Intended for healthcare professionals


Free the slaves

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 12 June 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1568

Debt relief for the world's poorest is feasible but may not happen

  1. Kamran Abbasi, Assistant editor
  1. BMJ

    For the world's poorest countries debt burden is “the new slavery.” Jubilee 2000, a coalition of over 90 organisations including Oxfam, Christian Aid, and the British Medical Association, is demanding that those financial chains are broken as a celebration of the new millennium. By clamouring for the cancellation of the “unpayable” debt of the world's poorest countries,1 Jubilee 2000 has focused the spotlight firmly on the creditors: the world's richest countries, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

    Jubilee 2000's campaign was officially launched in 1996 and gained prominence in 1998 when 70 000 supporters formed a human chain in Birmingham, UK, around the summit meeting of the G8 leaders—representing the world's richest nations. Later that year representatives of 39 national Jubilee 2000 campaigns gathered in Rome and called for cancellation, by the year 2000, of certain forms of debt: unpayable debt, which cannot be serviced without placing an undue burden on impoverished people; debt where the principal has already been repaid and only the interest remains; debt for improperly designed policies and projects; and debt incurred by repressive regimes.2

    The campaign has gathered an irresistible momentum, with support from a mixed bag of international celebrities. Rock stars Bono and Annie Lennox, former boxer Muhammad Ali, writer Harold Pinter, …

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