"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

10.17.2007

Global Call to Action Against Poverty

The Reverend David Duncombe has been fasting for the last 40 days in support of the Jubilee Act, which would "cancel the debt of approximately 67 impoverished countries in the Global South."

I want you to read that first sentence again. Rev. Duncombe believes this issue is so important that he has been fasting for the last 40 days.

Most of us hear words like "economic conditionalities" and "responsible lending practices" and our eyes glaze over. We stop paying attention, because it's complicated, and it's far away, and it doesn't really affect our lives.

But national debt does affect those who live in desparately poor countries. Many - really, most -African countries are crippled by debt that could be used to fund important development programs. Even countries that are doing relatively well - those countries that have shed their dictators (who were generally the ones who accrued the debt to begin with) and begun to develop - are still stuck paying huge percentages of their annual GDP to paying off impossible debts.

Anytime you talk about debt forgiveness, you have to talk about responsibility and teaching lessons to countries about living up to their obligations.

But the issue with debt in African and other poor countries is this: is it really just, is it really right, for the poorest of the poor to be kept in a place where it's almost impossible for them to improve their lives? Imagine how you would feel if you worked and worked and worked and worked to provide a better life for your family, but could never get there.

That's how it is for the poor living in debt-ridden countries. It doesn't matter how hard they work. Things don't get better unless the debt goes away.
But when it does go away, things change. Fast. Here's what the ONE Campaign has to say about the effects of debt:

"Debt is the kind of crisis that can hold back an entire continent. Sub-Saharan Africa pays $13 billion in debt service to wealthy nations and financial institutions every year, almost enough to pay for life-saving drugs to reverse the AIDS crisis that claims 7,000 lives each day.

"And in 2000, when Tanzania's debt was cancelled, that government was able to eliminate school fees, sending 1.5 million children to school almost overnight."

What's the more just thing to do? I believe that cancelling debt is right, and fair, and the only way to help many African countries ever have a chance at improving their status.

Rev. Duncombe's fast ends today, October 17. As part of his fast, he's walked the halls of Congress to draw attention to the act and to lobby Representatives to support it.

Today is the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. Today the ONE Campaign is coordinating an effort to send 40,000 letters in support of the Jubilee Act to the U.S. House of Representatives today.

Today, I am sending a letter to my Representative asking him to support the Jubilee Act. And today, I am asking you to do the same. It only takes a minute, and 40,000 letters might, just might be enough to make a difference. Will you join in?

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