Odious Debts Online
November 2, 2005
Norway’s new left-of-center, three-party coalition government has signalled its intention to support the cancellation of illegitimate debt owed by the world’s poorest countries and the establishment of an international court to hear matters concerning illegitimate debt claims.
The new government formed by the Labour Party, the Socialist Left and the Centre Party – Norway’s first majority government in 20 years – has signed and released an agreement outlining its commitments for the next four years, which includes a relatively progressive position on illegitimate debt.
Known as the “Soria Moria declaration,” after the Oslo hotel where the parties negotiated the various planks of a common platform in late September, the agreement includes the following recommendations:
- “Norway must adopt an even more offensive position in the international work to reduce the debt burden of poor countries. The UN must establish criteria for what can be characterised as illegitimate debt, and such debt must be cancelled.”
- “[The new Norwegian government] will lead the way in the work to ensure the debt cancellation of the poorest countries’ outstanding debt in line with the international debt relief initiative. . . . The government will [also] support the work to set up an international debt settlement court that will hear matters concerning illegitimate debt.”
Joseph Hanlon, former policy advisor and economist for the Jubilee 2000 campaign and a longtime activist on debt issues, said although the intentions outlined in the Soria Moria declaration were not formal policy yet, the declaration represented a landmark move.
“First,” he said, “it means that a major northern government has finally recognised that there is such a thing as illegitimate or odious debt, which is the liability of the lender and not the borrower. Second, it is important to remember that 25 years ago the Nordic countries (and Canada) took a lead on sanctions against apartheid South Africa – although they were economically small players, the fact that respected governments were prepared to take action was key in making it easier to bring pressure on the big players like the United States on sanctions.
“Thus a Norwegian statement on illegitimate debt could again be an important impetus to change.”
To read Mr Hanlon’s statement on the new Norwegian government’s position, please see:
To view Norway’s Soria Moria declaration on international policy in full, please see: