who signed the petition for debt relief have had some impact on the deliberations of the great financial powers on this earth.
What worries me is that ordinary people are beginning to relax after surviving the millennium hype of imminent doom and Y2K catastrophe.
Fortunately for us, and the millions of poor in this world, some exceptional people have kept up the pressure to demand a more equitable distribution of wealth. They met in Seattle, Windsor and Washington, Calgary, Geneva, and most recently in Prague.
These ambassadors of justice have given voice to the laments of the outcasts that the Third World debt spiral brought on by the policies of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization has forced developing countries to abandon public education and health programs and reduced the majority world to become exporters of cheap commodities and labour to bolster the economies of the rich.
What these protestors want the world to understand is that after 20 years of structural adjustment and free trade, the levels of poverty, unemployment, child labour and homelessness are all higher today than they were in 1980.
No wonder the women of this world are marching; the men in power have made a mess of it.
The reaction to this public outcry has been twofold.
On one hand, police protection of the power brokers has been stepped up. Wherever decision makers of the global economy meet, the place is turned into an armed camp with uniformed law enforcers in riot gear, on horses, in close formation and even in tanks.
Protestors who wanted to reach Prague last month were stopped at the border and denied entry.
On the other hand, there is a softening of tone and an attempt to create a level of transparency. Paul Martin admitted in Prague that plain people were suffering.
Michel Camdessus resigned as CEO of the IMF in February and is now employed by the Vatican. What that means nobody knows yet.
James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, has opened up a global website (email@example.com), to invite interested parties and stakeholders to an ongoing policy debate.
The result once again will be that the poor have to speak through intermediaries as they have no access to the electronic media and therefore even this apparent attempt at inclusion will only further exclusion.
All the more reason for ordinary people to wake up again and take a renewed interest in the fate of the earth and its people.
As one observer put it: "Children are dying. Quietly, but in huge numbers. Not because of some accident of nature, but as a direct result of economic policies imposed by faceless Western planners."
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