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1999 NCC News Archives

NCC Leaders Commend President Clinton's Debt Relief Call
Call for Congressional Approval, Express Implementation Concerns

Sept. 30, 1999, NEW YORK ---- Leaders of the National Council of Churches (NCC) commended President Clinton's Sept. 29 call for cancellation of 100 percent of the debts owed to the United States by many of the world's most impoverished countries.

"We thank President Clinton for recognizing the importance of this matter, and commend him for his leadership on this critical moral issue," said the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, NCC General Secretary. "Now it is critical that Congress support this request, and that members act immediately to appropriate the necessary funds. We also hope that other creditor governments follow the example set by the United States."

"This is great news to us, and shows that our Jubilee 2000 postcards, pins and petition signing had an impact," said the Rev. Dr. Rodney Page, Executive Director of Church World Service and Witness, the NCC's humanitarian response agency. NCC/CWS has been a longtime and active member of the Jubilee 2000 debt reduction campaign, drawing on the networks in its 35 member communions to press the debt relief issue. In June, CWS released a lapel pin and brochure in support of the campaign and sent samples to 1,200 denominational and ecumenical organizations. The brochure contained a detachable postcard to President Clinton urging him to expand debt relief initiatives.

Just this month, on Sept. 17, Dr. Page was among U.S. religious leaders who met with Mr. James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, to stress their urgent concern for debt relief and spell out their evaluation of the various debt relief programs and proposals. "It wasn't difficult to convince Mr. Wolfensohn of the moral strength of our argument, but he stressed that it was going to be necessary for the various World Bank members and legislatures of the world to support it and come up with the funds," Dr. Page said.

"President Clinton's pledge has major symbolic and political significance," Dr. Page said. "Although the proposal he is supporting is not as expansive as that which is envisioned by the Jubilee 2000 initiative, this is a big step towards accomplishing our goals."

"We are simultaneously appreciative of the proposals by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to revise their approach to debt relief for these impoverished countries," Dr. Page added. "We thank the staff of these bodies for working so hard to develop proposals that represent a huge shift in the way these institutions operate."

At the same time, Dr. Page expressed concern about the implementation process for these changes. "If everything goes as planned, there is potential for tremendous improvement in how the world approaches debt relief and economic development. But the IMF and World Bank have not worked closely together before, and operations will not be transformed overnight. It remains to be seen if efforts to reduce poverty will take precedence over efforts to stimulate economic growth. We have many concerns about fewer countries actually benefiting from this initiative than we would like."

Still, "being people of faith, we are hopeful for these developments," Dr. Campbell said. "We believe in the strength of our common witness to change institutions, even the most powerful international banks and weathiest nations. We could all use a fresh start for the new millennium, and the actions of this week may prove to be a huge step in this direction."

More information about the Jubilee 2000 campaign can be found on these web sites:

www.churchworldservice.org

www.j2000usa.org

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