Peter Willetts, Professor of Global Politics
Documents and Speeches on the Politics of International Economics
This collection is intended to be a useful archive of important primary materials. The text of the documents has not been amended, but usually some copy-editing of the lay-out has been done.
E-Mail from Drop the Debt to its Supporters, 3 August 2001
From: Drop the Debt, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Drop the Debt - Thank you - Genoa News - What next?
Drop the Debt - http://www.dropthedebt.org
This week, the London-based Drop the Debt campaign draws to a close, following the G8 Summit in Genoa. I am writing to thank you for the efforts you have made in pushing the G8 leaders to agree a New Deal on Debt, to report on the results of our seven-month campaign and to tell you how the cause of debt cancellation will be taken forward in the future. While the millennium-focused dimension of the campaign has come to an end, the Drop the Debt message will grow ever stronger, particularly in the USA.
The campaign in the UK will carry on through the work of the Jubilee Debt Campaign (JDC). We recommend UK supporters subscribe to their campaign list - email@example.com - for more details about JDC visit their website: www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk
The next occasion to pressurise the IMF and the World Bank to cancel 100% of the debt that is owed to them by the poorest countries is at their annual meetings taking place at the beginning of October in Washington. If you live in the US we recommend you visit the US campaign website: www.jubileeusa.org
Below there are messages from Adrian Lovett, Director of Drop the Debt, followed by a Genoa Report, from David Hillman, Partner for Campaigns and Mobilisation
The challenge of Genoa
The events around the G8 summit left many debt campaigners feeling disappointed and depressed. The newspapers and bulletins were full of news from Genoa – but not about the New Deal on Debt we had called on the G8 leaders to agree. The images from Genoa were of street battles between extremist 'protestors' and police.
The trouble on the streets in Genoa presented us with two major problems: first, how to ensure the safety of our supporters; and second, how to get our debt-focused message across to the G8 leaders in such a difficult media climate. We faced an unprecedented situation in Genoa and I am deeply proud of the Drop the Debt team of staff and volunteers who responded with tremendous professionalism. They ensured the safety of those who had travelled so far to be there, and did all they could to minimise the problems that supporters encountered. More than that, they also succeeded in communicating our message through the media and in reaching very directly the ears of the G8 leaders at the summit.
I am also hugely appreciative of the heroic efforts made by many supporters to make their presence felt in Genoa. Some succeeded in getting there and took part in our events. Some made it to Milan, Turin or other parts of Italy, and staged demonstrations where they could. Some raised the issue locally and nationally in the UK before and during the summit. Every single one played a part in ensuring that our message was delivered to the G8.
What we have all achieved in the Drop the Debt campaign since the beginning of the year
First of all, we should be clear and honest about what we have not achieved. Despite all our efforts, we did not win a New Deal on Debt in Genoa. We set ourselves a goal which we judged to be highly ambitious, but achievable – to win agreement, by the time of the summit, for deeper debt cancellation for the poorest countries. There are many factors that help to explain why that did not happen. The changes of governments in the US and Italy were disruptive to our lobbying efforts – and, particularly in the Italian case, left us with an administration much less interested in our issue. The resistance of the World Bank and IMF to our proposal was fierce. The 'natural' cycle of the existing Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative still had some way to run, making the case for immediate further action tougher.
I will always wonder whether, if we had made a little more noise, worked a few more hours, exerted a bit more pressure – we might just have done it. I don't think that is the case. I think we did all we possibly could, and I think that because of our work, real progress on debt – and a broader attack on poverty – is now all the more possible.
Back in December 2000, as the Jubilee 2000 campaign ended, many believed campaigning on debt would disappear with it. Journalists routinely wrote that debt was an issue that had been dealt with. Politicians wanted to move on to other topics.
By the time of the Genoa summit, debt and poverty were back at the heart of the agenda. As Scotland on Sunday commented, "That the Third World's troubles have been on the agenda at all may be down to the campaigning of organisations such as Jubilee 2000 and Drop the Debt. The persistent lobbying of non-violent and articulate campaigners has clearly had an impact."
So our first success was that we ensured the voices of a billion people in the poorest countries were raised in Genoa. The G8 leaders felt obliged to meet with our delegation during the summit. And much more importantly, they met with elected leaders from Africa and welcomed the African leaders' broad plan for recovery, which includes a new initiative on debt as part of a broader package. The G8 now want to negotiate the detail of the package with the African leaders and come back with a joint action plan for their next summit in Canada. It is too early to say, but if this is taken seriously by the G8, a new partnership on Africa between richer and poorer countries could be one good and lasting legacy to come out of the Genoa summit.
But helping to initiate this encounter was only one of the key achievements of Drop the Debt. Of the many things we have done over the last seven months, I feel three broad achievements stand out in particular:
The way ahead
So what happens now? Drop the Debt is ending as planned, because our campaign was designed for a unique, time-limited period that has now passed. But the campaign against unpayable debt and extreme poverty goes on. In the United States, where our campaigning partners believe a breakthrough is still possible within the coming months, the Drop the Debt slogan will be maintained as the key message of a broad coalition of churches, charities, and other activists across America. In the UK, the Jubilee Debt Campaign will bring together regional campaigns and national organisations to continue the fight. At Drop the Debt, we are proud to pass the torch on to these friends and others, and we trust them to carry it in the original spirit of Jubilee to which we have tried to remain true.
My own personal hope is that as debt campaigners in the months and years ahead, we will seek to win further progress not through a continued narrow focus on debt itself, but through a much broader approach targeting the elimination of extreme poverty and recognising the range of fronts on which we must make progress. Debt is a central, crucial one of these. But I believe we are now more likely to make progress on debt itself, as well as other issues, through a broader campaigning approach. The crisis of HIV/AIDS, for example, underlines the need to campaign not only for deeper debt cancellation but also for the other necessary elements of an appropriate response to an extraordinary emergency. I look forward to joining in the debate on how we achieve that, in the UK and around the world.
It only remains for me to thank you once again for your tireless energy in support of the Drop the Debt campaign. In Genoa, once again, I was reminded that we are privileged to have in this movement the best campaigners in the world. I ask you to take forward that energy, that drive, that passion, in campaigning against poverty and injustice. I ask you to think boldly and imaginatively about how we capture the world's attention – a challenge made much harder by Genoa. Above all, I ask you never to forget that the struggle we are engaged in is nothing less than the fight of our lives. We will have more partial successes, more bad times as well as good. But with the intelligent compassion of you and millions like you, we will win in the end.
With warmest wishes
Adrian Lovett Directo
As you can imagine it has been somewhat of a dramatic time since our last mailing. I have written a short report that I hope gives some flavour of what has just taken place in Italy.
Report from Genoa
A young Canadian man his face puffed up red from the smarting of tear gas lay collapsed next to our debt stall a good two miles from the trouble. We gave him some water as he blurted out his story. The police had been attacked by 'black block' anarchists and had retaliated by firing tear gas indiscriminately into the crowd of peaceful marchers some distance behind them. The canister had gone off right next to him. General panic had ensued.
At that moment I knew for certain that the decision by Drop the Debt and the major agencies with supporters in Genoa to withdraw from the march on Saturday 21 July was the correct one. Our number one priority was always the safety of our supporters and following the tragic violence the previous day in which a demonstrator had been shot dead, we knew there was no way of ensuring that such violence would not occur again the next day. So late on Friday evening the decision was taken. For me, as partner responsible for campaigns and mobilisation, although it was the only decision that could have been reached under the circumstances, I knew it would bring disappointment to many. At the same time I was acutely aware that all the painstaking planning and negotiation to position Drop the Debt supporters (from the UK and other countries) at the front of Saturday's 200,000-strong march was being swept away because of the indefensible violence initiated by a small minority of protestors and the response of the police.
As well, as I stood listening to the young Canadian's story and gazing into the extraordinarily beautiful blue expanse of sea and sky at the sea-front haven around Boccadasse I struggled to correlate this idyllic scene with the ugly mayhem taking place barely twenty minutes walk down the road.
The decision on Friday evening to withdraw from the march was accompanied by a recommendation to supporters to continue to make the journey to Genoa but to take part only in events in the debt zone at Boccadasse. However, at about the time the decision to withdraw was taken we first started receiving reports that the coach and travel companies were issuing instructions to coach drivers not to take supporters into Genoa on Saturday because of the violence. Although we explained our change of plans to the travel company and negotiated half of the night and into Saturday morning, no amount of reassurance on our part could make them change their minds.
In the circumstances magnificent efforts by supporters saw several hundred, against the odds, make their way to Boccadasse using other means of transport (and often walking considerable distances). Their long and difficult journeys and their sheer determination to get there and take part in the debt protest was inspiring. Some supporters who had reached Italy were very disappointed not to be able to get to Genoa, instead meeting up for separate protests in Milan and Turin - alternative contingency venues had been arranged in case events somehow conspired to prevent access to Genoa. We are pleased to report that these alternative events went extremely well though we sympathise with those who traveled so far and yet could not make the final stretch.
The Debt Zone protest
The Debt Zone at Boccadasse was marked out in blazing colour: a beautiful debt mural was spread over the walls of San Antonio Church. The Drop the Debt double-decker bus was greeted by cheers from protestors as the main march passed by towards the city centre. Stalls were dotted along the seafront, alongside a banner made up of over 1,200 squares of cloth painted, embroidered or signed by people all over Ireland. Campaigners picked up placards and other materials and were invited to make a handprint and sign their name for a message which will be presented to Gordon Brown by CAFOD campaigners back in Britain.
Outside San Antonio Church, as a 36-hour vigil came to a close, campaigners joined together for speeches and silent sit-down minutes of solidarity. All the speakers expressed their disappointment in the failure of the G8 to deliver a New Deal on Debt and confirmed their commitment to continue campaigning peacefully for an end to debt. The announcement from the stage that Adrian Lovett, Drop the Debt's director, was unable to address the crowd as he had been invited to meet Tony Blair to put forward the campaign's demands delighted the gathered crowd. In the great tradition of Jubilee 2000 protests, campaigners formed a human chain, symbolising the slavery of debt under which the poorest countries still struggle. In concentric chain circles they chanted "Cancella il debito - cancel the debt!" with banners waving and arms raised. A group of Ghanaian Drummers, who had traveled from the UK to be there, played out the event as supporters danced.
Milan and Turin protests
After a vigil and demonstration at the Church of San Giovanni Bosco in Rivoli, just outside Turin, about 70 campaigners made their way into the centre of Turin, waving banners and handing out Italian leaflets to a receptive public, sending postcards to their elected representatives, and ending their activities by joining a march of several hundred Pax Christi members protesting against the violence in Genoa.
In Milan, the steps of San Lorenzo Church formed the platform for a vigil and a drama in which a book, water and medicine were bound and then symbolically unchained to represent the restrictions that debt brings to basic services in indebted countries, which can be undone by debt cancellation. About 200 campaigners formed a human chain circling the piazza, and 19 candles were lit in memory of the 19,000 children who die daily as a result of debt-related poverty. The event ended with a march through the centre of Milan to the doors of the mighty Duomo (cathedral), attracting much attention on the way.
Bono commented at the summit: "Violence is never right. But anger is understandable especially faced with the obscenity of the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. It is right to bang your fist on the table, but not in the face of your opponent - whether police or protestor." He continued: "Civil disobedience has always played an important part in movements such as the ones led by Martin Luther King and Gandhi, but it is important they stay peaceful. I think we're dangerous, more than people throwing Molotov cocktails, because we have people thinking. We are dangerous in that we are non-exclusive.
Achievement in Genoa
For all the violence and difficulties on the ground at Genoa Drop the Debt succeeded in an impressive array of very high-level lobbying. With the able assistance of celebrities Bono, Bob Geldof and Italy's leading popstar, Lorenzo Jovanotti, Drop the Debt punched considerably above its weight securing meetings with four of the G8 leaders: Tony Blair, Germany's Gerhard Schroeder, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Canada's Jean Chretien. As well, holding meetings with Romano Prodi, head of the EU and President Bush's security advisor, Condoleeza Rice.
As Adrian's letter clearly sets out in its short life Drop the Debt has achieved a great deal and it has been an honour to serve as an officer in the campaign. Most importantly I have worked with you – campaigners from around the world - and have a message from Bob Geldof to pass on to you: "You are brilliant. You made a difficult issue popular and have achieved an enormous amount - but the debt crisis is not over. We say to the leaders, we are not going to go away and we will be back.
My very best to you in all your future campaigning.
David Hillman – Partner, Campaigns and Mobilisation
Copyright Peter Willetts, 2002.
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Last updated on 22 August 2002.