The members of CIDSE and Caritas Internationalis collaborate
with thousands of partners throughout the developing world. Our call for the
cancellation of the unpayable debt of the most impoverished countries by the
year 2000 is rooted in our partnership with those who suffer the consequences of
the debt burden.
In many countries, large external debt obligations prevent
governments from investing sufficiently in those basic human needs that are the
foundation for sustainable development and human security. CIDSE and Caritas
Internationalis intend to mobilize official and public opinion in favor of
putting development before debt.
The policy recommendations made in this booklet provide a
framework for a just and lasting solution to the debt problem. CIDSE and Caritas
Internationalis member organizations have committed themselves to advocate these
joint policy options in various national and international fora through the use
of the material contained herein.
We express our thanks to all, individuals and groups, who will
use this document as a tool for putting life before debt. We would
appreciate receiving a feed-back on initiatives taken through the use of this
1. All members of the CIDSE/CI task group on debt
contributed to this document. Barbara Kohnen, Christiane Overkamp, and Duncan
MacLaren took primary responsibility for writing. Special thanks go to Fr.J.
Bryan Hehir, CRS Counselor, for drafting a portion of A Catholic Framework on
Debt, to Catholic Relief Services for layout and initial printing, and to the
many readers around the globe who offered suggestions for improvement.
2. Bilateral aid is assistance given by one government to
another. It is increasingly used to repay debt owed to the World Bank and
International Monetary Fund.
3. Major creditors include governments and international
financial institutions. Commercial banks are a less relevant creditor for
heavily indebted poor countries.
4. Poor Country Debt Relief: false dawn or new hope for poverty
reduction? April 1997, Oxfam International Position Paper. The
study compares the external financing requirements needed to meet targets in
health and education set by the 1990 World Summit for Children with debt service
payments for 7 countries: Benin, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Mali,
Zambia, and Niger. In all but one country, the cost of debt servicing represents
more than the financial resources needed to achieve significant human
5. From Peter Henriot, SJ, Zambia: debt and structural
adjustment, The Month, August 1997.
6. Commercial banks are major creditors for only a few HIPCs
(notably, Cote d'Ivoire.)
7. Tony Killick, Principles, Agents, and the Failings of
Conditionality, Overseas Development Institute, London, 1997.
8. In this context, the term bankruptcy is most commonly used in
the US, while insolvency is used in