World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

South-south summit declaration

21 November 1999

South-South Summit Declaration
"Towards a Debt-Free Millennium"

Leaders and representatives of diverse social movements, popular, religious, professional, and political organizations, and debt coalitions from 35 countries of Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean, met in Gauteng, South Africa, on November 18-21, 1999, in the first Jubilee South-South Summit.

We gathered together to advance a common analysis, vision and strategy to overcome the effects and consequences of debt-related domination in the lives and futures of our peoples, countries, and environment.

As Jubilee South, we put forth as our mission to confront its historical roots and structural causes, and to promote lasting alternatives of economic, social, and ecological justice. In so doing, we were inspired by the myriad forms of resistance through which the majority of the world's population now seek to achieve and defend their fundamental human and collective rights to a dignified life.

We were guided as well by a broad religious and secular understanding of the Jubilee tradition, as expressed in the notions of equity and harmony within all of creation and the possibility of a "New Beginning".

As Jubilee South, we valued highly the opportunity to come together on our own initiative, as movements, organizations and coalitions based in countries of the South. At the same time we expressed a common understanding of the notion of South in political and ideological terms, encompassing the oppressed and excluded and their organizations around the world in their struggle to end the prevailing neoliberal paradigm.

On the basis of our sharing and debate, we agreed on the following with respect to our framework and perspective on the 'debt problem', our analysis and position on 'debt-relief' initiatives, and a platform and agenda for action of Jubilee South:

Framework and Perspective on the Debt Problem

The External Debt of countries of the South is illegitimate and immoral. It has been paid many times over. A careful examination of the origins, development, effects, and consequences of this debt can lead us to no other conclusion. We thus reject the continued plunder of the South by way of debt payments.

Peoples and countries of the South are in fact creditors of an enormous historical, social, and ecological debt. This debt must be repaid in order to make possible a "New Beginning". In the spirit of Jubilee, we demand restitution of what has been taken unjustly from us, and reparations for the damage wrought.

We forcefully denounce the growing concentration of wealth, power, and resources in the world economy as the essential cause of the increase in violence, impoverishment, and 'indebtedness' of the South. The elimination of extreme poverty cannot take place without the elimination of extreme wealth. We thus demand the eradication of extreme wealth and the vicious system that generates such inequalities. In this context, we reject the perpetuation of external debt collection and debt payments which are Life or Death matters for the millions of persons who are exploited and excluded in our societies.

The External Debt is an ethical, political, social, historical, and ecological problem. It entails responsibilities at different levels and demands imperative and comprehensive action so as to resolve in a permanent and definitive manner. There can be no piecemeal solution to the 'Debt problem'. We thus welcome the momentum that Jubilee 2000 initiatives around the world have generated on this issue and we call on them to broaden and deepen their understanding, educational efforts, and mobilization beyond the year 2000, in order to achieve our overall aim of a Debt-free Millennium, including the repayment of the debt owed by the North to the South.

Debt is essentially an ideological and political instrument for the exploitation and control of our peoples, resources, and countries by those corporations, countries, and institutions that concentrate wealth and power in the global capitalist system. The accumulation of Foreign Debt in countries of the South is a product of the crisis of that very system and it is used to perpetuate the plunder and domination of our nations often with the acquiescence, if not active collaboration, of local elites.

The neoliberal global economic system is destructive and genocidal in its workings and effects. Women suffer disproportionately its consequences, as do children, the elderly, and the environment. The same institutions and system responsible for its creation cannot bring about a lasting solution to the 'Debt problem'. That system must be changed and can be changed.

In the process of addressing the 'Debt problem' and changing the neoliberal global economic system, we must continue to develop an ever closer understanding of the linkages between debt and other related aspects including trade, finance, investment, consumption patterns, food security, environmental depredation, and diverse forms of military and anti-democratic, neo-colonialist intervention and repression.

Many working-class and impoverished and excluded peoples' groups and movements in both the South and the North are engaged in different ways to challenge and transform this system of domination and we must join with them. As Jubilee South we will add our voice and support for the strengthening and creation of alliances and coalitions deeply rooted in historical struggles against all forms of oppression within the long-standing anti-imperialist framework and tradition.

Resistance to debt-related domination unites us as social movements and organizations throughout the South and provides us with an historic opportunity to organize ourselves as part of a broader movement. As Jubilee South, we are born and rooted in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean, but we reach out to all who are in part of this historical, political, and ethical South.

Respectful of our different identities and traditions, as well as our varying forms of struggle, we must be united in a common determination to achieve Justice for all: a New Beginning in the New Millennium. In this way South-South and South-North solidarity can be strengthened, as we exercise our collective human right to determine our own future and engage in the struggle to build and defend inclusive and comprehensive alternatives to the present global system that are

  • from the bottom-up,
  • reflective of different sectorial needs,
  • respectful of cultural and biological diversity, and
  • conducive to new modes of democracy and development that are respectful of human rights, justice, and wellbeing for all.

Analysis and Position on Debt Relief Initiatives

Jubilee South strongly rejects all forms of so-called debt relief - ranging from the Brady Bonds, debt buy-back schemes, the Highly Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC), and the G7 Cologne Initiative with its purported emphasis on poverty reduction - initiated by the governments of the North and their international finance institutions.

We reject these initiatives because:

  • They presuppose the legitimacy of the debts of the South to the North.
  • They are essentially meanto to provide Creditor Relief by recycling the uncollectable loans of a limited number of South countries and serve to perpetuate indebtedness by ensuring that indebted countries are able to service their debts through renewed access to international credit.
  • They are all tied to structural adjustment programs, poverty reduction criteria and programs and other external conditionalities that impose macroeconomic policies such as liberalization, privatization, and deregulation, which trap SOUTH countries into a perpetual cycle of debt dependence and underdevelopment.

These initiatives are deceptive and they are being used by the North to mislead, coopt, and demobilize concerned people and organizations throughout the world who are rightly expressing their indignation and commitment to genuine debt cancellation and historical reparation of the social and ecological debt owed to the people of the South.

We oppose the creation of the Poverty Reduction Growth Facility (PRGF) as an attempt by the IMF to broaden the scope of its work and provide more bases for intervening in the economies of the countries of the South. This institution is incapable of poverty reduction. The IMF is a major vehicle for promoting neoliberal economic polcies and IMF programs and policies are a major cause for perpetuating poverty and exploitation in our economies.

We reject all schemes of the North that divide peoples of the South. We refuse to be categorized as "highly indebted poor countries" or "moderately-indebted countries", etc. , all of which do not reflect the real situation of impoverishment and the excluded and exploited people in ALL South countries. The external debts of the South are illegitimate and have been paid over and over again at the expense of the people.

These schemes seek to legitimize the corrupt and genocidal policies of the North and the subservience and corruption of governments and elites in the South, as these are used for publicity and propaganda. Jubilee South campaigns in countries where HIPC is already in operation should continue to emphasize and promote the broader and fundamental socio-political and economic issues.

Peoples of the South DO NOT demand relief from the North but RESTITUTION and REPARATION for the profound economic, social, political, cultural and environmental damages wrought upon our countries and peoples through centuries of DEBT-RELATED colonization and neo-colonization.

Our demands for debt cancellation, debt repudiation and reparation depend upon and MUST produce fundamental changes in the dominant global capitalist system and for the creation of alternative people-centered socio-economic and political systems.

Our Strategy

Jubilee South shall undertake a concerted and coordinated effort to promote advance these unities on our framework and perspective on the debt problem and our analysis and position on debt relief initiatives.

Our efforts shall be anchored on a campaign strategy of developing our movements in the South, linking with our allies in the North, and finally shifting the balance of strength, to force/pressure our governments to take heed and implement our demands and calls on the debt and related issues and, to achieve basic changes in our national societies. And, on this basis, also force changes on the policies and structures of the northern and international creditors, and the global economic system.

Our efforts shall be born from and contribute to the struggles of the peoples of the South for national and global transformation.

Our Platform and Agenda

Jubilee South campaign initiatives, undertaken in the context of the struggles of the peoples of the South for national and global social transformation, shall serve the following Strategic Goals and Direction

  • COLLECTIVE REPUDIATION by South Governments of odious, onerous, criminal, fraudulent and all illegitimate debts and the FORMATION of a DEBTOR's ALLIANCE
  • RECHANNELING of the Public FUNDS away from debt service and ENSURING THAT PUBLIC FUNDS be used primarily for people's welfare and basic services, and equitable and sustainable development
  • TOTAL DEBT CANCELLATION WITHOUT CONDITIONALITIES by creditors (northern governments, IFIs, others) to redress injustices, squarely address the issue of odious, illegitimate and onerous debts, and the urgent to need to prioritize human welfare and equitable and sustainable development in the face of the crisis, inequity, poverty and "underdevelopment" of the South countries
  • FULL RESTITUTION and REPARATION by creditors for the human, social, environmental damage caused by their debt policies, structural adjustment programs and other economic policies, and their exploitation of the peoples and resources of the South's peoples
  • END TO STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAMS and SHUTDOWN of the IMF and WB and other similar multilateral institutions promoting neoliberal economic policies like the World Trade Organization (WTO)
  • SYSTEMIC, STRUCTURAL and POLICY changes and programs that will get the South countries out of the debt trap, prevent the repetition of these problems and promote political and economic democracy and equity, popular empowerment and sustainable development;
  • TRANSFORMATION of the GLOBAL CAPITALIST ECONOMIC SYSTEM and BUILDING of A NEW WORLD ECONOMIC ORDER that is people-centered, equitable, gender-fair, sustainable and democratic.

These calls which express the strategic goals and direction of Jubilee South are translated into platforms for national, regional and global campaigns.

These platforms contain specific and concrete goals and demands that range from immediate, medium term and long term that are consistent with and which advance the strategic goals and direction of Jubilee South.

These platforms serve as bases for developing campaign strategies and programs of action for national, regional and global campaigns.

Jubilee South shall encourage and support the development of National Platforms and Agendas that primarily challenge and seek to change debt and economic policies of South governments, and transform national social, economic and political systems.

National Platforms and Agendas need to be responsive and appropriate to the concrete and particular social, economic and political situation as well as to the historical development of people's movements and debt campaigns in each country. Thus, National Platforms and Agendas cannot be the same for all countries.

Below are some aspects of the debt problem and related issues around which national platforms and agendas can be developed. Included are possible demands that are not meant to be adopted as is by country campaigns, but rather serve as a menu of issues and concerns that can be studied.

Challenging and Changing Debt and Economic Policies of South Governments; Struggling for National Social Transformation

  • Government Transparency and Accountability

    South Governments must be held fully accountable for debt and related economic policies. A minimum requirement of accountability is transparency and information disclosure. To this end, the following are important demands to forward:

    1. Full disclosure of information and transparency on processes and policies regarding borrowing, debt servicing and allocation and spending of public funds
    2. Complete disclosure of information on agreements and transactions with international financial institutions, banks, northern government creditors and related institutions.
    3. Institutionalization of public information disclosure policy and mechanisms for the enforcement of this policy.

    Furthermore, there must be clear mechanisms for holding past and present governments and individual officials, for their complicity in the debt trap and related decisions, policies and actions that perpetuated exploitation and impoverishment. Thus it is also vital to demand the:

  1. Investigation the cases of odious, onerous, behest, criminal and fraudulent debts; identification and prosecution of government officials and private sector individuals and corporations who were co-parties to odious, onerous, behest, criminal and fraudulent debts; Include the role of international creditors and financial institutions in the investigation of these; Ensure the return of stolen wealth and public funds by these entities;
  2. Examination and public disclosure on government practices and institutional, legal and strcutural mechanisms and flaws that have legitimized and paved the way for immoral debt and 'indebtedness' of the South.
  • Debt servicing

    As part of demanding government accountability, laying the basis for immediate and medium term policies regarding debt service, raising public awareness and building social mobilizations for debt repudiation and total and unconditional address the debt problem, it is important to call for:

    1. Immediate and thorough public information disclosure, investigation, examination and classification of existing debts; Public exposure of odious, onerous, fraudulent, criminal and illegitimate debts, and behest loans.
  • The following demands can be forwarded together with the demand for disclosure, investigation, examination and classification of existing debts:

    2. Immediate unilateral moratorium on servicing of the debt; Immediate rechanneling of funds to urgent needs. (this call may be forwarded as an urgent and immediate demand in conditions such as national disaster emergencies, political and economic crisis situations, or situations of intensifying and heightened mass protests and social mobilizations against economic policies etc.; ), and/or

    3. Imposition of ceilings or cap on debt service based on percentage of budget, as percentage of internal revenues, or as percentage of exports, (may be used as a minimum demand), or

    4. Repudiation of or non-payment of odious, onerous, fraudulent, behest, criminal and illegitimate debts. (this is an economic as well as political act based on the recognition of illegitimacy of debt).

    The need for collective action among the South must be emphasized and asserted. Thus, it is important to call on South governments to pursue:

    5. Linking up with other South countries for the formation of a Debtors' Alliance

    •  Allocation of Funds Released from Debt Servicing, and Budget Reprioritization

    It is vital to accompany demands for debt service ceiling, moratorium or repudiation with demands for the proper allocation of funds freed from debt service, to ensure that the peoples of the South will be the ones to benefit from moratorium/ repudiation and cancellation, and not the corrupt officials and the agenda of the elite:

    1. Rechanneling of public funds from debt service to basic services such as health, education, housing; as well as for economic programs that promote equity and sustainable development (ex: Land reform and rural development etc.)

    • Loans and Borrowings

    Government policy on borrowings must be addressed as an important aspect of the vicious cycle of indebtedness. Various demands on borrowings include:

    1. Imposition of regulations and ceilings on borrowings. (Ceilings on borrowings are relevant to situations of wanton, indiscriminate and irresponsible accessing of available credit, and heavy reliance on loans and credit to fund government expenditures)
    2. Ensure that Terms of Repayment and Agreements on Interest Rates are not detrimental to marginalized sectors, classes and communities and to women, and to the goals of equitable and sustainable development
    3. Rejection of loans with structural adjustment and similar conditionalities, including those in the guise of poverty reduction and alleviation; Rejection of debt relief packages that are accompanied with similar conditionalities.
    4. End all forms of public or government guarantees on private sector loans; Guarantees issued earlier should be revoked or rescinded
    5. Strict regulations on issuance of bonds and domestic borrowings to prevent accumulation of huge public domestic debts, and prevent the government bonds from inducing high interest rates
    • Democratic participation and Democratic Governance

    We forward the immediate demand for full and meaningful people's participation and intervention in economic policy-making. There must be clear laws and mechanisms to ensure this.

    Over all, we stand for democratic governance and shall link with other groups, forces and movements in struggling to establish truly democratic governments in the South.

    • International Financial Institutions and Conditionalities

    As an immediate or minimum demand to raise public awareness and further expose the negative effects of structural adjustment programs and similar policies imposed by international financial institutions and enforced by South governments, these institutions and governments must be challenged to:

    1. Conduct a national participatory audit/investigation of the impact of structural adjustment programs and neoliberal policies

    At the same time, the following call/demand should be advanced:

    1. Stop the implementation of WB / IMF Programs and similar programs and policies of regional IFIs (international financial institutions)
    • Restitution and Reparations

      The demand for restitution and reparations must be popularized, promoted and asserted:

      1. Restitution and Reparations for victims of the Debt & SAPs, especially workers, urban and rural poor, farmers, indigenous people's communities and women from these sectors and groups

    III. Developing an International Platform and Regional Platforms: Supporting National Campaigns and Platforms; Challenging and Engaging Northern Creditors, International Financial Institutions and Other International Multilateral Organizations

    The global community of Jubilee South shall support and promote national platforms, agendas and campaign initiatives of national movements and campaigns on the debt. At the same time Jubilee South unites on the following immediate, medium and long term demands to be carried in the various global and regional arenas and challenging and engaging various global and regional institutions:

    To Northern Governments and Creditors:

    1. Cancel all bilateral debts of all South Countries
    2. Stop loans and ODA support for authoritarian, dictatorial, oppressive and military regimes
    3. Stop efforts to strengthen the role and extend the mandate of the World Bank and IMF (MAI etc.)

    To the World Bank, IMF and their Regional partner IFIs:

    1. Cancel multilateral debt of all South countries
    2. Complete information disclosure and transparency on transactions and agreements with South governments.
    3. Stop imposition of structural adjustment programs and similar policies as conditionalities to grants and loans; Stop the imposition of stabilization programs on countries in the wake of economic and financial crises
    4. Withdraw the new Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility of the IMF be withdrawn and IMF to cease pretensions to poverty reduction goals
    5. Abandon moves to amend the IMF's Article of Agreement to require member countries to liberalize their capital accounts;

    To the United Nations

    1. Formation of a global commission with more than 50% representing civil society (and others from governments and the United Nations) be immediately convened to review the work of the IMF and other IFIs, determine whether they should continue to exist and if so re-define what role it should play; if not, examine ways and means to de-commission or dismantle the IMF
    2. Passage of an International Covenant regarding stolen wealth
    3. International investigation and inquiry into Governments and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) responsible for illegitimate, odious, onerous, fraudulent and criminal loans and other similar economic issues
    4. Setting up of international instrument to monitor and regulate the flow of international speculative capital

    To Countries of the South

    Linking up and formation of "debtors'" alliance to unite on common policies and actions on:

    • Debt repudiation
    • Restitution and Reparations
    • Rejection of SAPs and other conditionalities; Resistance to neoliberal global economic policies
    • Dismantling of International Financial Institutions
    • Regulation of International Speculative Capital Flows
    • and others

    General Program of Action

    I. Develop and strengthen national debt campaigns and initiatives involving mass and social movements, grassroots organizations, NGOs and influential institutions and leaders

    1. Research and Study on the Debt and related issues
    2. Popular Education on the Debt Issue and the larger context of neoliberal policies and globalization
    3. Capacity-building and training of debt campaign activists and lead organizations for the campaign
    4. Develop and Build Consensus on National Platform/Agenda on which to engage and challenge National Governments, and linked to the Jubilee South Platforms
    5. Building coalition / network / alliance around the debt campaign, reaching out to a broad section of society from grassroots and basic sectors to social movements, political movements, trade unions, academic communities, religious organizations and communities, allies in media, allies within government etc.
    6. Lobby, Public Pressure Activities and Mass Mobilizations vis-à-vis National Governments, Northern Creditor Embassies and Offices of International Financial Institutions
    7. Exposure and Ventilation of Issues through National Mass Media
    8. Link the national efforts on the debt campaign to struggles and campaigns on other related issues (Ex. WTO, international capital flows, economic crisis, SAPs)

    II. Develop Regional and Global Jubilee South Campaign and Lead in Global Jubilee Debt Movement

    1. Expand and Broaden the constituency of Jubilee South and Continue to deepen and strengthen unities
    2. Facilitate and promote cross-country and cross-region exchange of experiences and other capacity-building programs
    3. Wide public and media dissemination of Jubilee South position, calls and demands, especially through international media
    4. Build and mobilize support for Jubilee South Campaign calls and demands within the South and the North and Shape Global Debt Campaign initiatives around these calls and demands
    5. Mobilize support for National campaign initiatives
    6. Coordinated lobby, public pressure and mobilization activities in international arenas and during international events (ex. G7 Summit, IMF-WB Meetings etc) challenging international institutions, northern government and regional institutions
    7. Linking with Campaigns and Struggles on their Related Issues such as Campaigns against SAPs, IFIs, WTO, etc.

    Organizational Arrangement
    1. International Coordinating Committee- composed of three representatives from each region, and a Co-Coordinators (third serving as alternate), and to have the following functions:

      • Serve as links to regional networks and national campaigns
      • Ensure Consensus-building on positions and plans
      • More detailed planning of global activities
      • Ensure Implementation of global activities
      • Take on tasks as plans require
      • May form work groups for specific tasks or areas of work

    2. International Secretariat(s) - to be housed by participating organizations and to perform the following functions:

      • Communications center; ensures communications and information exchange between and among all Jubilee South groups
      • Assist International Coordinating Committee for meetings and activities
      • Ensures dissemination of Jubilee South position and Calls to international network and media

    Some Initial Proposals for Immediate and Specific Activities
    1. Sending of a delegation to the WTO Meeting in Seattle and establish linkages with campaign groups on the WTO - November 1999
    2. Expanding the constituency of Jubilee South, immediately among invited groups who were not able to attend the Summit and groups from countries who were not represented at the Summit
    3. Dissemination of Jubilee South position on current debt "relief" initiatives, especially among campaigns in the North.
    4. North - South Dialogue among Debt Campaigns - 1st Quarter 2000
    5. Global Meeting of all Debt Campaigns to Unite on Platform and Strategies - 1st Quarter 2000
    6. Activities around the G7 Summit in Okinawa - July 2000
    7. Activities around the WB-IMF Meetings - September 2000
    8. International, Regional and National Debt Tribunals
    9. Filing of cross-country international class suit against the International Financial Institutions in the International Court of Justice for complicity in the criminal use of