Letter: Third-world debt

Sir: Clare Short has not for the first time misunderstood the position of the Jubilee 2000 Coalition ("Short chides church on debt relief", 19 November).

Speaking at the General Synod, she said that we are calling for unconditional debt relief. This is not the case. We have consistently maintained that each severely indebted country should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and that debt relief should reach the poor through health and education spending. As Uganda has shown, a poverty action fund can ensure that resources freed from debt relief can be channelled to where they are most needed. Several other countries have similar policies in place.

The elimination of poverty in the poorest countries is at the heart of the Jubilee 2000 campaign for debt cancellation to mark the new millennium.

We have no doubt that debt cancellation in itself will not end poverty, but equally it is certain that without it poverty reduction cannot possibly be achieved. This is the message that is coming from governments from Honduras to Mozambique.

Good governance is a vital issue in the alleviation of poverty, and Clare Short is right to give it high prominence. However, many of the poorest countries do have democracies already, striving against enormous odds to raise the standards of living of the people they represent.

Just as much at issue is the intransigence of creditors to offer meaningful debt relief, as they close ranks and cover their decisions in the secrecy of the Paris Club. Clare Short would do well to use her influence to break the resistance of creditors, who have so far failed to deliver anything approaching the type of relief necessary for poverty elimination and sustainable economic development.


President, Jubilee 2000 Coalition,

London SE1