Social and Pastoral BulletinNo. 88Feb. 15, 1999

In the last Bulletin we asked for signatures in favor of the "International Campaign Jubilee 2000". This campaign was started by a Christian group in England and the Vatican as well as the National Bishops' Conference of Japan supports it. The Jesuit social center is also a member of Japan's Executive Committee for Jubilee 2000.
The following article is a reproduction of the first newsletter, just published by Japan's Jubilee 2000.

An international campaign has started to promote the cancellation of the debt of highly indebted poor African countries, by the year 2000.

About 70 countries have started national signatures' campaigns with the aim of collecting 220 million signatures, from all over the world, to be presented to the heads of governments at the 1999 next G7 summit, in Germany. The campaign runs liaison offices in 3 countries, Germany, USA, Canada, of the G7 organization and in Italy and France Jubilee 2000 is also taking momentum. Japan has just organized its Executive Committee in October last year.

At present there are 41 countries in the world known as "highly indebted poor countries". Thirty three among them are situated in Africa. Such countries are doing all they can to return the money borrowed from International Financial Institutions and industrial countries of the North, and as a result, the capital they need for education, medical care and the development of their countries is rapidly diminishing.
For instance, the literacy rate in Africa during the last 10 years has diminished 10 per cent and child death rate, in Zambia and Zwinwade, has increased since the 80s. Why is the situation so bad? During the cold war, countries from the North vied with each other to get African countries on their side. As a result, the flow of aid and capital was very generous. But, once the cold war was over, international attention changed towards the Asian region. Since Africa was still much underdeveloped, with little buying power and without high market possibilities, industrial countries did not feel Africa was attractive any more. The flow of official aid diminished, and the repayment of the African debt to the North has overpassed the quantities of aid provided, so that it has become an issue much more important than aid. Nevertheless, we must follow carefully how the money lent by the creditor countries has been used. Did, really, the creditors pour capital into countries of the South, thinking of their development? People doubt it.

Because "unneeded" capital was imposed on African countries, they are now in dire distress to pay their debts. We must, once more, reconsider the matter of who is, really, responsible for the debt.
The demands to cancel the debts are a sign that the world faces together the problem of "poverty". Such a journey is, by far, much more troublesome than to proceed with programs, similar to a world test laboratory that, presupposing the status quo as it is, gives assurances to the North that there will be no losses. In the process of selecting countries and fixing the conditions for debt relief tensions will, most probably, arise and, maybe, after debts are canceled, population will grow abruptly or the destruction of the environment will become worse. There is, also, a possibility of higher military spending. Poverty will not be solved just by debt relief. But, facing future generations where hunger and gluttony coexist, will it not be important for us to search, first, for various possibilities opened to us?

If people around the world confront face to face the problems of nation building for those countries which, once their debts have been canceled, want to proceed in the right direction, unaccountable benefits will arise. For the first time, those countries will start breaking away from international injustice. Debt relief is the firststep towards solving the North-South problem.

[ Abe Amii / A SEED JAPAN ]

Rome International Meeting
From November 15-17, 1998, the first International Jubilee 2000 conference was held in Rome. Japan was represented by Mrs. Kitazawa Yoko, co-representative of Jubilee 2000 Japan. There were delegates from 18 northern countries and 20 southern countries, including Angola and Ghana. 12 international organizations, like the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Catholic Church and others also attended the conference.

Jubilee's stand to writing off unpayable debts only once was challenged by the African group on the grounds that the problem is not "unpayable debts", but the issue is rather "debts have been imposed on them by the industrial countries, from the colonial times, and consequently they should not be paid, because they are immoral". Further on, they stressed that debt relief should be, unconditionally, provided and not only given to the poorest countries. Instead of the term in use, "poor" that is misleading, "impoverished" should be used in the document. The official Rome declaration included all those discussions of the conference.
Action Taken in Industrial Countries
England, among all industrial countries, has the most dynamic Jubilee national campaign. Since its start in 1993, the campaign proceeds on with the collaboration of about 90 powerful civic groups, Christian churches, trade unions, medical doctors' associations and ngos.

Jubilee 2000 plans to present 220 million signatures to the next G8 summit of Heads of governments that will take place in Germany, next June. Many German organizations are already preparing events and demonstrations for the occasion. Germany, during the old East German regime, provided large military and economic aid to Ethiopia and as a result is the largest European country with official bilateral debts. Together with Japan Germany is against debt cancellation.

The North American campaign started in October 1998, and it already covers 26 States with a confederation of over 180 organizations. Protestant Minister Jace Jackson who participates in the campaign has become its national symbol. Political lobbying to make the Senate pass legislation on debt relief is one of the main activities of the American campaign. Canada, Spain and other northern countries have also their own national campaigns.
Jubilee Campaigns in the South
After Hurricane Mitch hit Nicaragua and Honduras, the Parliament and citizens of both governments in agreement demanded an immediate cancellation of their debts. Both countries owed over 10 billion dollars and the repayment of the national debts had climbed to 80% of the national budget, in the case of Honduras, and 50% for Nicaragua. They had hoped to earn foreign revenues from coffee and banana cash crops, but the hurricane destroyed vast areas in such a way that they can not recover anything. Thus, they are in no position to repay their debts.

The Jubilee 2000 Afrika Campaign was launched in Accra, Ghana, on April 1998 by 5 International organizations. The Accra Declaration adopted at the meeting held there decided to organize national Jubilee campaigns in all African countries.

As a consequence of the structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF in West Africa, the currency was devaluated by 50 % and the market prices of agricultural products, like coffee, cocoa and raw cotton sunk provoking the increase of the national debt.
The devaluation of the local currency in East Africa was even more serious, almost 100 per cent drawing the national debt to an astronomic increase. In order to repay the debt, the country was forced to change all its arable land into cash crops for export, with the result of having to depend on imported food for feeding the population. Further on, in Kenya for instance, the government used up all its foreign reserves to pay back debt and since it is not able to pay small farmers for their farm products, farmers are, very often, obliged to borrow money at high interest rates from usurers. Leaders of groups demanding the government payment for their farm products are eliminated and people are caught in a vicious circle.

Next Move

It was decided after the Rome conference to hold the next international meeting in Manila, in November 1999. In Asia, Japan and the Philippines are the only two countries with national Jubilee campaigns, and there is hope that, the next Manila conference will foster Asian national campaigns. The role of Japan is expected to increase.

(Kitazawa Yoko, co-Representative of Japan Jubilee campaign)
December 1, 1998. Pope John Paul II made an official appeal to the industrial countries to diminish the public debt of developing countries in order to get rid of "the shadows of death". "Debt is threatening the future of many countries and even if it is impossible to write it off totally, it should, at least, be greatly reduced. It is the role of Christians to raise their voices on behalf of the world poor. Several poor countries live under the oppression from huge debts they can never pay back. A cooperation that surpasses all cultures, races, nationalities and religions is a must to solve this issue".

December 2, 1998. Kyodo News Service released an article on the Japan Jubilee campaign. The article tells about the start of the campaign in Japan with the cooperation of religious, workers and citizens groups. Japan's campaign aims at providing information to the public on the realities of debtor countries and at a national campaign for signatures till the end of next March.
December 4, 1998. The German Minister for International Development called the claims of Jubilee's 2000 "justified" and declared that the German government was ready to include them into its own proposals. She affirmed that the government was positively thinking about the reduction of debts, and although it had, already, accepted the HIPCS initiative program for the reduction of debt proposed by the World Bank, there was a need of further new initiatives at the next G8 summit.

UN Anan General Secretary exhorted the industrial countries at the Security Council and the General Assembly to take the lead in reducing the serious debts of African countries. This recommendation indicates that, due to the debt, there is a big problem to obtain the funds to address the basic needs of the populations, and since the responsibility for the accumulation of debt lies also with the international community there is a need to rethink policies that include the writing off of debts.
The UN General Secretary recommended that, in the mean time, all creditor countries should abandon the bilateral credit loans owed to them by the most poor African countries, and that, international financial institutions should, speedily, provide easy capital to be used by the highly indebted poor countries.

Holland declared that it had written off the debts of Honduras and Nicaragua badly hit by Hurricane Mitch which destroyed 70-80% of arable land there. Nevertheless, the creditor countries of the Paris Club stop short of writing off public debts and just decided on a three-year moratorium on Central American debt. The English Jubilee campaign made public its discontent.

The English Newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, supported in its editorial (4 January, 1999) the stand of the Jubilee campaign stressing that the actual conditions to reduce the debt were too severe. The Newspaper pointed out that there is a need to return to the motivation behind the Marshall Plan, right after War World II, when many of today's industrial countries were saved by the Plan.

The writer Salmon Rushdie in an article that appeared in The Guardian (England, 6 January, 1999) says that, if we do not want the new one thousand years being seized by dictators, violence or fake ideologies, we must write debts down.

Timetable for Action

Year 1999
Japan Jubilee event. Political discussion on debt in the National Diet. Date line for signatures (March 31).
World Bank and IMF annual meetings.
EU summit / G8 summit in Germany. Submission of 220 million signatures.
International Conference on Debt. Annual meeting of World Bank and IMF.
Year 2000
Common meeting of World Bank and IMF
G8 summit in Japan.
Annual Meeting of World Bank and IMF
30 Debt relief for all Heavy Indebted Poor Countries

Japan Jubilee campaign aims at submitting one million signatures from Japan to the G8 summit in Germany. A booklet explaining the issues involved in the campaign has just been published (300Yen=$2.5).

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