Mission Leader Welcomes Rich Nations' Pledge to Cancel Haiti's Debt
by Elliott Wright
New York, NY, February 10, 2010--The top United Methodist mission executive has welcomed the decision of the world's seven richest nations to forgive Haiti's outstanding debts to them in the wake of the devastating January 12 earthquake.
Bishop Joel N. Martinez, interim general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, responded to an announcement from a meeting of financial ministers from the G-7 Group in Iqaluit, Canada. He also appealed to the international economic community to make sufficient funds available for Haiti's rehabilitation to make new debt unnecessary.
The G-7 Group is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
"The debt cancellation will give Haiti some economic breathing room, but it will not solve all of the economic challenges there," he said. Bishop Martinez noted that, even before the earthquake, Haiti was ravaged by "persistent poverty." Haiti, with a population of some nine million, is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Bishop Martinez said that "the relief and rehabilitation efforts of The United Methodist Church, especially through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), will be designed to support the people of Haiti as they move toward a more secure economic future."
The total amount owed by Haiti to the G-7 nations was not announced, but the news agency of the British Broadcasting Corporation reported that it was likely not huge, since these countries forgave $1.2 million in loans last July. The paper quoted Oxfam USA as saying that another $900 million is owed to other organizations and nations.
Several religious organizations, including the World Council of Churches, have appealed for the cancellation of Haiti's debt since the earthquake. Others, including the Jubilee USA Network, a coalition of 75 religious groups, have long advocated such action. The Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries is part of that network and has posted an "Action Alert" on the Jubilee campaign on its website at Cancel Haiti's Debt.
Elliott Wright is an author and consultant to the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Feb 10, 2010