Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham

Archive for May 2009

This blog has been written by Christian activist  John Johansen – Berg who draws on his experience in campaigning against the evil of apartheid and how  this can link with  the Jubilee Debt Campaign of today. John  also tells of his own  action in India  and call for fundamental reform of financial institutions.

The experience of South Africa and the international movement in breaking the chains of oppression is a useful reminder that bringing about change may take decades and require huge efforts by many people, but the gain in a just and fair economic system is worth the effort.

The Jubilee Campaign was another step in the right direction in calling for the cancellation of the debts of the poorest nations. It is based on the biblical concept of Jubilee, forgiveness of debts, and brought in the note of celebration by circling the representatives of the international market in its meeting in Birmingham. It achieved great success in a short period of time. The weakness of this strategy is in the danger that the process begins again; new loans can be made with rising interest rates; the flow of wealth from poorer to richer countries has a nasty habit of reappearing.

Fundamental change is needed in the system. It is as basic as loving your neighbour, even your enemies, as Jesus taught. India is an example of loans made with strings attached. In the case of Indian agriculture it was a demand that farmers changed from the self-sustaining agriculture, which had proved successful for generations, to the production of cash crops. Companies in richer nations benefited by sales of patented seeds and fertiliser; the small farmer for whom the change was inappropriate ended in debt and this resulted in the suicide of tens of thousands of farmers. The response to this has to be the reform of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. It has yet to be achieved though Gordon Brown says that he is committed to such reform. It needs an international alliance and a level of commitment akin to that which liberated the people of Southern Africa. My response was to initiate VIA (Village India Aid) which helps practically with support of projects which benefit the poorest sections of society and also makes representations for fundamental changes in the international economic system. Not months, but years, perhaps even decades of combined effort are needed to “Redeem the Markets” but the prize is well worth the effort. I suggest that this is the background for our shared concerns today and that it calls each one of us to urgent action.

John Johansen-Berg.  May 2009.


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May 2009
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