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Debt relief: Jubilee Act introduced
NewsNotes, January-February 2010

The Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of more than 75 religious denominations, human rights groups, and development agencies, including the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, recently welcomed the introduction of the Jubilee Act of 2009 (HR 4405) in the U.S. House of Representatives by a bi-partisan group of Congressional leaders. The legislation would authorize the expansion of debt relief to poor countries that meet strict eligibility requirements but need debt relief to fight global poverty; reform policies of international financial institutions; and urge more responsibility in future lending in borrowing to the world’s poorest countries.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the bill’s lead sponsor, was joined by original co-sponsors Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), the committee’s ranking member. Other original co-sponsors include Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), and Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR).

The legislation calls the U.S. Treasury Department to negotiate a multilateral agreement for debt cancellation for up to 22 additional poor countries that need cancellation to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In addition to authorizing broader debt cancellation, the bill seeks to reform current IMF/World Bank policies and other global lending practices by:

  • Urging that more resources be devoted to grants for the world’s poorest countries;
  • Requiring greater transparency at the IFIs, including a policy of maximum disclosure in project and loan documents;
  • Urging the adoption of more responsible lending practices in the future;
  • Limiting the conditions that may be required of countries going through the debt relief process to those ensuring that money released by debt relief is used transparently and accountably to address poverty; and
  • Directing the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to undertake an audit of “odious, onerous, or illegal” lending by the World Bank, IMF, and U.S. government in specific countries.

Faith in action:
Encourage your Congressional representative to support the Jubilee Act of 2009 (HR 4405).  For additional information see the Jubilee USA website.

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