16/10/2020.- The Covid-19 pandemic has hit all areas of our lives. It is a common threat to all of humanity, but not all countries have the same resources to deal with its consequences. Without adequate international cooperation, this crisis can wipe out years of effort in the fight against poverty and inequality.
Today, October 16, starts the Annual Meeting between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) that will take place until October 18. One of the central issues they will discuss is this pandemic and its challenges for the most vulnerable countries. We are not talking about just any meeting. The decisions made by both organizations will determine the conditions and priorities in accessing the necessary financing to face the coronavirus and lay the foundations for recovery.
Seizing the moment of the current situation, more than 140 Christian leaders from around the world ask “to cancel the debts that developing countries have with the institutions while this crisis lasts.” Among them, the director of the Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology (SJES) and the Presidents of the Jesuit Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, Europe, Asia-Pacific, The United States, and Canada, as well as a significant number of Jesuit Provincials. In this letter, dated October 12, the signatories welcome some of the measures adopted and acknowledge the two institutions’ efforts to date. In this way, they highlight the IMF’s decision to cover debt payments over six months for 28 countries and the new emergency finance availability from the IMF and the World Bank that amounts to 88,000 million dollars until the date.
However, they maintain that these measures, although welcome, are insufficient and do not respond to the urgency and magnitude of this crisis that we are experiencing. If the debt is not canceled, “there is still a serious risk that developing countries will not have the money they desperately need to stop the spread of the virus and cope with the economic and social destruction generated by it.”
This appeal is in line with the message published by Pope Francis on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. His Holiness urged Christian leaders worldwide to defend “the cancellation of debt of the most vulnerable countries in recognition of the serious repercussions of the medical, social, and economical crises they face as a result of Covid-19”. Again, this idea has been strongly emphasized in his latest encyclical letter entitled Fratelli Tutti. In this missive, he argues that in the context of emerging countries, “the payment of the debt on many occasions not only does not favor the development but also limits it and strongly conditions it” (FT, 126).
The crisis unleashed by the pandemic is one of those occasions in which the payment of the debt cannot take precedence over the care of human life. Hence, both religious leaders and Catholic international cooperation organisations urgently call for the immediate cancellation of the foreign debt during the management of this pandemic.
This appeal from Christian leaders is an initiative from the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and has received the support of numerous congregations and faith-based organisations from all around the world, many of them are part of the apostolic sector of the Society of Jesus. The Justice in Mining network celebrates this initiative that, without a doubt, can open a horizon of hope in the current crisis solution. Let’s hope our voices are heard. You can find the entire letter with the signatures here.