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Sunday, June 13, 1999 Published at 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK


Archbishop heads debt chain

The human chain is meant to symbolise the chains of debt

By News Online's Alex Kirby

Campaigners calling for the cancellation of debts for the world's poorest countries are to form a human chain in central London on Sunday, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

World Debt
The organisers hope at least 50,000 people will take part, lining both banks of the River Thames from Westminster to Waterloo.

The plan is for the two banks to be linked in an unbroken chain by campaigners joining arms across two Thames bridges.

The demonstration has been organised by Jubilee 2000, a coalition of groups ranging from Oxfam and Christian Aid to the Trades Union Congress.

Barbara Crowther, the campaign manager for the Catholic aid agency Cafod, says the human chain is highly symbolic. "The chain symbolises the chains of the debt which are affecting the poorest countries of the Third World in an equivalent of slavery," she says.

Worldwide effort

In May 1998 Jubilee 2000 organised a similar chain of 70,000 people in Birmingham, where the leaders of the G8 principal industrial countries were meeting.

The BBC's Alex Kirby: "Jubilee 2000 wants the G8 countries to cancel the debts of all the poorest countries"
The London chain is also intended to press the G8 leaders, who will meet in Cologne on 19 and 20 June to agree to radical debt relief measures.

It will be headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and other religious figures, as well as the leaders of many of the groups that make up Jubilee 2000.

Similar chains are being formed in many other countries where the coalition is active.

It says the debts of the poorest countries are unpayable and should be written off.

The effort to repay them diverts money from health, education and other basic needs, with many governments spending far less than on payments to foreign creditors.

[ image: Jubilee 2000 says African children are dying because of debt]
Jubilee 2000 says African children are dying because of debt
Jubilee 2000 says that, in Africa alone, 13 children under the age of five die needlessly every minute because their countries are struggling to pay off their debts.

One Jubilee 2000 member, the World Development Movement, says present Western policies on debt relief can make things worse for people in poverty.

It says the structural adjustment programmes imposed by the International Monetary Fund on countries seeking remission of their debts are often so harsh that they push the poorest people into even deeper misery.

In Uganda, the WDM says, government-backed industries have laid off 350,000 workers in response to IMF demands.

"What we need is debt relief with no chains attached," said Judy Kamanyi, a Ugandan WDM campaigner.

WDM's head of campaigns, Jessica Woodroffe, said: "Debt relief remedies come with a bitter medicine which may be killing the patient."

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