Campaigning WorksDebt Campaigning over the years has made a huge impact. In the early 1990's, before the international Jubilee movement gained momentum, politicians and officials routinely resisted any demands for debt cancellation, claiming that it wasn't possible, necessary or desirable. But the determination of debt campaigners around the worlds has shifted the argument hugely, making possible debt cancellation that has benefitted millions.
In 2005 there was a huge focus on the injustice of debt. Pressure on politicians drove them to action, resulting in agreements that should mean some of the world’s poorest countries have billions more of their own money to spend on health, education, infrastructure and all the needs of their people. This has not been easy: even in 2004, the UK government, in letters to Jubilee Debt Campaign and its supporters, was defending current debt relief schemes as sufficient, saying it was “not convinced” about further debt cancellation, and stating that “we do not believe that multilateral debt can be cancelled on a unilateral basis”.
But in September 2004, after campaigners lobbied MPs and ensured that tens of thousands of Call for Change postcards were sent, the UK unilaterally cancelled its share of many multilateral debts. In 2005, as activists spread the Wipe Out Debt campaign even further, the UK government led the way in calling for further debt relief, offering 100% cancellation of World Bank and IMF debts for some countries. Chancellor Gordon Brown explicitly acknowledged the impact of campaigners, saying that ministers had acted because “we know the eyes of the public are upon us”.
But we must not stop now! Building on the momentum of 2005, there is much more we must and can achieve. Crucially, governments must end the crippling and unfair conditions attached to so much debt relief. We also need to make clear that 100% cancellation of some debts for some countries, whilst welcome, is not enough. Countries such as Bangladesh and Kenya are extremely poor, have huge, unjust and unpayable debt burdens, and yet get no debt relief. If you want to make these points – and make clear that debt campaigners are not going away – see here for what you can do.