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In 1997, Jubilee 2000 was created in an effort to deal with the problem of oppressive debt in developing countries. It is named for the Jubilee year found in the book of Leviticus, when enslaved peoples were freed from their debts, their lost lands restored, and the inequalities that were suffered, removed. Organizers of the original Jubilee drew similarities between international debt and historical enslavement. According to them, the world’s most devastating form of modern day slavery is oppressive debt.
Since Jubilee 2000, the Jubilee Debt Campaign has become a major force in the movement to cancel international debt. Chapters in the United States, Britain, and around the world have banded together to influence politicians in First World countries as well as leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to seriously address debt relief.
Many poor countries are unable to keep up with payments and interest on their debt, and as a result, fall into a cycle of dependence on financial assistance from First World countries. Resources that should be spent on citizens, infrastructure and economic development are allocated to debt repayment. Supporters of the Jubilee Debt Campaign believe that the only solution to this cycle is to forgive, or cancel the debt completely.
The platform of the Jubilee Debt Campaign calls for the cancellation of the poorest of countries’ total debt, especially for those that struggle with humanitarian issues such as famine, political strife, genocide and epidemics. Jubilee calls for an expanded definition of “heavily indebted poor countries” by the World Bank and IMF, in order to include more countries.
Jubilee is also working to classify some debt as “odious debt,” which is illegitimate debt incurred by dictators and regimes seeking to personally profit from loans. They refer to the loans as “stolen wealth,” borrowed to profit an elite minority, and irresponsibly incurred and used. This debt may have terms of repayment that are considered predatory and unfair, with high interest rates and impossible terms.
Supporters of Jubilee have also called leaders of the richest countries, specifically the United States and Britain to stop using debt as a way to control and influence poor countries, even under the most well-intentioned circumstances. By using loans and debt repayment restructuring, these countries can add stipulations and requirements for use of the money, which often benefit the richer countries.
The Jubilee Debt Campaign has several different programs operating all over the world, including “Drop the Debt” and “Make Poverty History.” The campaign is supported by faith based organizations spanning nearly every religion, humanitarian aid groups, private companies and organizations, as well as many celebrities, including Bono of the rock group U2.