This weekend is the 10th anniversary of the human chain around Birmingham when the city staged the 1998 G8 summit.

To mark the day debt campaigners have released a new study showing that for every $1 developing countries receive in aid, they need to pay $5 in repayments.

The Jubilee Debt Campaign report, Unfinished Business, claims that despite the commitments made, only $88 billion of debt has actually been cancelled. At least $400 billion more is needed if the world’s poorest countries are to combat the challenge of global poverty.

The report also condemns the rich world’s refusal to cancel ‘odious’ debt – debts run up by corrupt or dictatorial regimes still being paid back by the people they oppressed. Around $500 billion of the total developing world debt stock of $2.7 trillion has been estimated to be ‘odious’, run up when the rich world lent money to regimes like those of Mobutu in Zaire, Marcos in the Philippines, Suharto in Indonesia and apartheid South Africa.

Ten years ago a human chain of 70,000 people surround the G8 summit in Birmingham and helped to propel poor country debt onto the international agenda. Now the campaigners are marking the anniversary with a renewed call to G8 leaders.

They want an end to the imposition of economic conditions on debt cancellation initiatives, especially drastic reductions in social spending and privatisation of public sector providers. JDC cites Haiti as a country currently being denied full debt cancellation because of the arduous, undemocratic conditions it has to meet, while the people of Haiti take to the streets in protest at the current food prices crisis.

The report will be launched at Journey to Justice, an event called to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Birmingham human chain, which will take place on Sunday featuring speakers from around the world and messages of solidarity from Gordon Brown, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (President of Liberia) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“We know that debt cancellation is one of the most effective ways of reducing poverty in the developing world – debts cancelled to date have transformed the lives of millions of people,” said Nick Dearden, of JDC. “So it is a shocking indictment of the rich world’s commitment to fight global poverty that in 2008 the poorest countries in the world are still paying us more in debt and interest payments than we are giving in aid.

“It is time the world’s leaders fulfilled their promises and cancelled all unpayable and illegitimate debt.” 

More than a month of events have been taking place leading to this weekend. For more information on what is happening and how you can get involved after the anniversary celebrations go here.

 

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