Cover Image
close this bookPutting Life Before Debt (CI - CIDSE, 1998, 38 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentEXECUTIVE SUMMARY
View the documentINTRODUCTION
close this folderPART I: Debt and Jubilee
View the documentWhat is International Debt?
View the documentA Catholic Framework on Debt
View the documentWhy Now?
View the documentHow did the debt crisis come about?
View the documentImpact in the South
close this folderPART II: Reducing Debt
View the documentEarly Attempts to Reduce Debt
View the documentHeavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative
View the documentShortcomings of the HIPC Initiative
close this folderPART III: CIDSE/Caritas Internationalis Position on International Debt
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Cancel the unpayable debt by the year 2000
View the document2. Improve the HIPC Initiative
View the document3. Link debt cancellation with investment in human development
View the document4. Ensure decisions on debt relief are made in a transparent way
View the document5. Change the Structure of International Financial Relations
View the documentCONCLUSION
close this folderAPPENDICES
View the documentAppendix 1: CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis contacts
View the documentAppendix 2: Catholic Church Statements on Debt, 1987-1997 (by year)
View the documentAppendix 3: International and National Organizations on Debt
close this folderAppendix 4: Advocacy: Steps to Build a Campaign on Debt
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1. Learn more about the debt issue
View the document2. Establish clear aims and specific objectives
View the document3. Build awareness at the grassroots level and among coalitions
View the document4. Lobby decision makers
View the documentGLOSSARY
View the documentNOTES
View the documentBACK COVER

Why Now?

We are approaching the great celebrations around the new Millennium. The Jubilee is both a time of repentance when injustices are put right as well as the symbolic beginning of a new era. Jubilee symbolizes a fresh start for the poor, an opportunity to reestablish justice and equity throughout the world. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jubilee was to have occurred every fifty years. It was a time to free slaves, return land to its rightful owners, and forgive debts. Linking this biblical concept to the coming millennium, Pope John Paul II states: “Christians will have to raise their voice on behalf of all the poor of the world, proposing the Jubilee as an appropriate time to give thought.. .to reducing substantially, if not canceling outright, the international debt which seriously threatens the future of many nations” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 51). We see the Jubilee in the Year 2000 as the time for a new beginning for impoverished nations, an opportunity for justice and the solution to the problem of international debt.

It is not only the approach of the Third Millennium that makes this a time ripe for change. Within the last decade, old animosities between East and West have broken down and new, stronger, and wider allegiances between rich nations have developed. The time is right to rectify relations between North and South. Shared economic growth, fairer trading links, increasingly stable political relationships, sustaining the environment - these goals benefit North and South. Development is an expression of the common good.

The international debt remains a serious obstacle to human development. Many impoverished countries are forced to use their scarce resources, including bilateral aid2, to pay their creditors rather than to invest in the health and education of their people. However, through continuous pressure and long-term commitment, civil society organizations and some concerned governments have attempted to reduce the debt of the world's poorest countries. These have made a helpful, yet marginal difference in the lives of people.

In 1996, another possibility for debt relief emerged. The major creditors3 of the world agreed to reduce some debt of the most impoverished countries through the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative. In doing so, they both acknowledged that debt is a severe obstacle to development and responded to advocacy efforts from civil society organizations. Despite its historic importance, first experiences of the HIPC Initiative reveal that it is far from sufficient.

The upcoming Jubilee, combined with devastating poverty of the least developed countries, the widening gap between rich and poor worldwide, the relative failure of past efforts at debt reduction, and a new opportunity for debt relief, present a challenge we cannot ignore. In the spirit of solidarity among nations and people of the North and South, we have an obligation to promote an authentic and substantial solution to the debt problem.