Ando Isamu, sj (Tokyo, Jesuit Social Center)
People at first were surprised when the deceased Japanese Prime Minister, Obuchi Keizo, announced at the beginning of the year that Okinawa was the official location for the G7 Summit. Okinawa continues to be a thorny issue for the USA and Japan, both key participants in the Summit. Mori's new government tried hard to present the rich cultural dimensions of Okinawa to his foreign guests. On the other hand, the delay of President Clinton gave clear signs that the G7 Summit was not the top international site.
Power The Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, a political show that cost 80 billion yen, was just an international fire cracker event. The last official statement talks about Information Technology (IT) revolution and the continuation of efforts to re-structure International Financial Institutions. The statement recollects again the serious issue of poverty in the world, of highly indebted poor countries and the spread of AIDS.
The sending of over 22,000 Japanese police to Okinawa and the tight security at the time gave Okinawans a sense of what international power politics mean.
Jubilee 2000, the Voice of Poor Countries in Okinawa

Three days ahead of the G7 Summit 300 persons representing 40 NGOs, including delegates of 29 countries from the South, gathered in Naha City for Jubilee 2000 International Conference. Their purpose was to make the voice of the poor been heard by the G7 heads of state, to urge them to keep the official promises made at the last Cologne Summit and to press them to cancel the debt of the most impoverished countries by this year 2000.
A conference of this kind was unique in Okinawa because it confronted the rich G7 political leaders gathered in Naha for the Summit. The wide publicity given by the media and TV in Okinawa showed that the messages of the Jubilee 2000 campaign were very important and timely. Even at the site of the human chain event around the Kadena American Air base by 27,000 persons, the Jubilee campaign, that was one of the more than 100 NGOs present, caught very prominent attention by the TV cameras and journalists. There was something new in the cooperation of antiwar protesters and those who campaign for the basic rights of the poor populations.
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As Cardinal Shirayanagi, one of the three representatives of Jubilee 2000 Japan, expressed at the opening ceremony, the global solidarity of citizens in Jubilee 2000 shows that it is the responsibility of citizens, not only of governments, to build better human environments. The interest for the needy in the world gives us hope for a brighter future.
During the Conference, the reports from several African countries and international campaigns presented the dark sides of malnutrition of children, of a substantial lack of basic education and health. In other words, the enforced payment of accumulated national debts has intensified poverty in Africa and other countries of the South. The UN has made public that 19,000 children die every day in many poor countries, as a result of having to pay back debt. The issue could be solved if the G7 world leaders had the will to put into effect the decisions made at the past Summit. Jubilee 2000 Japan in its press release, 22 July 2000, mentioned that, the amount spent in the Okinawa Summit ($750 million) could have been used to totally cancel the servicing of debt for one year of the following 8 countries: Guyana, Rwanda, Laos, Zambia, Nicaragua, Benin, Cambodia, and Haiti.
Nevertheless, the Jubilee Conference was conducted in an atmosphere of hope. Everybody was convinced that big changes were needed in the whole global system, and that those changes were possible. Governments will produce such changes only when they cooperate with citizens.
Technocrats are not enough to make the needed changes. At a global level, participation of debtor countries from the South is indispensable. The issue of international debt is at the core of poverty itself. Thus, the eradication of poverty has emerged as one of the key problems in the emerging 21 century.
The Jubilee Conference held at the door of the G7 Summit had a specific purpose: To monitor the action taken by the G7 political leaders after all their promises in last year's Cologne Summit. Jubilee also sent them a clear message to drop the debt of poor countries within this year 2000. The one-page document produced by the Conference, "Call to the G7 Leaders", was offered personally by 4 delegates of Jubilee 2000 to Japan's Prime Minister Mori, host of the Okinawa Summit, during a 40-minute meeting.
The Jubilee Conference did more than merely hold meetings to exchange views or prepared documents for further strategic planning. The participants filled the Catholic Cathedral, one evening, to reflect and pray together in an ecumenical atmosphere and demonstrated twice, through the streets of Naha. They also traveled by buses 45 minutes out of Naha, to participate in the up to now most numerous "human chain demonstration" (27,000 people) around Kadena American Air Base.
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Thanks to the wide circulation TV and mass media made in Okinawa concerning the program of Jubilee 2000, people became aware of the seriousness of the issue. The Japanese government as well as the rest of the Summit political leaders got the message of dropping the debt, although they tried to avoid it. In spite of the fact that no single country has yet received any debt cancellation since Cologne last year, the G7 announced that "progress has been made".
As Kitazawa Yoko, chairperson of the Jubilee 2000 International Conference, said at the press conference at the end of the Summit, "We are outraged that halfway through this Jubilee year the G7 went back on their promise of debt relief made more than one year ago in Cologne".
Opposite Views to Cancel Debt

Following several years of increased public pressure, the IMF and the World Bank established in 1996 what is known as HIPC. The most comprehensive international debt relief program to date is called the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative. It was a significant step forward. The program was widely criticized as delivering too little relief over too long a time period, and being tied to damaging structural adjustment policies. Nevertheless, the last three G7 Summits have based their decisions about debt relief on such strategies.
In 1998 in response to the criticisms, the World Bank and IMF invited submissions to an improved HIPC initiative. In September 1999 they announced an 'enhanced HIPC'. This became the basis for discussions on debt relief by the G7 leaders gathered in Okinawa. However debt sustainability is still being determined based on 'costs' to creditors rather than the human development requirements of debtors. The Initiative still falls far short of what is needed. Jubilee 2000 in its public 'Call to The G7 Leaders' (July 21st, 2000) rejects the Initiative.
"The Enhanced HIP Initiative, which was introduced in the name of 'faster, deeper and broader debt relief', turned out, in fact, to be a tool for delaying debt cancellation. In light of this, we do not accept either the HIPC Initiative or Enhanced HIPC Initiative accompanied by structural adjustment programs and other externally imposed conditions as a framework for resolving the problems of debt and poverty".
There have been various important moves to look for solutions to the crisis of heavily indebted poor countries, and new terminology is emerging, like 'Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility'. But, in order to eradicate poverty from our world, the full participation of a broad representation of civil society, especially from indebted countries, is totally needed. Civil society must be present in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the debt cancellation process.
The Jubilee Okinawa Conference discussed long-term plans directed at the eradication of poverty, but in the meantime it will use the opportunities of the next Annual IMF/World Bank Meeting in Prague and the UN Millennium Summit.
The Jubilee 2000 Okinawa Conference
JUBILEE 2000 Okinawa Conference