Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham

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When asked by a young Sikh friend Pritpal Kaur if I would like to donate to the charity Malaria No More UK (Registered Charity 1126222) I was keen to get involved with a   scheme that involves faith communities across Birmingham. The focus of Faiths Act Birmingham (FAB) is grassroots multi-faith action, which is making a special appeal from April 25th until May 1st.

Having seen the effects of Malaria at first hand and even getting the disease myself when I lived in Malawi, means I would naturally be sympathetic but this appeal had an added twist and ticked some extra boxes for me.

I know all to well that Malaria is one of the largest killers in sub-Saharan Africa and those who suffer have the most debilitating weariness as well as the fever and other symptoms. Yet it is very easily treatable disease. I  recovered in a few months. But above all it is easily preventable if  those living in infected areas sleep under a bed net. The cost of a net, which is minimal, can prevent this horrendous plague taking hold of vast areas of the world

£100 – enough to produce and distribute 20 bed nets, protecting 20 families from malaria for 5 years!  That’s just £5.00 each and seems a real bargain in whichever currency you use.

But  one extra  added attraction of giving to this particular Birmingham venture  was the fact that my donation would also draw down something from the former UK Prime Minister, Rt Hon Tony Blair, who has generously offered to match all funds raised. Which means  my donation will be doubled!  Twice as many bednet will be on the way across the globe

If you also want to support this scheme either go to www.justgiving.com/FaithsAct or send a cheque (payable to Malaria No More UK) to:

Faiths Act Birmingham

Nishkam Centre

6 Soho Road

Birmingham

B21 9BH

Audrey Miller

A standing room only meeting in Committee Room 15 heard speakers from USA and UK offer legal ways of controlling Vulture houses-of-parliamentFund activity. We heard Adam Smith said “ The criterion for a successful market is Transparency”. Vulture funds thrive on the anonymity of Directors operating from secrecy jurisdictions (Tax Havens). Enforced exposure through international legislation and refusal to allow UK and USA courts to be used for their actions, against the poorest countries, will destroy them. We must ensure this legislation to eliminate Vulture funds preying on the poorest.

Currently Vulture Funds may be set up secretly by one director to pursue a debtor state and to operate from any one of the many secrecy jurisdictions, as with Donegal International based in British Virgin Islands eventually revealed as directed by a Mr Steen. BVI operates through UK courts and Steen used them to profiteer from his court actions against Zambia for debts which, through HIPC ,had already been renegotiated with the other creditors and cancelled. This case has alerted campaigning groups and on August 1st 2008 the ‘ Stop the Vulture Funds Act’ was introduced in USA Senate. If passed this will cap amounts reclaimed, to the sum actually paid for the debt + 6% per annum Interest; it will enforce disclosures on Directors names and locations and certification that no bribes were paid for collusion.

Legislation is possible here; tax payers will no longer have to give tax relief to Banks on such debt repayments. Exposure of identities of the Vulture Fund directors and transparent dealing with international financial institutions could undermine the capacity of these extortionists to profiteer at the expense of the poorest. Three action points for MPs are given in “Time to tame the Vultures” JDC Jan 2009. ‘We can do this; so write to your MP asking them to support this legislation!

Birmingham City Council often uses the catch phrase “Global city with a local heart” in a way Birmingham JDC group really live up to the phrase in its very existence.

banner-us-smallThis Jubilee Congregation banner has recently been put on display at Selly Oak Methodist Church. It is American in origin and was given to the group by Jubilee US.

The director of the American campaign Neil Watkins attended the Birmingham University conference in the summer and one of our other regular readers this blog, Paula also from the States  is writing a book about the history of Jubilee movement and often in touch with the Birmingham group.

We have lots of other links around the world many across Africa where the debt problem is particularly acute. News from a Zambian reader received recently illustrates our global links too.

“Zambia started experiencing the effects of the global financial crisis towards the end of last year. Copper, which enjoyed a boom period for almost three years, started plummeting in price from September.

From the high of $8,000 per tonne, the price is now hovering around $3,000 per tonne! The country suspended a number of capital projects in the last quarter of last year.

An unplanned presidential election on 30 October 2008 following the death of the previous President in August 2008 gobbled up a lot of money depleting an already overstretched Treasury”.

All this in Zambia whilst they struggles to tackle vulture funds and its ongoing debt repayments.

January 27th will see some JDC Birmingham supporters going to Westminster to take on MP’s about the vulture funds issue. Details on our National Office website

A new copy of Noticeboard which is the newsheet for JDC in Birmingham has just been issued. It has been emailed and posted to our regular supporters. To read it click here.

If you would like to be sent it regularly please email

I am often asked by friends how they can begin to understand the complex issue of international debt. It seems a daunting topic, but now a new resource from Jubilee Debt Campaign makes it accessible and brings it down from high economic theory to an issue of global poverty being caused by power and injustice.

The filming covers some really good news from countries around the world  which have benefited from their debt being dropped and footage of Birmingham demonstrations over the last ten years. The campaign really took off in the city in 1998  with the G8 being surrounded by the human chain of protesters calling on world leaders to “Drop the Debt”.

Now if you were at the ICC 10th anniversary  on May 16th this year you will know that the event was called “Journey to Justice”. This DVD contains extracts from the event plus, interviews and other useful materials.

Over the last ten years thousands of people across the world have travelled a Journey to Justice, demanding that rich countries cancel this unjust and unpayable Debt.

Debts have been cancelled allowing millions more to enjoy free primary schooling and health care, but poor country Debt is still a major problem.

If you want to know more please buy the DVD.

The cast list could have not been more impressive ;- retired Bishop, Cannon, clergy, academics  and other seasoned  debt campaigners all took part in a specially written production this week.mary-and-josephThe script uses the poverty of the first Christmas to link with present day debt in poor countries.

shepherds

kings

Quotes from the shepherds and kings all make profound links  for example “I feel we are all indebted to one another – for money, for justice, for love. They need to follow a brighter star than self interest.”

And at another point

Christ has no body now on earth but yours;

Yours are the only hands with which to do his work.

Yours are the only feet with which  he can go around the world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

An inspiring concept for Christians campaigners to follow by showing compassion in this troubled world.

The play written by Elisabeth Leicester  of the Birmingham group you can download your copy.

See also The Stirrer on December 19th.

According to the BBC website on Sat 13th December the President of Ecuador has given the order not to approve a debt interest payment due on Mon 15th December. That was because a large proportion of Ecuador’s $10 billionhad been contracted illegally.

In July 2007 the government set up an investigating commission to examine debts for their legitimacy, legality, transparency, quality, efficacy and efficiency among other qualities and is now acting on the basis of its findings (published in November 2008) which, according to the Guardian, was that 40% of the debt was inadmissable.

The country’s foreign debt amounts to about one fifth of its Gross Domestic Product.

In the short run this decision could mean that others will refuse to lend Ecuador money which could put it in difficulties if oil, it’s main source of revenue, declines.

But in the long run Ecuador’s action forces the rest of the world to confront the immorality of many past loans, and flags up the need for an international mechanism for sorting such issues out in which poor countries can be represented as well as rich ones.

John Nightingale


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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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