Campaigners hail debt victory but warn of missing billions
Campaigners have expressed relief that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have ratified the decision taken by the G8 leaders in Gleneagles in July to cancel the unfair and unpayable debts of 18 of the world's poorest countries.
But, they warn, while this is a welcome first step that sets a precedent for broader debt cancellation, five billion of the world's poor are still mired in debt.
'After all the brinkmanship this is good news. It's good news because it will make a real difference to some of the world's poorest people, because campaigners have called for this for years. It's confirmation of a good step forward" said Stephen Rand, Co Chair of Jubilee Debt Campaign.
But he continued; "We need the next step tomorrow - and giant strides in the future - more countries, more debt cancelled, an end to economic policy conditions.'
Speaking from the World Bank/IMF meetings in Washington DC, Christian Aid debt expert Sony Kapoor said: "The decision will be good news for some, holds hope for others but disappoints many others who will not see any debt relief.
"In the select group of 18 countries, it will transform lives for the better. Millions will go to school for the first time, be vaccinated against killer diseases and get access to clean water.
"For the other ten or so countries that could qualify by next year, the deal brings hope".
But he added: "The G8, the Bank and the Fund have forgotten about the more than 100 other poor countries that urgently need their debts cancelled. For them the deal brings disappointment with perhaps a glimmer of hope of further action following this precedent."
Christian Aid's new report, ëWhat About Us: Debt and the Countries the G8 Left Behind', unveils the stark truth about the debt deal which leaves 19 out of every 20 people in the developing world mired in debt.
It highlights the lessons learnt and suggests tangible and politically feasible steps that both rich and poor countries should take to get a deal for countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil, Kenya, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, Guatemala, Indonesia and others that have been left behind.
Mr Kapoor praised the efforts of the British Government for its work to achieve consensus on the deal but cautioned that much more remains to be done.
"Now that the political agreement has been achieved, we need to ensure that there is no devil in the detail - no country gets knocked off," he said. "Most of all, both governments and campaigners need to keep the momentum going and expand the list."
The world's poorest countries continue to pay more every year in debt payments than they receive in grants and loans - forking out a massive 0 million every day.
More than 40 other countries need immediate and total cancellation of their external debts and many more need a substantial reduction in what they are required to pay if they are to eliminate extreme poverty.
"These countries are home to vast numbers of poor people and are forced by an iniquitous system to waste large amounts of money on debt repayments rather than spending it on the health care and education that their people so urgently need," said Mr Kapoor.