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Brown: Debt summit progress down to churches
UK Chancellor Gordon Brown has written to churches and other faith groups, praising their 'strength' and 'vision', and saying that the progress on debt relief made at this weekend's '100% debt summit' was due to their work.
Church campaigners themselves will be encouraged by the latest move by the Chancellor in his drive to combat poverty in Africa and the developing world.
After the G7 finance ministers meeting in London at which they agreed to offer poor countries up to 100% relief on debts owed to multinational institutions, the Treasury said it was taking immediate action on debt relief for 19 countries.
The move will benefit some of the poorest countries in Africa, including Ethiopia, Senegal and Uganda, as well as Sri Lanka. It will cost the UK just £27 million this year, rising to between £80 million and £128 million a year by 2015.
That is just 0.02% of the £488 billion that the UK government spends every year.
However around 80% of debt faced by the poorest countries is owed to the multilateral institutions.
For debt owed to the World Bank and African Development Bank, Mr Brown is proposing that the richest donor countries each take over a proportionate share of the debt, and start servicing the debt themselves.
To set an example to international partners, the British Government has announced that it is willing from now until 2015 to start paying its share of this debt ñ 10% of the total ñ for countries with good governance and established poverty reduction strategies.
On his recent visit to Africa, during which he spoke of the influence of his Christian upbringing on his worldwide campaign to secure justice for the continent, Mr Brown signed agreements on that model with Tanzania and Mozambique, and said that the same offer was available, conditionally, to the worldís 70 poorest countries.
Following case-by-case studies of their debt position and poverty reduction strategies, the Treasury has announced that similar agreements have been struck with 17 more countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Uganda, Bolivia, Guyana, Nicaragua, Armenia, Mongolia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
Mr Brown wrote today to the organisers of the Make Poverty History campaign of which Ekklesia is a member, and to church groups, to report on the outcome of the G7 meeting.
In his letter, Mr Brown said the agreement on 100% multilateral debt relief will be followed up through more resources for health to tackle malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
Mr Brown wrote: ìI want to thank the churches and faith groups, and anti-debt and anti-poverty campaigners.
ìWhat will be known as the ë100% debt summití owes its progress to the millions who have campaigned for justice, for the strength of their resolve, the vision of their leadership, their determination in pursuit of a great cause.
ìThe 100% debt summit means this year has started with one major breakthrough: a victory in the fight to make todayís poverty history.
ìIn the next few weeks we hope to go one step further with a new initiative to give more resources for health: an initiative that Bill Gates has said could save five million lives in the next 10 years.
ìAnd I pledge that we will continue our action throughout this year to deliver even more resources through our proposals on debt and development aid.î