Ask your Senators to pass the Jubilee Act
Help expand debt cancellation for poor countries
Action: Contact your senator today and urge them to co-sponsor the Jubilee Act (S.2166), a bipartisan bill that will expand debt cancellation for up to 24 additional impoverished countries, provided they meet criteria to ensure that the money is used for poverty reduction.
Background: The Jubilee Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 285 - 132 on April 16 and has been referred to the Senate. This legislation:
- mandates the U.S. Department of the Treasury to negotiate a multilateral agreement for debt cancellation for an initial 9 and up to 24 total additional impoverished countries.
- prohibits harmful economic and policy conditions as a requirement of debt cancellation, but requires savings from debt cancellation to be used for poverty reduction.
- mandates transparency and responsibility in lending from governments and international financial institutions.
- calls for a new legal framework to restrict the activities of predatory "vulture funds."
- calls for a U.S. audit of debts resulting from odious and illegitimate lending.
While existing debt cancellation programs have saved lives and made a vital difference for millions of people, more must be done. Since 1996, and the launch of the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative, the world's poorest 66 nations have continued to pay more than $230 billion in debt service, an amount greater than the foreign assistance they have received from donor governments. At least two dozen countries are not able to provide basic needs such as food, water and shelter for their citizens because the majority of their money is being paid in debt service to wealthy nations and institutions. The global food crisis has worsened this situation.
Faith reflection: "Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts," Deuteronomy 15: 1; "Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you." Leviticus 25: 10;
The Hebrew Scriptures talk to us about living in right relationship with God, the human community, and all of creation. One of the most profound practices is the observance of Jubilee, a time when slaves are set free, debts are forgiven, and land lost through debt is returned to its original owners. These are actions meant to restore the community to wholeness. While the full Jubilee liberation was set for a 50-year cycle, freedom for slaves, debt cancellation and rest for the soil were commanded for every seven years.
The Jubilee Act gives us an opportunity to apply the practice of Jubilee debt cancellation to our own time and world.