The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative (HIPC) was set up in 1996 to reduce the debt of the poorest countries.
Poor countries are eligible for the scheme if they face unsustainable debt that cannot be reduced by traditional methods. They also have to agree to follow certain policies of good governance as defined by the World Bank and the IMF.
Once these are established the country is at "decision point" and the amount of debt relief is established.
Critics of the scheme say the parameters are too strict and more countries should be eligible for HIPC debt relief.
This map shows how much "decision point" HIPC countries spend on repaying debts and interest.
Fourteen African HIPC countries will have their debts totally written off under a new plan drawn up by the G8 finance ministers.