Monday, October 29, 2007

Jubilee Scotland: "Cancel Indonesia's Arms Debt"

From 14th -19th October, Jubilee Campaigners north of the border kept a vigil for the cancellation of Indonesia's debts incurred by General Suharto when he bought aircraft and tanks, used to repress his own people, from the UK.

Rising before dawn each day and only leaving their prime position on Princes Street after sundown, the group drew in more supporters each day.

Hundreds of members of the public who passed the vigil, stopped to sign a petition for Alistair Darling demanding that the UK "cancel these debts to end this terrible injustice". It was delivered to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on friday morning and campaigners are waiting for his response.

For more info go to

Monday, October 22, 2007

Poverty Requiem

Singers and dancers perform the Poverty Requiem outside the World Bank's headquarters in Washington on Sunday

To coincide with the Stand Up and Speak Out mobilisations around the world, a Poverty Requiem was performed in Washington yesterday. The piece, whose lyrics were written by Sylvia Borren of Oxfam Novib, was performed by students from the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for performing arts. The Requiem was also performed globally on World Poverty Day, 17 October, with more than twenty choirs including in the Philippines, Gambia, Nigeria, Palestine and Suriname.

Action needed on Liberia's debts now!

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has been in Washington this week lobbying for her country to receive debt relief.

Debt campaigners, led by Jubilee USA, have been outraged this weekend at the continuing delays in clearing Liberia's arrears at the IMF - a prerequisite for accessing debt relief through the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative. Country shareholders at the Fund need to agree a remaining funding gap of around $60 million - and they are arguing about who should foot the outstanding bill. Whilst countries blame each other, the impoverished people of Liberia continue to suffer from a huge debt burden, most of which is illegitimate debt, having been run up under the brutal regime of Samuel Doe, with no benefit to the people.

HIPC Finance ministers call for action on vultures

Finance ministers from Ghana and Niger addressing a press conference

At their press conference on Sunday, finance ministers from the Highly Indebted Poor Countries called for action to improve debt relief mechanisms, tackle their countries' long-term 'debt sustainability' and help them to tackle poverty. In particular they urged that measures be taken to tackle vulture funds. The statements of the IMF on Saturday were fairly bland, expressing "concern" for the problem. As reported in today's Guardian, Jubilee Debt Campaign and others are calling for more concrete action to stop the vultures profiting from debt relief.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Protestors gather against the IFIs

Jubilee campaigners from around the world join the protests on Saturday

A small but well-organised contingent of protestors marched on the World Bank and IMF today, with chants of 'The Bank Must Go', 'Whose streets? Our streets' and 'Drop the Debt'. Debt campaigners joined around 200-300 diverse range of activists and anarchists on the streets of Washington DC Saturday afternoon, with whistles, drums and banners in a noisy display of protest at the Bank and Fund's policies.

It was in some ways strange to be amongst them, having spent most of the past few days inside the sleek state-of-the-art buildings that house these institutions! And here were only a few hundred protestors out on the streets, and almost as many police out in force, with barricades keeping anyone from getting too close to the Bank and Fund HQs. But it was a refreshing change from the sometimes-slippery lobbying meetings, so we joined in the chants with gusto!

Later there were some incidents, following on from the night before's protests in Georgetown, where at least one woman was injured. The police presence around the Bank and IMF since has been enormous, with extra security measures for all delegates. It makes you wonder whether it's all strictly necessary, given the small scale of the protests.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Town hall meeting with IMF and Bank chiefs

The proceedings of the annual meetings had a more formal beginning last night with the "town hall" meeting where Bob Zoellick and Rodrigo de Rato of the World Bank and IMF respectively, held a Q&A session with civil society representatives. The most controversial aspect of the meeting was Zoellick saying, following press reports, that he is considering the request from a couple of private companies who have approached the Bank to offer to donate to IDA, the World Bank's lending arm to the poorest countries. This would be a highly controversial move - although Zoellick insisted that private companies would have no decision making role, there are questions about what would be the guarantees of this, and how to build in accountability for companies lending, to what has so far been a pot of money only contributed to by sovereign states. We will see what comes of this idea.

Otherwise, the evening passed off without a hitch for the Bank President of 100 days, who bid a fond farewell to de Rato, saying he would miss his old friend. De Rato bows out after these annual meetings, to be replaced by the Frenchman, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, following a great deal of criticism from developing countries and civil society about the process by which the new director was appointed.

This weekend's meetings aren't expected to make much progress on the debt issue. The latest status report, on how the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) and Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) processes are going, will be considered, along with measures to tackle vulture funds. But we shall see what concrete outcomes, if any, emerge from the meetings.

Break Poverty: Make Peace

Around 50 people gathered in Trebeck Hall, Southwell to Stand Up and Speak Out and to conclude a month in which 200 local church members have signed Lift the Lid postcards.

Campaigners heard back from 2 local groups who had been working on development projects in Peru and Uganda, and sang one of the songs from the Poverty Requiem.
A special 'Break Poverty:Make Peace' banner was signed by all present and will now circulate round the churches for more signatures during the coming month.

Meanwhile in Wells, members of the Bath & Wells Diocesan Staff 'Stood Up' in front of the Old Deanery on Cathedral Green.

And on thursday in Harrogate, the Mayor joined Jubilee supporters to appreciate an inspiring talk from David Golding entitled, 'Debt-Progress & Challenge'.

This was followed by a brief presentation of Haiti and some of its people from Rev. Darren McClintock. The Reverend was impressed by the enormous effort put into, and the consistent dedication and determination that there is in the campaign.

Newcastle University Stands Up and Speaks Out

Wednesday's Stand Up and Speak Out event at Newcastle University was organised by the Students' Union and attracted about 200 supporters. Katy Whitehouse acted as MC for the event and Nicola Martin led the crowd in 'speaking out' for each of the Millennium Development goals in turn.

The new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Brink, attended the event and expressed his personal and the university's support and appreciation. He recounted the proverb, "No one can sleep soundly when his neighbour is hungry", because he is vulnerable to his neighbour's anger. He then developed the idea by saying that "No one SHOULD sleep soundly when his neighbour is hungry", because he has a moral responsibility to relieve the situation if he can.

(l to r: David Golding, Nicola Martin, Prof. Brink)

David Golding told the story first publicised in Jubilee 2000's 'Debt Cutters Handbook' of a Zambian mother forced to choose which of her two sons should receive simple medicine (the other she watched die) and contrasted it with the present situation, where basic medical care is available in rural areas as a result of debt relief. Speaking for everyone in the crowd, he spoke also of his anger that, after 10 years of campaigning, the poorest countries are still paying $100 million per day as a result of inherited debt.

Later nearly 150 students (plus a certain jubilee veteran!) gathered at the Millennium Bridge across the River Tyne, which by joining hands they spanned completely. "I was immensely heartened by their warmth and commitment", David Golding said.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

And we're off...

The annual meetings of the World Bank and the IMF in Washington DC are underway, with a series of pre-meetings and press conferences, alongside a full civil society programme of events, ahead of the actual annual meetings over the weekend.

This morning Zoellick held his opening press conference, where amongst much else, he talked about the Bank's role in "helping to create" international financial markets, and enhancing the role of the private sector in delivering health care in poor countries - none of which is exactly music to the ears of campaigners. The unregulated nature of the financial markets is widely blamed for economic turbulence in poor countries, and campaigners from Jubilee Debt Campaign and Oxfam, among others, question the ability of the private sector to deliver essential services such as healthcare in poor countries.

This evening sees the Townhall meeting, when civil society reps get to meet Zoellick, and de Rato the outgoing head of the IMF... news on that later!

Standing up and speaking out

Last year on the International Eradication of Poverty Day, a record-breaking 23 and a half million campaigners Stood Up and Spoke Out against inequality and injustice. Organisers are hoping that an even greater number from all corners of the earth took to their feet and found their voice sending a collective call to politicians on world poverty on October 17th 2007.

Already news is coming in: in India's Kashmir region, 35 000 university students stood up; 15 584 children in Malawi played football to raise awareness of the Millennium Development Goals, and staff at UN agencies in Jordan were encouraged to get actively involved. For more stories and updated news, visit the Stand Up and Speak Out blog.

Some Jubilee Debt Campaigners in London joined with members of other anti-poverty groups to wrap City Hall in a huge white band. In spite of the wind, the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY symbol created an iconic image to remind everyone that despite some great progress, there is still much further to go to eradicate the gross inequalities still prevalent in today's world. Dr Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (the most senior woman and African in the United Nations), emphasised the necessity for gender equality.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thomas Sankara's Legacy

Monday evening saw about 50 people gather at the LSE to remember Thomas Sankara and his fight to end Africa’s debt bondage, 20 years on from his assassination.

Kofi Mawuli Klu (Rendezvous of Victory) started the discussion with a passionate plea for campaigners to remember why and for what they are really campaigning; to look to the grassroots movements in Africa for inspiration and direction. He encouraged Western campaigners not to be concerned about leadership in African countries but to challenge their own politicians and trust Southern activists to challenge theirs.

Ibrahim Hamani Souley (CAD-Mali) followed Kofi by narrating some of Thomas Sankara’s story. He told us about Sankara’s actions while he was president of Burkina Faso in actively pushing for and enabling the independence of his people from European neo-colonialists. As we campaign against harmful conditions that are often attached to debt relief, we can remember Sankara’s example as he refused to be dictated to by the French when he supported his cotton producing farmers. Sankara’s example as a competent leader acting for the good of his people showed us that despite the inadequacy of many ruling groups across the globe, there are others who are able, and willing, to create good policy for the benefit of the poor.

Stephen Rand (JDC) ended the opening statements with an explanation of the progress of the Jubilee Debt Campaign in the UK and how this has directly benefited the people of poor countries. He emphasised how much more debt needs to be cancelled and how essential it is for rich governments to adopt a commitment to Responsible Lending in order to prevent another crisis.

Questions from the floor showed great understanding of, interest in and enthusiasm for the need to remove the burden of debt from the lives of those suffering in poor countries. The forum encouraged us not to get bogged down in the day to day of campaigning, but to welcome new ideas and listen to other voices. Thomas Sankara’s example of independence against conditions attached to debt relief and the domination of rich nations in the internal policy of poor countries, is one that should be remembered but also used to guide our current actions.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Should Africa refuse to pay its debts?

Monday 15 October, 7pm
Clement House, London School of Economics, Aldwych, WC2A 2AE.

15 October 2007 is the 20th anniversary of the assassination of former President of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara. Events are taking place around the world to mark the anniversary, and bring Sankara's ideas to a new audience. The event falls in both the Global Week of Action on Debt (14-21 October) and Black History Month.

Sankara was a key figure speaking out about the negative impact of external debts on Africa. This event seeks to bring together those within the Pan African movement and those involved in the campaign for debt cancellation, to explore his ideas and the wider issues of indebtedness in Africa. One important issue is that of 'repudiation,' which Sankara advocated for African nations. That is, countries simply refusing to pay back their debts, rather than entering into negotiations for debt cancellation.

Speakers will include:
- Kofi Mawuli Klu (Rendezvous of Victory)
- Ibrahim Hamani Souley (CAD-Mali)
- Stephen Rand (Jubilee Debt Campaign)
Chaired by Gabi Hesselbein, Development Studies Institute, LSE.

Location: Room D502, Clement House, LSE, Aldwych, WC2A 2AE.
Nearest tube: Holborn.

Partners: Jubilee Debt Campaign, Rendezvous of Victory, the Pan-Afrikan Youth and Students Internationalist Link (PAYSIL), NUS Black Students Campaign.

More information
- Ibrahim Hamani Souley on Thomas Sankara:
- Christian Aid's report Enough is Enough: The debt repudiation option (January 2007):
- How you can get involved in Global Debt Week, 14-21 October 2007: see