CAFOD: 'G7 debt promise needs to be turned into action'

 G7 finance ministers meeting in London on 4-5 February agreed "in principle' that up to 100 per cent of some poor countries' debts should be cancelled to help them channel more money into fighting poverty. They said the 42 countries covered by the 'Heavily Indebted Poor Country' initiative might be allowed "as much as 100 per cent multilateral relief" on a case-by-case basis. And that other low-income countries might also qualify. CAFOD said: "The announcement is an important success for campaigners, who for nearly ten years have been calling for poor countries to be freed from the chains of unpayable debts that hinder their development." However, the agency says hopes are tempered by the knowledge that many previous promises have been broken. In 1999, G7 leaders promised US$110bn in debt relief for 42 poor countries. By November 2004 they had delivered less than half of that amount. Only 27 countries had received any debt relief at all, and only 15 had received all the debt relief they were promised. Overall, more than 85% of the debt owed by the world's poorest countries to the richest, has yet to be cancelled. CAFOD's Debt Policy Analyst Henry Northover said: "Debt campaigners can take heart that the ideals they've fought over the last decade have at last been accepted. Finally, we have the G7 agreeing to the principle of 100 percent debt cancellation and that we need it to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. "But agreeing in principle is very different to making it a reality. We must now demand that words are converted into action at the Finance Ministers' eeting in April. When the lives of millions depend on their decisions, we have to see urgency in their actions." Finance ministers' announcement in February 2005 was only in principle. The details of which countries - if any - might actually get more money, when, and how this might be financed, are to be worked out at a series of further meetings in 2005, including the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in April, and another meeting of G7 finance ministers in June.

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