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Later this month, hundreds of campaigners from around the world will descend upon Birmingham to mark the tenth anniversary of the Human Chain protesting against Third World Debt. Barbara Panvel examines what’s happened in the last decade.

In May 1998 with over 60,000 others I was one link in the human chain in Birmingham, demanding that the G8 countries released poor countries from their debt, in many cases borrowed by autocratic rulers who did not use the money to benefit their people.

A number of poor countries were sending more to richer countries in interest repayments than they received in aid.

I’m now ten years older and far more cynical - I take a lot of persuading to turn out but shall attend the meeting at the International Convention Centre on Sunday May 18th at 2.30 pm and celebrate the work done by Audrey Miller and many of her Jubilee colleagues in this and other countries.

Progress to date is cheering. I n 2007, 22 of these countries saved £2.5 billion in debt service payments.

In Ghana, the money saved is being used for basic infrastructure, education and health care. In Tanzania, the government is using the money saved to import vital food supplies for those affected by drought. In Burundi, elimination of school fees in 2005 allowed an additional 300,000 children to enrol.

In Honduras, debt relief is to be allocated to eliminate annual fees charged for primary education and increase enrolment from low-income families.

What further action is needed?

66 of the world's poorest nations still send £50 million each day to the United States government, other wealthy nations, the IMF, the World Bank, and other creditors.

With rising food prices threatening even greater hunger, it is time to extend debt cancellation to countries in need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. 

The activities of "Vulture Funds" should be outlawed.

These companies buy developing country debt and then try to sell it at a profit. In 1979, Zambia purchased agricultural equipment and services from Romania on credit and in 1999 Zambia and Romania agreed to liquidate the debt.

Before Zambia could sign the deal, a hedge fund called Donegal bought Zambia's debt for $3.28 million and seven years later sued the Zambian government for $55 million. Shamefully, the British High Court ruled that the government of Zambia had to pay Donegal $15.4 million.

To find out more about this and about future action from the excellent speakers - including Stirrer editor Adrian Goldberg who's hosting the event - come along on the 18th. To book your ticket:


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