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Debt cancellation demanded worldwide

Media Release
For immediate release: 18 January 2005

Debt cancellation demanded by campaigners worldwide

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 cancel 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 one in ten 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 NZ$159million 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.

“Currently, the poorest countries are being bled dry paying the rich world $145 million a day,” said Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand, Barry Coates. “Poor children are paying with their lives while unused gold sits in the vaults of the IMF. This is both unjustifiable and inexcusable. Several years ago, the Jubilee Campaign mobilized people around the world in the biggest ever petition, with over 20 million signatures. Politicians promised to act, but the poor are continuing to suffer. Now it is time to deliver on those promises.”

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 $58 billion dollars.

In New Zealand, Oxfam has called on the Minister of Finance, Michael Cullen, to support the UK proposal for debt cancellation. Oxfam has been informed that New Zealand government is reviewing its position in the light of the UK’s initiative and will make an announcement soon.

Coates: “The New Zealand government has an opportunity to support this important new initiative and help the world’s poorest countries to break the vicious cycle of poverty and indebtedness. The youth of the developing world should not be asked to keep paying for the ill-advised borrowing and reckless lending of the past. They deserve the opportunity to escape the chains of debt and improve their lives.”


Editors’ notes

The decision of the G7 is in the balance. Despite moves towards debt relief by the UK, others governments are not so supportive:

- 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.

© Scoop Media

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