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On the Occasion of Your 60th Birthday: A Message to the IMF and World Bank

By the Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell
Associate General Secretary of Public Policy
National Council of Churches USA

Editor’s Note: Girton-Mitchell’s remarks were delivered at the April 21 “UnHappy Birthday Party” event sponsored by Jubilee USA and held in Morrow Park, across the street from the World Bank’s offices in Washington, D.C. Participants argued that the IMF/World Bank’s 60th anniversary is no time for a party, but rather it’s time to drop the debt that is crippling development in many impoverished nations.

Jubilee USA collected more than 10,000 UnBirthday Cards from people around the world, including the President of Kenya. Jubilee USA delivered the cards today to Catherine Marshall, Director of the World Bank’s Faith Dialogue Group.

* * * *

People love birthdays. Birthdays symbolize times of joy, new beginnings, and new life. We love birthdays, especially those of others, because birthdays are times to celebrate another year of life. We love the extra opportunity to say thank you to family and friends with cards, cakes, candles, and special gifts.

Birthdays are also times for personal reflection. We pause to look back over our lives to remember the goals we set for ourselves. We look ahead, dreaming new dreams, making plans, and accepting new challenges for the year ahead.

Today, we as people of faith, are gathered here in recognition of the 60th Birthday of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. We wish it could be a joyous celebration, but it is not-because the birth of this organization symbolized HOPE for developing countries, and instead has created a sense of HOPELESSNESS for generations of children born into inescapable poverty.

Although IMF and the World Bank were created to avoid disastrous economic policies that led to the Great Depression and to help build economic cooperation worldwide, they have instead been the perpetrators of a new global apartheid that has crippled many African nations, which are unable to provide basic services like health care and education for its citizens.

Debt cancellation is an issue of justice and morality. The reality is that impoverished nations spend more in debt service than they receive in aid, new loans or investments. This is morally incomprehensible. This is totally unacceptable. And, as people of faith we will continue to protest this injustice until the debt is cancelled.

As people of faith, we work through various organizations to provide humanitarian aid to countries where there is a need. We advocate for policies and funding that will help the poorest among us. The cancellation of the debt for many of these countries would have an immediate and positive impact for:

· The millions that live on less than a dollar a day.

· For the child that does not know for certain if she will eat today.

· For the person dying in the streets from AIDS because there is no hospital bed for him…

· For these people it is urgent and imperative that the debt is cancelled now.

So we have a birthday message for IMF and the World Bank. Our faith demands that we continue to advocate for justice. This is a moral issue.

Our message is: CANCEL THE DEBT!

People in African nations are literally faced with life and death decisions about how to use their resources; people are dying in the streets. Debt cancellation will give birth to a wide range of choices for countries that are currently bound by the billions of dollars they owe. Just like the widow in the Gospel of Luke, who went over and over again to the judge, until her request was granted-we will continue to lift our voices in protest and our hearts in prayer as we beg you to cancel the debt.

Today we say to the IMF and the World Bank - do not joyfully celebrate your 60-year existence, but rather take time to reflect on your mission and accept the challenge to fulfill your purpose. Our prayer is that you will become a beacon of light for those living in the darkness caused by poverty, hunger, sickness, and lack of education.

Our prayer is that you will help these nations experience the year of Jubilee…

· Help them by allowing them to use the resources they have to build their countries

economic structures and help their citizens.

· Help them by allowing them to feed hungry children.

· Help them by freeing up their resources so that they can provide health care for those who are sick.

· Help them by canceling their debt so that they are able to educate their children and lay a solid foundation for a healthy economy and productive citizens.

As long as this extraordinary burden is held over the heads of so many, we will come before you with our petitions for justice. Our faith inspires us to believe that our vision and our prayers for a new world, a more just world, and a world where there are right relationships can be realized.

We will not be silenced until justice is done.

But we will make a promise to you, after the debt is cancelled for these nations, we will throw you the biggest bash you’ve ever seen - complete with cake, candles, special gifts, and HAPPY birthday cards.

But for now, there is no time to party…it’s time to cancel the debt.


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