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Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 08:06 GMT 09:06 UK
Debt issues crowd Genoa
The medieval city will see thousands of protesters congregate
The medieval city will see thousands of protesters congregate
Many of the protesters at the G8 summit in Genoa summit are angry that Western governments are backtracking on their commitment to give more debt relief to the world's poorest countries.

It is the last hurrah for the Jubilee Debt campaign, which sent 100,000 to surround the G8 summit in Cologne two years ago.

The debt campaigners are in the final phase of a three-year campaign to help relieve poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Jubilee debt campaign - which attracted high-profile support from the Pope to Bono - was due to be wound up in December 2000, but decided to extend its work to make one final push at the Genoa summit.

Debt campaigners are still calling for the complete cancellation of debt owed by developing countries.

Bob Geldof
Bob Geldof is a high-profile debt campaigner
The debt campaigners have made their feelings known internationally since 70,000 peaceful campaigners filled the streets of Birmingham in May 1998. The following year in Cologne, the G8 promised to write off about $100bn, but campaigners argue that few countries have benefitted so far.

Now, Alison Marshall of the World Development Movement (WDM) is among those calling on world leaders to deliver more debt relief.

"They've taken the plaudits and run. Tony Blair can't walk away from debt relief when so little has been delivered," she said.

A spokesman for Christian Aid said: "So far debt relief has failed the poor - it is time for a new deal on debt that puts poverty reduction first."

G8 summit

Campaigners include members of organisations such as CAFOD, Christian Aid, Mother's Union and Oxfam. The high profile supporters of the debt campaign - which had its origins in Jubilee 2000 - include Bono, Bob Geldof and Muhammad Ali.

Kampala, Uganda
Uganda is one of the few countries to have benefited from debt relief

Although they say some G8 countries are sympathetic to the idea of doing more than they have already, they do not expect any concrete progress to be made at this meeting.

The summit aims to discuss ways of reducing poverty, combating Aids as well as achieving sustainable development.

Promise of help

The G8 promise was that $100bn of the $260bn owed to the West by the most indebted states would be written off, provided lenders were satisfied that funds would be used to reduce poverty. Campaigners now want the IMF and World Bank to reduce their demands for debt repayments from these countries.

UK officials say that already $50bn has been spent on debt relief in 23 countries, and rolling out further relief now depends mainly on the efforts of those poor countries caught in a cycle of conflict and civil war.

In December last year, Chancellor Gordon Brown cancelled all debts owed to Britain by 41 of the world's poorest countries. This cost UK taxpayers about 640m in lost interest over the next 20 years.

Campaigners' arguments

Campaigners for urgent debt relief say that huge sums of money are going back to wealthy countries instead of feeding and educating children in the world's poorest nations.

The money was originally borrowed in the 1970s and 1980s, often badly invested or squandered, and in many cases the loan repayments are far beyond the nations' abilities to repay.

About 41 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia have been identified as "heavily indebted". The debts are mainly owed to three groups: western governments; global financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank; and private lenders.

The aim of this HIPC scheme was to cut debt to sustainable levels for countries that show a sound economic record over a six-year period. But many of these countries that have reached this target are still spending more on debt than health, argue debt campaigners.

Campaigners find fault with the IMF and World Bank system for calculating debt relief.

This system calculates how much debt relief a company receives by looking at its exports, but ignores poverty levels.

Under this system, a country is eligible for debt relief if its debt is 1.5 times its exports. They want the G7 - which hold almost half the votes at the IMF - to change the system.

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