Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham

Posts Tagged ‘vulture funds

It is always encouraging to see publications covering our work.

Here is the latest article  from the summer edition of Islamic Relief magazine.

Islamic Relief is a member of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, a coalition of organisations that work towards the 100% cancellation of unpayable and unjust developing country debts.

In March, following extensive pressure from Jubilee Debt Campaign coalition, it was announced that the UK government would make permanent a landmark law to protect the poorest countries in the world from profiteering by so-called vulture funds. Vulture funds buy poor countries’ debt cheaply and sue the countries for repayment of the full value; in other words, they seek a high return on a relatively small investment, at the expense of the world’s poorest.

The law has already saved Liberia $40million and successfully kept vulture funds out of UK courts.

International support for the act has been expressed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana.

“We see this law as an important first step in putting the fight against poverty and inequality ahead of the excessive profits of a few greedy investors.”
Nick Dearden Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.”


The launch of the Jubilee Debt Campaign multifaith project has  been very eventfu.l Over the last month we have gained some very useful media coverage l  and entirely unexpected “spin-off”.

One newspaper article led to the reader sending cheque for £100.00 and very encouraging comments about  coming to the Birmingham Human Chain in 1998 and the time she had given in the past to her activism. But now at 97 she had decided to support JDC by giving money rather than demonstrating or lobbying!

In a telephone call from a retired journalist I  was amused to hear him say that in 1997 when we first met and talked about the “Human chain” he  was convinced no more than a few dozen people would turn out on cup final day and that  I was completely mad to even try to get debt cancellation for the world poorest countries. It was rather good to have proved at least one journalist wrong in that 70,000 came  to Birmingham and that jubilee  has acheived so much in the last twelve years.but some would perhaps agree with him that I am completely mad!

The multifaith project attracted new  web-based radio audiences for us in that on December 1st Trans World Radio broadcast half an hour programme entitled “Drop the Debt”.Speaking along side Gordon Brown Stephen Rand and selection of celebs was certainly a new experience for me.The  radio venture  was successful in that more programmes about JDC are planned for the New Year on Vulture funds.

Then out of the blue an Anglo – french film crew arrived on the doorstep to interview Salma Hamid and I about how our faith links to Global Poverty..It will be interesting to see if the film commissioned by an Australian venture actually comes to completion and if Birmingham campaigners get past the cutting room.

What ever the out come it’s all been good fun and the news that we have almost raised £2,000  from private individuals towards the  multifaith project is  encouraging. Donations have ranged from £5.00 to £500.00.

If you can help with a donation  do get in touch  we can provide Gift Aid envelops to maximise your contribution if you are a tax payer. Perhaps you can also provide names of any trusts or charities which might support our work? It good that the word is spreading in so many media outlets and we are getting this positive” spin-off”

Seasons Greetings to you all.

Audrey Miller

The latest outrage on  international debt has been demonstrated the during  the last few weeks. In the British High Court two Vulture Funds were awarded $20 million for a debt that dates back to 1978.  For a country that sits in the bottom 15 for worst living standards in the world, that $20 million siphoned off by the Vulture Funds is equal to 105% of the country’s education budget and 155% of its health budget in 2008. The country Liberia Is currently headed by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first democratically elected women head of state in Africa. The country has shown itself to be a model of responsible borrowing since the end of its war.  Despite the illegitimacy of Liberia’s loans, taken out by dictatorial governments and used to fuel and finance the 14 years of civil war, the new democratic government has done all it can to start fresh by clearing its past debts.

Suddenly out of the blue come this devastating blow from our High court when, Wall Capital Ltd. and Hamsah Investments, sued Liberia and were awarded $20 million.  These Vulture Funds held the rights to a $6 million debt from 1978, which has been passed through many hands and has an unclear record of spending and repayment – the money may have even financed and fuelled the civil war.

Attempts by Jubilee campaigners to stop our courts and those in USA taking part in rewarding these vultures   failed when the British government did not include the necessary measures in the Queens speech. Nothing can it seems be done to undo this gross in justice to the people of Liberia, but we now have to find a means of stopping other Vultures landing in London and eating the flesh from other poor people.

One gallant MP might just make this possible – if you lobby your MP to help his private members bill through the House of Commons. Andrew Gwynne could save hundreds of thousands of people from the damaging effects of this and prevent the rich investors going in for the kill on other weak and powerless countries in the same position as Liberia.

Do get in touch with your MP and make your views known If you go to find your MP Please take full advantage of being able to have your say. Lets cull the vultures and stop any more law suits in Uk. Jubilee USA are doing their part  to stop similar actions in the law courts there too.

In those moments of bleak depression when campaigners wonder if politicians ever listen, I do debate  if its all a waste of time and then something like this from local MP Richard Burdon comes into my inbox and I give a huge cheer and my faith is restored. We are getting our message across to some.

“Lots of constituents have been in touch to let me know they support the campaign to ‘End the vulture culture‘ led by the Jubilee Debt Campaign. The campaign is calling for regulation of vulture funds to prevent them buying up the defaulted debts of poor countries and then sueing those countries for full repayment plus costs.It is internationally recognised that the debt burden of the poorest, most indebted poor countries has to be tackled if they are to set themselves on the path of sustainable growth, development and poverty reduction. The UK government has taken a lead role on debt relief over the last 12 years. It is important that the real progress that has been made goes towards reducing poverty in developing countries, not lost into the pockets of wealthy investors.

Earlier this year I signed a parliamentary motion calling on the government to regulate vulture funds and raised the issue directly with government ministers. Replying to my letter, the Treasury Minister Ian Pearson explained that the government is also concerned about these so-called vulture funds . He told me that the government thoroughly deplores the funds and has taken a leading role in combating the damage caused by their activities – by preventing debts from falling into the hands of such funds and helping countries to defend themselves.”

Richard Burdon MP

Now we wait to see if another local MP for Dudley  – Ian Pearson will respond to the thousands of  petition signings and letters he has received via the Treasury to take  the final  steps necessary. to outlaw the  vulture fund process.

This Black Country MP  and Treasury Minister Ian Pearson is in charge of taking the  all important decision about whether to turn the proposed new law into a priority for the next parliamentary session, by putting it into the Queen’s Speech on 18 November.

I await to see if  they did get the message or will I be going back into  despair of politicians ability to  listen to the plea for justice.

Audrey Miller

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.

In my last post to you I asked you to take action and get in touch with your MP. JDC supporters all across the  country have been doing just that and now I have some great news to share.

Last week, the British government announced a consultation on whether it should pass legislation to Stop Vulture Fund profiteering from poor country debt in UK courts.  And, we also have indication from US congressional committee leaders that they are interested in moving forward with the Stop Vulture Funds in America.

At long last it would seem that the British Government is listening to moral arguments and may even take on board that this practice is outrageous to take funds from poor countries which was intended for those in need.  Then to give the money to rich and powerful companies many of whom operate from tax havens.

The other good news story is that Minister for Development Mike Foster MP for Worcester has agreed to speak at a meeting in Worcester on September 15th. Also speaking on that night will be  The Director of Jubilee Debt Campain, Nick Deardon  who will able to voice our concerns about this and other aspect of forgiving debts.

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