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Socialist International Campaigns

Cancelling the debt of the poorest countries and providing them with unrestricted market access

The Executive of the International met in Paris on 5 October to examine current international developments and discuss priorities and future activities of the organisation.

The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister António Guterres, President of the Socialist International, with the participation of François Hollande, First Secretary of the Socialist Party, PS, France; Ousmane Tanor Dieng, First Secretary of the Socialist Party, PS, Senegal, and Chair of the Africa Committee; Raúl Alfonsín, President of the Radical Civic Union, UCR, Argentina, and Co-Chair of the SI Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean; Elio Di Rupo, President of the Socialist Party, PS, Belgium; and, Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the International.


Campaign of the Socialist International for the cancellation of the debt

Statement and Programme of Activities

North-South relations have become a compelling priority for socialists and social democrats of the world who base their internationalist approach on the demands of peace, democracy, social justice and equality.

From Seattle to Genoa, via the Porto Alegre forum, North-South relations have been at the heart of civil society's demonstrations which are pushing states to adopt more decisive measures on this issue.

The Durban meetings, in September 2001, among NGOs as well as among states, highlighted the question of the historic debt, in particular for Africa with the trade in black Africans that was an inter-continental system of slavery. The crudest expression of racism, it founded, four centuries ago with colonial expansion, unequal relations between North and South.

Today, at the dawn of the third millennium, one of the first tests of this global solidarity is the resolving of the issue of the debt of developing countries.

The political ambition of the Socialist International is to contribute to creating conditions which would allow new generations of politicians coming to power in the framework of the democratisation process to avoid seeing their development agenda brought down by the burden of the debt.

There is a shared political responsibility at the root of the debt problem. It lies with the lenders who pushed developing countries to contract debt from the 1970s onwards so as to recycle petrodollars and who went on to impose monetary policies unfavourable to the debtors. It lies too with the governments of the debtor countries who administered them unwisely or put them to other uses.

Procedures for cancelling debt must always take into account this shared responsibility and build on new shared criteria, notably in the form of rigorous management and political openness.

The solution of the debt problem is eminently political. The HIPC initiative, as it is unfolding today, reduces the debt servicing of the beneficiary countries by no more than a third, while they are paying back today only a little more than half of it. Cancellation must be seen in the clear political perspective of financing development and not of making the debt "sustainable". The present situation requires a search for an alternative, bolder and more decisive, mechanism.

That is why the Socialist International proposes the widespread use of a 'no debt development' contract, allowing in beneficiary states public policies to be put into place, primarily in the areas of health and education, on the basis of an annual moratorium on the debt.

Debt servicing, cancelled each year, would essentially become an asset on the budget of debtor countries. In the detail, putting this into effect, the control mechanisms of the contract, those in civil society would be associated with the representatives of the States. Any evaluation of the respect of the contract would be organised between these partners.

Those states benefiting from the cancelling of debts should be able to continue borrowing and should not be reduced to the condition of assisted countries, authorised only to receive donations, which would exclude them from the world stage.

Equally preoccupied with the situation of the so-called emerging countries, caught in a spiral of debt with dramatic human consequences which obstruct growth in the long term and structurally, the Socialist International is committed to proposing fair and sustainable solutions which respond to the expectations of these peoples.

On this basis, the Socialist International is committed, following the first meeting of the International with NGOs in Paris on 5 October 2001, to leading a campaign for the cancellation of the debt of heavily indebted countries, for a fairer world.

On this occasion, the Executive agreed the following programme of activities:

  1. Organising regional meetings between the SI and NGOs
  2. These meetings have the objective of deepening debate and of undertaking common initiatives where possible.

    A first meeting is planned in Africa. It will be held in Côte d'Ivoire, with the participation of François Hollande and Ousmane Tanor Dieng.

    Other members of the Executive will participate in regional conferences, notably in Asia and Latin America.

  3. Making governments and elected representatives alive to the issue
  4. Each SI member party will undertake a campaign on these proposals within Parliaments and Governments of their respective countries. Parties will make their own elected representatives alive to this issue and mobilise them in favour of the proposals. A dossier will be prepared to this end.

    The Inter-Parliamentary Union must be informed.

  5. Action with international institutions
  6. The SI will organise missions to Washington, to international financial institutions (the World Bank, IMF), to the UN and its specialised institutions and to the WTO to formulate its proposals on cancelling the debt, and on the reforms of international frameworks for decision-making.

    The SI will launch in 2002 an active campaign sending postcards and e-mails.

  7. Action with the United States of America
  8. An SI delegation will go to Washington to meet with the American administration.

    Contacts will be made with the American SI member parties, the DSA and SDUSA.

  9. World Forum
  10. In 2002, the SI, in liaison with South and North NGOs, will set up a World Forum, to follow up on its action on the debt and the reform of international institutions. The SI will seek support for the campaign from intellectuals, artists and other leading figures.

  11. Relations with NGOs

Wherever possible, SI member parties will try to lead initiatives in close cooperation with leading figures from civil society campaigning for the same cause.