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What is Jubilee 2000?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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Jubilee 2000 is an international coalition of churches and activist groups that sought to have Third World foreign debt eliminated by the year 2000. Based on a biblical concept, Jubilee 2000 had some success but did not achieve its lofty goal of 100% debt elimination. Several continuing organizations remain dedicated the the cause of the original movement and continue working for debt reduction, relief, and forgiveness throughout the world.

The Jubilee is a biblical concept drawn from the Old Testament book Leviticus. The text suggests that every 50th year, debts should be forgiven and slaves freed from bondage. Whether the Jubilee was ever actually a practiced tradition is unknown, but the concept was borrowed to coincide with the Catholic Church's celebration of the year 2000, known as the Great Jubilee. During this time, the Catholic Church celebrated the forgiveness of sin through special celebrations, an apt metaphor for the forgiveness of Third World debt by powerful nations.

The concept of Jubilee 2000 originated with Professor Martin Dent, a retired teacher asked to give a talk on global poverty by the British University of Keele. Professor Dent tied the concept of the jubilee year to debt reduction initiatives. Inspired, some of his students began the organization that would grow to become Jubilee 2000. Quickly embraced by influential religious leaders, the group soon began gaining worldwide attention, gaining support of refugee groups, trade organizations, highly visible celebrities, and various activist associations.

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During the G-8 summit in Birmingham on 16 May 1998, between 50,000-70,000 campaigners for the movement demonstrated near the meeting of the most powerful leaders in the world. Despite a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair, the group made little headway and decided to try again the following year. Thanks to the concerted efforts of the group, the 1999 summit included an announcement of about $100 billion US Dollars (USD) for developing nations. Though this did not meet the demands for total debt forgiveness, many saw it as a triumph and sign of a hopeful future. Other changes attributed to the efforts of Jubilee 2000 include relief and forgiveness agreements in the United States and United Kingdom.

Following the turn of the millennium, Jubilee 2000 disbanded and reformed into several nation-based action committees. Some of the larger groups include the Jubilee USA Network and Jubilee South. These groups continue to lobby nation leaders for increased and improved forgiveness of debts throughout the world.

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