Earlier today we sent around an email with an almost unbelievable announcement: the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions were canceling ALL of debt for 111 countries that were experiencing a moderate or high risk of debt distress. Payments on these debts take essential resources out of the budgets of many of the world’s poorest countries. The structural adjustment policies that accompany these loans act as a tool of colonial domination, allowing rich countries to mandate that the world’s poorest nations make painful cuts to vital social programs.
After our email went out, news about the debt cancelation went viral all over the world. #CancelTheDebt trended on Twitter in some countries and hundreds of thousands of people flooded the IMF2020.org website. Scores of people used the online form on the website to send messages to the finance ministers of the G20 nations congratulating them on the announcement.
Throughout the day, dozens of people reached out to ask if we had been duped. Some even asked if this was the work of the notorious laughtavist pranksters, “The Yes Men.”
The truth is, this is not real. The IMF did not cancel all debt. #ShutDownDC activists created the IMF2020.org website and announcement (but we’re humbled to be compared to the Yes Men). But it is also true that canceling all debts for low and moderate income countries is not only the right thing to do, it’s essential at this moment.
The IMF and other financial institutions did announce some small debt relief measures at around the same time as we sent out the email. But these measures are disgustingly inadequate. The IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), for instance, provided less assistance than the US Federal Government provided to large corporations in the most recent bailout package.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic, and the world’s poorest countries need to be able to mobilize every available resource to provide for the health and wellbeing of people who have been made vulnerable to this virus. And when we emerge from the pandemic, there is no going back to the old normal. We need to build to a new normal where we’ve dismantled the interlocking systems of oppression that created this incessant stream of climate, public health and economic crises.
So the IMF has not canceled all debt yet. But they are responding to the pressure and we need to keep up the pressure! Our friends at Jubilee USA are campaigning for much needed reforms among the international financial institutions like the IMF. Sign their petition and support their work!
And today’s action also shows that we CAN take disruptive action during the global pandemic both online AND in person. Over the next several months, physical distancing and wearing face covering is going to be essential to slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe. We all have a responsibility to act responsibly. But we also can’t afford to sit on the sidelines while people die, the corporations line up to fill their pockets and the government quietly rolls back protections. We need to be responsible and keep each other safe and healthy, but we also need to continue to fight a just and sustainable future.
Between Earth Day and May Day, we’re going to take bold action (both online AND in person) to take aim at the interlocking systems that are creating the crises our communities are suffering from and build a collaborative framework for a healthier, more just and more sustainable world.
We’re working on some exciting action plans for those 10 days--imagine using lots of eco-friendly paint to paint a mutual on a side street in front of an evil billionaire’s home, or hanging massive banners in iconic locations around the district, or using bicycles to haul solar powered PA system around town bring the voices of front line communities to the institutions that are facilitating the destruction of their communities.
Talk real soon!