Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham

Archive for September 2009

Hilary Oliver, Fair Trader, Ombersley Rd Methodist Church, Worcester gives apersonal impression of the meeting in Worcester

A colourful, lively and good-humoured meeting took place at St Andrew’s Methodist Church, Worcester, on September 15th, when Michael Foster Mike Foster(Minister for International Development and MP for Worcester) and Nick Dearden, (Director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign) nickgave key speeches on Forgiving Debts and Towards Responsibility in the Market Place.

Jubilee Debt Campaign supporters from Birmingham and Worcester were joined by local leaders and representatives from Christian Aid, Trade Justice and many denominations of other Worcester churches. Paul Jackson, (newly appointed to a Chair in Birmingham University’s International Dept,) was also present, as a member of Ombersley Rd Methodist, Worcester, as was another member, Dot Johnson, whose tireless and inspirational campaigning work has recently led to a Christian Aid award.   All combined to make a united, committed and very informed audience.

The meeting was ably chaired by the Revd John Johansen-Berg (International Director of Community for Reconciliation who interspersed stories, examples and particular situations, at relevant times, from his own years of experience.

Nick Dearden mesmerised his listeners with words that freely flowed both with passion and with detailed knowledge. While citing the predicaments of so many developing countries, he acknowledged gratefully his belief that our Government IS convinced of the necessity of Debt Cancellation of unpayable debts. He assured us of the enormous impact of the Debt Relief Scheme and that debt cancellation money has NOT been used to line the pockets of dictators but to increase, for example, the number of teachers and midwives and improve rural infrastructure.

Last January, the Vulture Fund Campaign began and by July, the Government had already consulted JDC on how these could be stopped. (DfID had put pressure on the Treasury.) Nick now wanted to see expansion to countries other than those who also benefit from debt relief.

The Jubilee Debt Campaign still exists, as it has just been a starting point to “address the iniquities of the global economy to the developing world”.

One hundred billion dollars of debt has been cancelled so far, but a further 400 hundred billion is still needed to allow developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development goals for their people. So many are still spending more on repaying debts than on their education budgets and so on.

(A wry note was added here that not so long ago, this would have seemed a colossal sum of money, but is now viewed somewhat differently since the credit crunch and staggering amounts seen re the banking market.  .  .  !!!)

The idea is that debtors and creditors should come together with neutral arbitrators to allow the debtors a voice to find a just, fair method and amount of repayment.

(Again, this last year of debts suddenly faced by ourselves, has clearly shown it’s not the debtors who have necessarily been the irresponsible ones, but those giving the loans in the first place!)

Loans will still continue to be a necessity of course, but with radical restructuring to ensure not ending up back in the first place. Nick cited Norway (with its shipping business) as an example to follow; it has started the ball rolling with 100 million dollars of debt cancellation.  Sustainable development must be the new way to go, he concluded.

Mike Foster picked up on this and agreed that the aim must be fair and sustainable development in the midst of global recession and climate change.  He outlined the Government’s and Department’s policies, targets and recent practices.   At Copenhagen, they will call for a global fund of 100 billion dollars per year to help developing countries through.

But how best to do this?  And how best to empower those on the ground to force a more enlightened and transparent government where needed? Questions from the audience prompted further discussion and comments from both speakers.

Some of the points raised included:

  • What about aid delivered via general budget support to corrupt systems?             What happens when it is via the Food Programme instead?

–  Sector-based budget support can direct more specific funding but the problem is, it’s the donors then holding Governments to account, rather than their own people. Except that, of course, the provision of schools, clinics etc may enlighten people and thus lead to more control over the economic and financial workings of their country.)

  • Can we have some good news to convince the man on the street and encourage all us “little me”s in the battle to win hearts and minds?

–                     Haiti’s debt relief at last; Ecuador and Bolivia’s participatory budgeting;

–                     The Bank of the South as an alternative to the World Bank

–                     Public attitude to Fair Trade has changed; where once seen as a charity it is now viewed as smart business sense (about 70% of households now make a conscious decision to buy Fair Trade and the F/T label has reached £1 billion of certified income.

–                     All the “little me”s banded together DO make a difference; especially at events like G8 Birmingham human chain and Gleneagles Summit.

–                      The postcard campaigns DO work but individual, personal letters are far more effective. It is much better, for example, to ask your MP to ask the relevant Minister about your concerns, rather than simply demand an Early Day Motion on . . .  (and beware of circular e-mails, especially with “fill in your name here” un-deleted!!)

And so, finally, what now?

Well, we will be watching with anxious interest the outcomes at Copenhagen, the progress of the Government’s stated policies and yes, Mr Foster, we will still be flying the flag with our rainbow scarves (despite another of the MP’s tips, that these would pre-alert any otherwise unsuspecting politician as to the issue with which they’re about to be confronted!!)


Jubilee Debt Campaign once again had a small stall at the Greenbelt Festival over the Bank holiday. I volunteered for a short spell and had some amusing experiences to share with other campaigners.

My main task was to engage with members of the public who were browsing the dozens of charity stalls in the marquee, and persuade them to sign a postcard to their MP about Vulture funds.

It was really encouraging that no one actually refused to sign! In fact one Anglican clergy signed two cards –

One for the MP she lobbies on behalf of her parish community in which the church is situated and a second MP in whose constituency she actually lives. The two MP’s are members of different parties, which again provides for interesting opportunity to play off one political party against the other.

I wonder how many other clergy with several churches to care for might have the same interesting campaigning opportunity. Any advance of two MP’s?

I was also encouraged to see that so many people actually knew their MP. Those who didn’t were able to give their postcode so that I could use the web

and add the name of their MP to the postcard  at a latter stage.

Everyone was keen to take advantage of our free postal service and offer to deliver them by hand to the House of Commons. This set me thinking that we should be given free postal service when we write to our MP. Given the high cost of stamps it is yet another way that the poor are denied democratic rights to let their views be known.

Greenbelt is very much a Christian Festival and many of the festival goers have been committed to the debt campaign for over a decade. It was certainly not surprising to see so many Jubilee rainbow scarves amongst the twenty one thousand  attending. There was a huge range of music, talks, workshops and programme activities.

One new idea, which is taking hold, is the idea of using facebook to promote the campaign and sale of scarves to supporters.

John who is a new JDC worker changed his Facebook profile picture to one wearing his Rainbow JDC scarf and changed his status to recommend his friends to buy one and directed them to me to make a purchase: –

In one week five new sales! It will be fun to see how many rainbow scarves we can get onto Facebook?

Duncan with scarfJohnianjdc

The experience of collecting hundreds of postcards over the weekend was really encouraging to all the volunteers. To speak with the supporters face to face and have that feeling of solidarity is very helpful. Campaigners do need to be nurtured and encouraged in their endeavours either by talking to each other or via comments on the blog so do make your comments now!

It is clear  that we all need to share our passion and anger so that we can be re energergised to fight the injustices we have exposed in Vulture funds.

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This is the blog of the local group of the UK campaign calling for cancellation of international Debt.

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September 2009
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