Debt Cancellation Demanded by Campaigners Worldwide

Published: 1 November 2005

Today thousands of debt campaigners in over 20 countries worldwide, as far apart as Germany, Yemen and Uganda, mobilised to call for the full cancellation of debts owed by the poorest countries. Campaigners in several countries targeted the German, Japanese, Canadian and US embassies in their capital cities, calling on these countries to agree to cancelling the debt.

Today thousands of debt campaigners in over 20 countries worldwide, as far apart as Germany, Yemen and Uganda, mobilised to call for the full cancellation of debts owed by the poorest countries. Campaigners in several countries targeted the German, Japanese, Canadian and US embassies in their capital cities, calling on these countries to agree to cancelling the debt.

The action comes before finance ministers of the G7, the world’s richest countries, meet on February 4th in London. Campaigners are calling on the G7 to seize the opportunity at these meetings to cancel the debt.

In Zambia, campaigners demonstrated outside the Japanese embassy. Life expectancy in Zambia is 39 years and 1 in 10 children die in childbirth, yet the Government this year is forced to spend more on repaying debts than on health.

In Tanzania, delegations from citizens groups met with the German and Canadian ambassadors to urge them to go further with debt cancellation. In 2005 Tanzania will pay out 110 million dollars in debt service. If this debt was cancelled the government could increase health spending by 50 percent.

Two out of every ten children in Tanzania die before their 5th birthday.

Oxfam staff and partner organisations across the globe took part in today’s calls for debt cancellation. Oxfam is calling on the G7 to immediately cancel the debts of the world’s poorest nations, in part through the revaluation of IMF gold reserves.

Oxfam policy advisor Max Lawson said:

“Currently, the poorest countries are being bled dry paying the rich world 100 million dollars a day. Seven finance ministers can change this.”

“The Tsunami showed that when ordinary people shout, politicians jump. Today’s action will have forced embassies around the world to ring their capitals and tell their political leaders to act,” said Lawson.

“Poor children are paying with their lives while unused gold sits in the vaults of the IMF. This is both unjustifiable and inexcusable.’ said Lawson.

In recent months the UK has moved to cancel its share of World Bank and IMF debt owed by the poorest countries, and has challenged the rest of the G7 to do the same. Doing this would provide vital resources to tackle the desperate poverty that kills the equivalent of the recent Tsunami every week.

The UK has also called on the G7 to sell or revalue a portion of IMF Gold Reserves to partially fund debt cancellation. The IMF has gold reserves that are currently undervalued by a staggering $40 billion dollars.

Despite championing debt relief in 1999 at the G8 in Cologne, Germany is currently against further debt cancellation.

In France, campaigners are meeting with President Chirac on Thursday 20th to demand more action in 2005 to fight poverty. They are also writing to all the G7 embassies calling for debt cancellation.

Japan has historically been against debt cancellation for the poorest countries and only gives 0.2 percent of its national income as aid.