Bishop David Konstant, chairman of the International Affairs Department of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, issued the following statement today (Friday): Among the themes to be discussed by the G8 countries in Okinawa on 21-23 July, none can be more important than that of remitting the international debt of the poorest countries, in order to enable them to tackle their people's poverty and to promote an economic and social development that includes and benefits the poor. In 1999 we were greatly encouraged by the outcome of the July G8 Summit in Cologne and of the subsequent annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. It seemed that an 'enhanced initiative' in favour of the so-called 'Heavily Indebted Poor Countries' (HIPC) might well signal a breakthrough in favour of effective debt reduction, linked to the assurance that the savings in yearly payments of principal and interest could be directed towards services or investments that would benefit the poor. In this way, debt relief would contribute to the attainment of the international community's target to reduce world poverty by 50 per cent by the year 2015. But the hopes raised in Cologne have so far been largely unrealised. In particular, significant funds pledged to the HIPC Initiative have not been paid over: and the process of bringing HIPC countries to the point where they qualify for assistance has been sadly delayed. Every such delay condemns the world's poor to further intolerable deprivation. We call on the governments concerned to respond to this critical situation with humanity and generosity, in order to ensure that effective debt relief for the poorest countries is urgently provided.
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