London – Anti-poverty group ONE is calling on global creditors to immediately cancel Haiti's $1 billion debt and help give the earthquake-stricken country a fresh start by ensuring that new aid comes in the form of grants, not debt-incurring loans.
ONE is running an email petition directed to finance ministers, the IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and bilateral creditors to cancel Haiti's $1 billion international debt and make sure that every available dollar goes to relief and recovery. Over 135,000 members have signed the petition so far and the number is rising sharply.
"ONE members around the world have joined the call for cancellation of Haiti's debt," said Oliver Buston, European Director of ONE. “There is absolutely no reason not to do this. The idea that creditors would continue to demand payment from people so devastated by this catastrophe is unimaginable. Debt cancellation is a small but important step towards helping the people of Haiti rebuild their lives in the long term.
"These old loans were based on assumptions about Haiti’s positive outlook for growth and exports. That has now all changed.
"Humanitarian and recovery assistance for Haiti should be in the form of grants, not loans, so that the country isn’t burdened with future large debts due to a tragedy beyond its control."
Campaigners have shown in the past that debt relief in times of emergency is possible. After Hurricane Mitch devastated parts of Central America in 1998, activists joined together to pressure the world’s top creditors to grant Nicaragua and Honduras a moratorium on repayments and allow them to concentrate on rebuilding their countries, not servicing unfair debt built up by previous regimes.
In this instance, the joint effort by campaigners is also showing results. On Wednesday, the head of the IMF, Dominic Strauss-Kahn announced that the IMF will cancel its part of Haiti’s debt stock. On Thursday the World Bank announced an interest-free moratorium, which it intends to use to "find a way forward to cancel the remaining debt". And Taiwan has stated it is "studying how to offer debt relief" to Haiti.
We hope that the International Donor Conference on Haiti on Monday and the IMF meeting next week will make further progress on this issue.
Following the terrible earthquake that struck the country in January 2010, ONE members took action, calling for the cancellation of Haiti's existing debt and demanding that new aid was provided in the form of grants. More