The Jubilee 2000 coalition, set up to free the world's poor countries of unpayable debt and described by British social commentator Polly Toynbee as "the most brilliantly successful campaign of our times," will wind up in Britain at the end of this jubilee year, but its work is to continue in other forms.

Relief agencies including Christian Aid, CAFOD (Roman Catholic), Oxfam, Tearfund, War on Want and the World Development Movement have pledged support for the coalition's ongoing activities.

Jubilee 2000 was launched in the U.K. in 1996 with the aim of canceling the unpayable debts of the poorest countries by the year 2000. Churches are amongst its strongest supporters. In just four years it has become a huge and powerful international movement, forcing the debt issue to the top of the international economic agenda.

There are now Jubilee 2000 networks in more than 60 countries and more than 20 million people have signed a petition calling for the debt burden on developing world countries to be eased.

Yet in terms of hard cash, progress has been slower than hoped for, and Jubilee 2000 U.K. admitted on December 2 that only about a third of the US$300 billion that needs to be written off has so far been scheduled for cancellation by creditor nations and multilateral lending agencies like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Twenty countries have had some debt relief, but may still end up spending more on debt servicing than on health or education, Jubilee 2000 pointed out. After receiving debt relief, Tanzania, for example, still spends $168 million a year on debt, compared with $87 million on health and $154 million on education. One Tanzanian child in seven dies before his or her fifth birthday, more than a quarter of adults are illiterate and more than 10 million people have no access to safe water.

Ann Pettifor, director of Jubilee 2000 UK, said that the campaign had brought about a worldwide change of attitudes: "Debt cancellation is no longer viewed as an issue of charity, but as one of justice. It has given millions of people the competence and confidence to challenge elites in both the north and the south. The world will never be the same again."

Next year she will head Jubilee Plus, a long-term global support unit for campaigns on international debt and finance. Her deputy, Adrian Lovett, will lead Drop the Debt, a short-term initiative focused on the Genoa summit next July of the Group of Eight (the leading Western industrialized nations plus Russia).

Lovett said: "We've got a fantastic campaign in Italy, we've got the Pope on our side, and it's now clear that debt cancellation efforts so far are simply not enough. The stage is set for a breakthrough in 2001."

More than 70 leading aid agencies and rights groups have joined forces with One World—an internet site devoted to human rights and sustainable development - to mark the end of the Jubilee 2000 campaign by launching a global Internet portal linking campaigns and actions related to debt. is intended to bring together stories and information from around the world to form "the most comprehensive collection of material on debt on the entire web." The portal is edited at OneWorld Africa in Zambia—one of the countries carrying a devastating debt burden. As well as providing content from organizations based in both the North and the South, the portal will promote voices from the South, "creating a space for them to tell of their experience of this issue and what should be done to address it."

Copyright © ENI.

Related Elsewhere

Previous Christianity Today stories on the Jubilee 2000 campaign include:

Grassroots Activism Delivers Debt Relief | The Jubilee 2000 success is evidence that everyday people can make a difference. (Nov. 28, 2000)
Crushing Debt | Third World debt is as vicious as the slave trade. (June 8, 2000)
Debt Cancellation a Question of 'Justice', Kenya's Anglican Archbishop Tells Japan | Tokyo skeptical toward Jubilee 2000 message (April 19, 2000)
Poor Nations Get Debt Relief | After Congress passes Jubilee 2000 legislation, campaign rolls onward. (Jan. 4, 2000)
Churches Seek Debt Cancellation | (Oct. 5, 1998)

See more information at the Jubilee 2000 Coalition site.