Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jubilee Act passed by US Congress!

While there wasn't much progress on debt in one set of big buidings in Washington last weekend (the World Bank and the IMF's Spring Meetings largely ignored the issue), it was a different story across town in the US Congress. On Tuesday the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation - originally produced by our friends Jubilee USA - was considered by the House of Representatives and they voted to pass it!
It is really exciting that the bill has got this far and Jubilee USA have lobbied hard throughout. The bill now goes to the Senate for them to consider. If it became law, it would expand US debt cancellation, without harmful economic conditions, to the 67 poorest countries in the Global South. Find out more at Jubilee USA's website.

World Bank hosts illegitimate debt roundtable

Monday represented an important step forward in the illegitimate debt campaign: after months and indeed years of pushing the World Bank to engage with the concept of illegitimate debt, yesterday the Bank hosted a ‘roundtable’ discussion at its headquarters in Washington DC. WB staff, Executive Directors and other country representatives, academics and civil society groups took part in the discussion of concepts and practices regarding odious and illegitimate debt, and responsible lending. While there weren't any major breakthroughs in the meeting itself, even to have this dialogue is a good result. A report will be produced of the day's discussions and there are several other conferences later in the year which indicates that the topic of illegitimate debt will receive increasing attention in the coming months.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

IMF and World Bank meet amid financial crisis and food price hikes

The media attention on the Spring Meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington DC this weekend has mostly been on the current financial crisis. The IMF has been under increasing pressure to find a role for itself in the midst of a changing world over the past few years, and perhaps hope to find it in these turbulent times. But critics point out that the IMF did not do a good job warning the world of this crisis, or even predicting it. So how can this institution really play the global governance role for which is was created?

Meanwhile for poor countries the main issue is the soaring food prices, which has led to riots in many parts of the world in recent months. World Bank President Zoellick warns that the problem is so serious it may undo seven years of poverty reduction efforts. It is vital that the finance and development ministers gathered in Washington this weekend work to resolve this crisis, which is hitting the poorest hardest of all.

And the other big issue on the agenda is, of course, climate change. Zoellick is hosting a 'Bali Breakfast' this morning to discuss the Bank's role, ahead of today's Development Committee meeting. But campaigners are seriosuly worried about the part the Bank can and should play. Yesterday we met with European Executive Directors of the Bank to raise some of these concerns. At the same meeting we discussed illegitimate debt and responsible lending - and there are clear parallels between the two issues. Finance for climate change needs to be seen as compensation for the 'debt' the rich world owes the poor - not lending, on possibly expensive terms, under a development umbrella. And civil society groups are also worried that funds being discussed at the Bank for tackling climate change will be outside of the international negotiationsat the UN and therefore undermine what is at least a much more egalitarian process. Urgent action is clearly needed - but it must be the right action for the world's poor.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Drop the Debt Fast!

The Drop the Debt Fast, which start tomorrow, is a 36-day rolling hunger strike calling for faster debt cancellation for the world's poorest countries. Every day we are focusing on a different country which has been neglected by debt cancellation so far. You can take part for one or more days wherever you are - sign up here.

The Fast comes ahead of the tenth anniversary of the Birmingham G8 human chain in May. On Sunday 18 May we'll be returning to Birmingham to celebrate the successes of the debt campaign so far, and to keep up the pressure on politicians to drop ALL the debt. The event is called Journey to Justice, and there are some great speakers and participants lined up. Find out more here.