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The World's Largest Petition

By Dave Crampton - davec@globe.net.nz

A Christian debt relief pressure group stole the show at the largest ever gathering of heads of state as the world's largest petition was presented to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan last week (September 7).

More than 21 million people from 160 countries signed the petition to cancel the unpayable debt of the worlds porest countriues by the end of the year, according to reports. Famous signatories include Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and rock stars Bob Geldoff and U2 lead vocalist Bono, who has enlisted the help of Pope John Paul II while criticising the slow pace of debt cancellation, "The only thing that is standing in the way of forgiving this debt is bureauocracy and red tape," Bono said at the presentation.

The last official tally for the Jubilee 2000 petition was 19.8 million, but petition organisers are confident that based on reports the current record of 21.2 million signatures for the Korean re-unification issue will be surpassed, demonstrating the massive worldwide support for Jubilee 2000's campaign

Jubilee 2000 UK diredtor Ann Pettifor praised the work of Christian and aid organisations when presenting the petition. She also appealed to the Heads of State to cancel the debt of 51 of the worlds poorest countries.

" I am proud that these petition signatures have come frgrn supporters of Christian Aid, Tear Fund, the churches and so many other organisations. The debt crisis cannot be left to the seven richest leaders who met in Okinawa in July and squandered the opportunity to help the poor in this millennium year"

The day after the petition was presented to Kofi Annan, new International Monetary Federation Director Horst Kohler met with campaigners, church groups, Jubilee coalition partners and the British Government in London, raising hopes of a new deal in debt. "I`m personally thinking we could- we should - go a step further in debt relief, an even bolder step," he said.

Kohler met debt campaigners to discuss the disappointing progress in the HIPC (Highly INdebted Poor Countries) debt releif programme. Last week Mali became only the 10th country to recieve debt relief. Adrian Lovett, deputy director of Jubilee 2000 welcomed the comments of the IMF director in tackling some of the obstacles slowing debt relief, burt said he must go further.

"The current scheme will only cut off a third of the debts of the poorest countries, THe G7 countries have all pledged to write off 100 percent of the debt owed to them.The IMF has healthy reserves and could easily write off 100 per cent too"

Kofi Annan thanked Jubilee 2000 for its efforts, saying that it was a good example of common humanity and solidarity. He said the record number of signatories was a sign that "the world has woken, and our consciences are pushing us to go our and help those in need."

Campaigners will now focus on the IMF and World Bank Meetings in Prague later this month. The meeting will be the last opportunity to push for debt cancellation in this millennium year.


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