Christian Aid today handed the Treasury a petition with 15,000 signatures, urging the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, to help in getting Haiti’s $890 million international debt cancelled.
The petition was delivered to Stephen Timms, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, just before the G7 finance ministers’ meeting in Canada this weekend, where financial reform is top of the agenda.
The 15,000 UK residents who backed the petition are calling on the Chancellor to use his influence with Haiti’s creditors.
"The UK has already done the right thing by cancelling Haiti’s debt to it but now we are calling on him to lead the G7 and the world," says Paul Brannen, Head of Advocacy and Influence at Christian Aid. "The British public want to see Alistair Darling use his influence this weekend.
"G7 finance ministers have a tremendous opportunity to boost Haiti’s recovery, by insisting that the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank cancel all the country’s debts to them now, while the eyes of the international community are on Haiti. They should also demand that any further money for Haiti is in the form of grants, not loans."
Venezuela, itself a poor country, has already cancelled the money owed to it by Haiti.
Mr Brannen adds: "For years, Haiti has been paying as much as US$50m a year to service its debts. Now is not the time for it to be crippled by yet more debt. Despite this, the IMF has just made a new $102m loan to the country."
He also warns of the danger that other poor countries will be effectively made to pay for Haiti’s debt to be cancelled. "The finance ministers should also do their utmost to ensure that monies used to cancel Haiti’s debt are not diverted from other developing countries. It must be rich countries which pick up Haiti’s debts," says Mr Brannen.
Christian Aid launched the petition two weeks ago and has become the charity’s largest and fastest-growing online campaign action.