The coronavirus pandemic has turned our world upside down. Many of us have suffered from illness, bereavement and uncertainty.
As is so often the case people living in poverty have been the hardest hit, with the most serious health crisis in a century threatening to push hundreds of millions out of work and limiting access to food, education and healthcare.
We urgently need to make sure that governments in poor countries have the resources at hand to stop the spread of the virus, to treat those who are infected and to help communities to recover and rebuild. Yet dozens of governments are spending more on debt payments than they are on their own health care systems. This must stop.
The G20 (a group of 20 of the world’s most powerful countries) has recognised this is a problem and has suspended some debt repayments due this year. But we need them to go much further.
In October, finance ministers from the world’s richest countries, as well as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, will meet to decide the next steps in the global recovery from the pandemic. We need to make sure that no one is left behind and that governments in poorer countries are not faced with an impossible choice between saving lives or repaying debts.
The UK has one of the most powerful voices in these international meetings. We need to raise our own voices to urge the UK Chancellor to show leadership and work to cancel the debts of countries struggling to cope with the effects of the pandemic.
If we can build up enough pressure from MPs, the Chancellor will have to listen.
In the run-up to these crunch moments in October, please invite your MP to meet you and other voters in your constituency online to raise this vital issue. Ask your MP to write to the Chancellor urgently, calling on him to work to cancel the debts of the world’s poorest countries.
The coming weeks could make the difference. Ask your MP to play their part.
The Jubilee Debt Camapign has produced a new map showing debt risks and you can find out more about it here
Who’s organising this?
- Take a selfie or ask a friend to take a photo of you creatively displaying the words “Cancel The Debt”.
- If possible, show where you are based e.g. by a town or street sign, or notable feature.
- Share your image on Twitter and use the hashtag #CancelTheDebt. Be sure to tag @cafodso we can find your photos!
- If you have some extra time, also consider sharing your image on Facebook and Instagram using the #CancelTheDebt hashtag.
- If you don’t have a social media account, email your photo to us at email@example.com.
- Inspire others by sharing your photo with friends and family.
By adding your face and voice, you can show that debt isn’t something the international community will stand for.
What is a virtual lobby?
A virtual lobby is an online meeting with your MP, together with other people in your constituency. As constituents, you have a powerful voice and the more people in your constituency that show they care about an issue, the more MPs are pushed to act.
From the 28th September to 14th October, constituents will meet MPs to talk about why it’s crucial that the Chancellor acts now to cancel debts for developing countries as part of the fight against the coronavirus.
What should we talk about?
We want MPs to hear why, as their constituents, you care about debt cancellation for those already living in poverty. Speak about your own personal feelings and why you care.
At the moment, developing countries are being forced to fight COVID at the same time as paying huge amounts in debt. Here are some facts about this that can help you in your conversations with your MPs.
- 64 countries spend more on external debt payments than on healthcare. For example, the Central African Republic has just three ventilators for almost five million people, but it’s due to spend $25 million on external debt repayments in 2020.
- Despite some debt suspension earlier this year, private lenders like banks and hedge funds and the World Bank are yet to suspend or cancel any debt.
- There is growing global support for debt relief from African finance ministers, along with countries such as Pakistan.
- $22.5 billion is owed to private creditors and multilateral institutions in 2020 alone. That’s money that could be going towards fighting COVID.
- Cancelling all debt payments could save countries $40 billion in 2020.
- Almost 500 million more people could be pushed into poverty because of the pandemic.
The UK has a powerful voice in the global meetings, and the Chancellor has the opportunity to show leadership, working with fellow finance ministers and at the IMF and World Bank meetings to reduce the debt burden on developing countries struggling to cope with the effects of the pandemic.
The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (known as the ‘DSSI’) is a scheme set up earlier this year by G20 governments to assist poorer countries in the face of the pandemic. The scheme is a valuable first step in support of these countries (it’s good to acknowledge this positive step in your meeting). However, suspension also means that countries could face an even bigger debt crisis in two years’ time, and the best route to solving the debt crisis would be to cancel the debts of the countries most in need until at least the end of 2021, and for up to four years.
Here is what we want the UK government to push for:
- External debt payments for all countries in the DSSI and all other countries in need should be cancelled until at least the end of 2021, and for up to four years. In this time, a mechanism should be created to bring debt down to a sustainable level.
- Private creditors must immediately match the terms of the existing debt suspension (and of any future review) offered by the DSSI under a binding and compulsory scheme. The UK government can contribute to this by introducing legislation so that countries owing debt governed by English law cannot be sued for suspending debt payments to private lenders.
- Multilateral development banks must immediately match the terms of the existing debt suspension (and of any future review) offered by the DSSI under a binding and compulsory scheme.
- The DSSI should be extended for at minimum 1 year and up to 4 years, and should be extended to all countries which are in or at risk of severe sovereign debt crisis
You can find out more information in this supporter briefing: http://bit.ly/debtlobbybrief
We’d like you to ask your MP to write to the Chancellor, calling on him to support debt relief and take action at these important meetings to ensure developing countries are able to tackle the pandemic.
We know many of you have already done lots of lobbying on debt before and your MP may have already written to the Chancellor on this issue. That is no problem at all! If your MP has already written to the Chancellor, here are a few other things you can ask them to do:
- Ask your MP to table a question for the Chancellor in parliament. MPs can table written and oral questions in parliament to find out information from the Government or get a topic on the Government’s agenda. If your MP would be happy to do this, we can help with writing questions.
- Ask your MP to meet with the Chancellor. If your MP is very keen to do something, ask them to meet with the Chancellor to share some of your concerns with him directly.
- Ask your MP to tweet a photo of your meeting. If your MP is not happy to do any of the other actions, you can ask them to tweet a photo of your meeting so others know that they have met with constituents about this important issue.