Jubilee 2000: New findings challenge UN summit

 UN goals for dealing with world poverty will never be reached without debt cancellation for the poorest countries. That is the verdict of Jubilee 2000 who released new research this week to coincide with the United Nations Social Summit in Geneva meeting from 26 - 30 June. In 1995 the Assembly met in Copenhagen and agreed to 'ambitious but realisable goals', such as reducing extreme poverty by half and reaching universal primary education by 2015. But new calculations by Jubilee 2000's policy adviser Joseph Hanlon suggest that, if creditor countries were serious about these commitments, they would have to cancel almost 500 billion dollars of debt, and additionally increase aid by 28 billion dollars per year. Last year, the international community promised only 100 billion dollars in debt cancellation for the poorest countries, and less than 13 billion dollars of this has actually been written off. Ann Pettifor, director of Jubilee 2000 said: "This research puts the credibility of the rich countries' promises on the line. They are committed to halving poverty for the poorest people in the world, yet they keep taking money from those same people in debt repayments. If rich countries are serious about their 2015 targets, they should agree to cancel these debts, and ensure that the money is ringfenced for the poor. That will give some meaning to their discussions in Geneva this week." Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations wrote in his 21st Century Action Plan: "Let us, above all, be clear that, without a convincing programme of debt relief to start the new millennium, our objective of halving world poverty by 2015 will be only a pipe dream." In 1998, a sixth of the world's population (mainly in North America, Europe, and Japan) received nearly 80 percent of world income, an average of 70 dollars per day. The 57 percent of the world's population in the 63 poorest countries received only 6 percent of world income, an average of less than two dollars per day. Worldwide, a staggering 1.2 billion people subsist on less than a dollar a day. The share of industrialised country GNP provided as aid to poor countries has declined over the past decade. For the 22 richest countries, the share of GNP given as aid has fallen from 0.3 per cent in 1993 to 0.22 per cent in 1997, and has turned up only slightly to 0.24 percent in 1998. Each week, sub-Saharan Africa pays 292 million dollars in debt repayments to the west. Despite commitments to cancel debts, this figure has risen from 270 million dollars a week in 1998. The research paper 'Cancelling debt to permit development' (June 2000) by Joseph Hanlon, Jubilee 2000 policy advisor is available from www.jubilee2000uk.org. Jubilee 2000 is a coalition of more than 100 groups including CAFOD and Christian Aid, which campaigns for the cancellation of the unpayable debts of 52 of the world's poorest countries by the end of the year 2000. These countries owe a total of 376 billion dollars.

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