Declaration on debt from the World Social Forum

World Social Forum, Nairobi, Kenya
January 24, 2007

A Declaration on Debt drafted by participants at this year’s World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, last month calls on governments and lenders in the global North to examine loans they have extended to countries in the South and take responsibility for illegitimate debts.

The full text of the Declaration is reproduced below:

1. It is a scandal that the rich world demands hundreds of millions of dollars every day from the South in payment of ‘debts’ that have emerged from the unjust economic relations that impoverish the South and enrich the North. Indebtedness is still robbing the peoples of Africa, Latin America and Asia of their rights – their rights to independence and political autonomy, as well as to health, education, water and all the other essential goods and basic services which should be available to all.

2. The debt crisis is not just a financial problem for the countries of the South. It is also a political problem that is based on and reinforces unequal power relations: debt continues to be used as an instrument of control, through conditions attached to loans and debt relief. It is an instrument of leverage used by lender countries and lender-controlled institutions to: aid the entry of their transnational corporations; enforce their foreign policy options and military and invasive strategies; secure favourable trade deals; and promote resource extraction from recipient countries.

3. It is also a responsibility of the North: their reckless, self-interested, irresponsible and exploitative lending has fostered this crisis, and their imposition of policies has deepened it. Wealthy governments, transnational companies, and institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, and WTO must all take responsibility for their roles in creating and perpetuating this situation.

We also recognise the role of unaccountable and corrupt governments of the South in creating this debt. These governments must make restitution for their theft from and exploitation of peoples in the South.

4. We applaud the Norwegian campaigners, working in partnership and solidarity with Southern movements, who succeeded in convincing Norwegian government to be the first lender to cancel debts on the grounds of its own irresponsible lending. We know that their years of hard work have brought the Norwegian government to this position. We call on the G8 governments and other lenders to look at the debts which they are claiming, to question the justice and legitimacy of these claims, and to recognise their own responsibility. All lenders – governments, financial institutions and private companies –must take up this challenge.

5. We know that our strength lies in the commitment and determination of social movements, campaigns and individuals working in solidarity around the world. The challenge to the injustice of debt domination has come and still comes from these tireless and vocal efforts. This, over many years, has forced the debt crisis from being an issue that few knew about, and that many governments did not acknowledge, to being a subject of debate around the world. It has also brought successes such as that in Norway, and the realisation of official debt audits in Ecuador and other countries. We, Southern and Northern people’s movements and organisations, are determined to work and raise our voices together until our call for an end to debt domination becomes irresistible.

6. Given the human suffering caused by historical and continuing exploitation of the countries of the South, the imbalance of economic and political power, and the ecological devastation inflicted on the South by commercial interests, governments and institutions of the North, there is no question that the North is in fact in debt to the South. We assert that the South is the creditor of an enormous historical, social, cultural, political and ongoing ecological debt. This must be acknowledged, and restitution and reparations must be made.

7. We are calling for just economic relations between and within countries. We are NOT calling for lender-controlled initiatives to ease the financial flows of some impoverished countries, or for debt relief dependent on conditions set by the institutions of the North. We are calling for rich and powerful countries of the world to recognise that they are benefiting from and failing to take responsibility for the exploitation of the South. We assert the rights of peoples to hold their own governments to account, and call on governments to uphold those debts. We are calling for official and citizens’ audits of debt and a citizens’ audit of the international financial institutions. We are calling for systematic social control of public indebtedness. We are calling for debt cancellation without the imposition of conditions by lenders and for restitution and reparations. We stand in solidarity with governments who choose to repudiate illegitimate debt. We are calling for the total elimination of illegitimate, odious, unjust and unpayable debt.

See here for the full report.

Categories: Africa, Odious Debts

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