Britain announces cancellation of some Third World debt

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Indy Politics

Thousands of campaigners for the cancellation of Third World debt are gathering in London to call on wealthy countries to ease the burden of debt faced by the world's poorest people.

Thousands of campaigners for the cancellation of Third World debt are gathering in London to call on wealthy countries to ease the burden of debt faced by the world's poorest people.

Live Aid founder Bob Geldof is to address a Drop the Debt rally in Trafalgar Square as part of a day of events organised by campaign group Jubilee 2000, which will also see Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown outline Britain's plans to contribute to the ending of the debt crisis.

This morning it was announced that Britain is to write off the debt of 21 of the world's poorest nation, and put interest payments for a further 21 into "trust funds" for the future when they have set up poverty reduction plans.

The rally comes just weeks before the end-of-year deadline for the cancellation of all unpayable Third World, set by Jubilee 2000 on its foundation in 1996.

Creditor nations agreed at last year's Cologne Summit to scrap $110bn (£78bn) owed them by poor countries, but so far only around 12 billion of this has actually been written off.

It is thought that the 52 countries in most urgent need of relief still owe a total of $376bn (£268bn), and Jubilee 2000 believes up to 300 billion (£214bn) needs to be written off to end the crisis.

Some 20 countries have received relief of some form, but even these states - like Tanzania, which spends $168m (£120m) a year on debt, compared with $87m (£62m) on health and $154m (£110m) on education - are still paying crippling interest payments on remaining debts.

Other countries in need of relief, like Nigeria, Haiti and Bangladesh, are not even being considered by international creditors.

Today's events form part of the run-up to a lobby of the G7 summit of industrialised nations in Genoa, Italy, next July, at which the group will urge wholesale scrapping of debts.

The group's director Ann Pettifor was due to tell the rally: "There is one more major opportunity for the world's leaders to act, at their Genoa Summit next July.

"Beyond that, it is clear that we will not achieve deeper, broader faster debt cancellation until we change the process for agreeing debt relief; that is until we have made the decision-making structures for international debt and global finance more transparent and accountable."

Drop the Debt leader Adrian Lovett was due to say: "The stage is set for a breakthrough in 2001.

"We've got a fantastic campaign in Italy, we've got the Pope on our side, and it's now clear that debt cancellation efforts so far are simply not enough. "I believe we can do better. I'm asking everyone who cares about fairness and justice to join with us in a huge push to persuade the world's leaders to Drop the Debt."

Supporters are due to light a Jubilee 2000 flame to show that their campaign will continue until the chains of debt holding back the world's poorest countries are finally broken.

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