Occasionally some of you ask me for updates on what Jubilee USA is doing these days. Some of you may recall that a few months ago I posted a petition for people to sign with their local organization to help Jubilee as a signatory on a case of Argentina being sued for some old (and very large) debts that was coming before the US Supreme Court. And many of you signed that, thank you.
I don't think I ever got back to all of you about how that came out. Maybe it was because I was disappointed in the results, but unfortunately Jubilee (and more importantly, Argentina) lost the case.
To update you on what happened, here are links to two things you can read. First is my original blog post about it, "Jubilee, Argentina, and the Supreme Court," which gives some of the background on where the debt came from and who was now suing to be paid. And the second is an article from the New York Times, "Argentina's Debt Case, No Winners, but a Lot of Losers" (11/21/14), which gives some of the follow up story after the fact. It was a great loss, but one cannot give up. There are many more places and issues that need our work and our help.
Today, I'm sending you information about another important issue that Jubilee has been working on for several years that has just now broken open. It will be of enormous help to countries in West Africa that have been stricken with the human and financial losses due to Ebola, and yet still have to pay out millions every year to pay of their aging historic debts. The news is that after years of our lobbying and urging, the IMF announced just this morning that it was offering a financial aid package to these countries of $330 million, $160 of which will be loans (but at very modest rates), and $170 million in straight debt cancellation.
I have pasted below a press release about the story, plus click here for a news article about it. Jubilee's director, Eric LeCompte is quoted extensively in the article. You might have also heard him interviewed on NPR and PBS recently as the settlement was being announced. To paraphrase Vice President Biden, "this is a big #$%&* deal."
And finally, here is a plug. Jubilee USA is one of the most remarkable, effective, faith-based, but under-the-radar organizations in the US. It does a tremendous amount of amazing good work for millions of people around the world. But very few people (at least in the US) have ever heard of it. If any of you would ever like to learn more, or join, or become a "Jubilee Congregation," let me know. I'm willing to come speak at a Conference or Regional gathering, and would gladly talk with you by phone or email about what they do and how individuals like you can be involved. Just let me know.
Commercial's over--now back to work. I just got home from two weeks in Cuba, and have thousands of more mundane things like laundry and grocery shopping to get around to.
Be well and be faithful and don't ever give up. If it ever feels like this is a dark time for people of faith and conscience to be working for justice and human rights, think for a moment what the health of the world would be like if your work had not been added to it. Life can be, and would be, much darker without the inputs and wisdom and courage of people like you. I'm convinced that the cosmic conscience of humanity thanks you.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 5, 2015
Available for interview: Eric LeCompte, Executive Director
Contact: Sophia Har, Communications Director
IMF Plan Offers $170 Million in
Debt Relief for Ebola-Impacted West Africa
Facility Can Now Aid World's Poorest Countries During Crises
Washington DC - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is providing $330 million of financing to aid Ebola-impacted countries. The plan includes $170 million of debt relief and grant-like aid for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The new plan also expands a debt relief facility previously used to cancel debt after Haiti's 2010 earthquake. The new expanded facility, the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCR), is now a permanent debt relief facility for the world's poorest countries when they experience shocks such as epidemics or natural disasters.
"This aid is so vital for the countries affected by Ebola," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious anti-poverty organization Jubilee USA Network. "Now we have a permanent debt relief vehicle for when the poorest countries face certain crises. Essentially, a global social safety net is now in place to protect the least developed countries when they experience disasters."
$100 million of debt relief will come through the IMF's new Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust. Another $70 million in debt relief will come from other governments who hold debt in the three countries. Concessional loans of $160 million add up to a grand total of $330 million in new financing. The package also includes a new financing mechanism designed to deliver funds to disaster-impacted countries quickly without worsening debt burdens.
"This new fund is an important, permanent tool in the fight against poverty," noted LeCompte, who serves on United Nations expert groups on debt and global finance. "It means resources for countries that need them most at the time they need them most."
Jubilee USA moved the IMF to create the Post Catastrophe Debt Relief Trust (PCDR) after Haiti's 2010 earthquake and to finance the fund through windfall gold sales. Jubilee USA urged the US government to call on the IMF to use the fund for Ebola-impacted countries. In November, the White House asked the IMF to grant $100 million in debt relief through the fund and took its proposal to the G20. At the G20 summit, the IMF agreed to the $300 million package, which its board now approved.
The Fund's plan includes a new innovation: rapidly distributing loans to countries in need and then using debt relief to provide grant-like aid. The $100 million in debt relief - which represents roughly 20% of the countries' quotas at the Fund - is designed to offset any increased debt burden from emergency loans. Prior to the announcement, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea owed a combined $372 million to the IMF. The three countries have a combined total debt stock of over $3 billion; much of that debt comes from dictatorships, civil wars and one-party rule. The three countries paid a total of $81 million in debt service in 2013. In 2012, Guinea, where the outbreak began, spent more money on debt than on public health.
"Tonight I'm toasting the IMF and the White House," said LeCompte. "Unfortunately the World Bank has remained silent in the face of this crisis. I pray they follow the IMF's lead."
Read the IMF's announcement.
Read more about Ebola debt relief.
Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 400 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee's mission is to build an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA has won critical global financial reforms and more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people. www.jubileeusa.org