International Call to Erase African Debt

Supporters Argue That Debts Are Holding African Countries Hostage

In accordance with one of the United Nations Millennium Goals of halving poverty by 2015, last Monday British Treasury chief Gordon Brown petitioned wealthy nations and international monetary institutions to write off the debt of Africa, saying that these debts suffered by past generations are holding the continent hostage.

In addition to erasing Africa’s debt, Brown wants wealthy nations to increase African development aid in an effort to double rich countries’ donation from the current $50 billion a year.

Early last week the head of the UN anti-poverty effort and Harvard economist Jeffery Sachs authored a 3,000-page report entitled Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals in which he said that if the goals are met by the hopeful year “more than 500 million people will be lifted out of extreme poverty. More than 300 million will no longer suffer from hunger.”

Under a similar umbrella, some other summarized UN Millennium Goals include boosting the fight against AIDS and education some 100 million children not now in school. The report emphasizes a direct correlation between development, peace and security. Focusing on achieving only one of the goals would greatly reduce the population of people existing in extreme poverty.

Despite admirable challenges, the goals are very far from being met. As reported in the Washington Post, Brown expressed alarm at current progress and said that “at current rates, enrolling 100 million children in Africa’s schools would not happen until 2130 and halving poverty until 2150.”

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said after receiving the report that the goals of the project were not utopian but “eminently achievable” and that “many countries are making real progress in achieving them but others are not moving fast enough.”

The recent tsunami, coupled with costly conflicts around the world are severely hindering the goals’ advancement by placing an emphasis on war and less on the suffering of the poor. The report also suggests that a lack of interest by wealthier countries is obstructing poorer countries’ progress and internal improvement.

Professor Sachs has called for the most indebted African nations to refuse to pay their debt burdens and rather concentrate on development. The debts are unaffordable and if the countries won’t cancel the debts then the African nations should obstruct payment, he said.

The UN Millennium Goals, created to encourage the international community to act rather than speculate and merely talk about alleviating poverty and disease and to act. 2015 has been set as the objective to achieve these goals which, according to the UN, aim to:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Achieve universal primary education

Promote gender equality and empower women

Reduce child mortality

Improve maternal health

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Ensure environmental sustainability