July 15-21: Global Week of Protest Against Debt
Subject: Global Week of Protest Against Debt
Another World is Possible
Global Week of Protest Against Debt
The peoples of the world are on the march against neoliberal globalisation. Building on decades of struggle, Jubilee 2000 mobilized 70,000 people to protest the 1998 G7 Summit in Birmingham and a festival of resistance shut down the WTO meeting in Seattle in December 1999. These and other actions signal that not only is another world possible but, as demonstrated by thousands of ordinary people from a diverse range of movements coming together at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, another world is indeed being built.
Central to building this new world is the struggle to break free from the vicious system of debt currently enslaving the peoples and nations of the South.
Don't owe, won't pay!
This debt is illegitimate, immoral, unjust and fraudulent. It functions not as a means of transferring assets or technology but as usury, entrapment, control and domination. The need for creditors to make money on their capital and poorly conceived "development" projects had much to do with the origins of the debt whose repayment is now being exacted from the peoples of the South. Billions of petro- dollars were off-loaded on to the unsuspecting South by unscrupulous bankers who guaranteed their profits at any cost. The unilateral increase of interest rates in the 1980s together with worsening terms of trade accelerated the accumulation of an unpayable debt that drove many countries of the South into structural adjustment entrapment.
Yet the debt has been paid many times over. In 1980, the total debt stock of South countries stood at US$567 billion. Since then, US$3,450 billion has been repaid in interest and principal -- six times the 1980 level. Nonetheless, Third World debt currently stands at US$2,070 billion.
This plunder exacts an enormous social cost. Each day, 19,000 children die as a consequence of debt-related problems. Funds for vital infrastructure -- housing, clinics, roads etc. -- are siphoned off to debt payments. Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano sums up the mathematics of debt domination very succinctly: "the more we pay, the more we owe, and the less we have".
Furthermore, part of debt service pays off loans made to private companies, pocketed by corrupt officials, or used in projects destructive of peoples and the environment.
Perhaps the biggest part should be repudiated outright, according to the Doctrine of Odious Debt first developed by the United States. This doctrine rejects debts incurred by dictatorships or for strengthening dictatorships as harmful to their people and institutions and therefore not the responsibility of successor democratic governments. How much of the debt of Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries falls under this criteria? And the Philippines and Indonesia? What about the apartheid debt of Southern Africa? What about Rwanda, Zaire, Nigeria, and so many others?
The South pays much more than dollars and cents. Sinking deeper in the trap, indebted nations have been forced to accept crippling conditionalities to get loans to repay their debts. Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) of the IMF and World Bank imposed export-led growth, financial and trade liberalisation, fiscal austerity, privatisation and deregulation on the economies of the South. These policies have reduced economies to sources of cheap raw materials and pools of cheap labour for the interests of the industrialized North, in effect hiking food prices, increasing levels of unemployment, reducing government services, and intensifying poverty and environmental destruction. They further undermine national sovereignty and possibilities for democratic participation and government accountability.
Organise, mobilise and resist
In mobilising for the Week of Protest, the anti-debt movements join others around the world in challenging capitalist globalisation. To the G7 Summit in Genoa, we deliver this message:
We are not here to deliver petitions and to lobby as if it were possible to persuade you through argument and facts to halt corporate enrichment on the one hand and mass impoverishment and resource pillage on the other. Your cynical response to our demands at the Cologne and Okinawa Summits was instructive. Keeping the people of the South in perpetual indebtedness while the richest countries monopolize wealth is indefensible. Nonetheless you rejected the call of millions of people to do the right thing by meeting the challenge of Jubilee and canceling the debt.
What lies exposed is the failure to fulfill even your own meager promises. Information previously buried under the balance sheets and obscure financial statements of the international financial institutions is now clear for all to see: just 1.2 percent of the debt of the most impoverished countries has been cancelled and even that, with few exceptions, is accompanied by unacceptable conditions.
In an attempt to hide the real score, you now promote a new fiction: the so-called Poverty Reduction Strategy. Civil society "testing" of this strategy shows that PRSPs are but another attempt by the World Bank and the IMF to continue imposing SAPs on the South.
The struggle for debt cancellation and repudiation is a struggle against an unjust world economy and above all against re-colonisation. It requires us to harness the strength of social movements, popular, political, and faith-based organizations to organize against debt and domination and to resist the G7.
The Global Week of Protest from July 15-21 is another chapter in this effort to construct a new world premised, not on profit and greed, but on fulfilling people's human rights, protecting and respecting the environment, and upholding human solidarity.
Break free from the illegitimacy of debt payments. Cancel the debts now!
Break free from the illegitimacy of odious, onerous and fraudulent debts. Don't owe, won't pay!
Break free from the illegitimacy of the use of debt and so-called debt relief as leverage for imposing structural adjustment programs and other conditionalities. End all conditionalities!
Campaign Against Neo-liberalism in South Africa (CANSA) Can be contacted at the Johannesburg Office of the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) 3rd fl COSATU House, cnr Leyds and Biccard Streets, Braamfontein, South Africa Postal address: 60 Isipingo Street, Bellevue East 2198, South Africa Tel during office hours: 27 11 339 4121 Fax: 27 11 339 4123 Tel after office hours: 27 11 648 7000 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org