Half-Hour for Haiti: Cancel Haiti’s Debt This Summer
Update: First of all, I’d like to welcome everyone who has joined the Half-Hour for Haiti program over the last few weeks, especially all the folks who signed up at the U.S. Social Forum. We’ll look forward to working with you to obtain justice for Haiti! Thanks to everyone who wrote two weeks ago asking Prosecutor Gassant to free political prisoners as part of his efforts to reduce the prison population. Mario Joseph, the prisoners’ lawyer, appreciates your making his job easier. Mario does not have good news to report yet, but he’s still working on it.
Coming Attractions: On August 18 there will be a Grassroots Music and Arts Festival at Bethel Farm in Hillsboro, New Hampshire. The festival will feature music, art, films, hiking, swimming and other summer fun, with proceeds going to the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.
The Jubilee USA Network (IJDH is a member) is organizing a 40-day fast for debt cancellation and economic justice from September 6 to October 15. There will be events focused on Haiti, including a lobby/call-in day, the first week of October. Jubilee USA is looking for organizations to commit to participating in the one-day fast on September 6. Joining the fast will help get the mobilization off to a good start, while also demonstrating that you care particularly about Haiti (we’ll be fasting at IJDH). For more information, see http://www.canceldebtfast.org/.
This week’s alert: comes from David Smart and Amanda Pacheco, two law students with the Center for Law and Global Justice at the University of San Francisco:
Contact your representative in the House about cosponsoring the Haiti Debt Cancellation Resolution (House Resolution 241) urging the World Bank, IMF, Inter-American Development Bank, and other financial institutions to immediately cancel Haiti’s debt.
Use the August Recess to Show Your Support
Your local representatives will be working in their district offices during the upcoming August Congressional Recess. Much of this time will be spent listening to constituent concerns so it is an ideal time to show your support for the bill. 17 new cosponsors have signed on since the beginning of June, making a total of 62. We are getting close to having enough support to force a hearing, and the August recess is our opportunity to get over the top.
Why Existing Debt Relief is Not A Solution: In April of 2006, Haiti reached the “Decision Point” under the World Bank and IMF’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC), making it eligible for debt relief programs. If Haiti were to reach “Completion Point” under HIPC, it would qualify for cancellation of around $586 million of its total $1.4 billion debt. But because of the harmful economic conditions reaching this “Completion Point” entails, it is doubtful that Haiti will see much debt relief, and will have to continue making large repayments until 2010 at the earliest. By that time, Haiti will have repaid $270 million to financial institutions.
Many leading economists consider the conditions and required economic, social and political targets being forced on Haiti misguided, and frequently harmful, as evidenced by the results of HIPC conditions in other developing nations (click here for more on the problems of HIPC conditions). These conditions will mean that, between now and 2010, in a country of only 8 million, 100,000 children will die before reaching the age of 11 months, 40,000 will die before the age of 5, and 6,000 women will die during childbirth. Immediate debt cancellation will not save everyone, but it will have an immediate and dramatic impact on the health of millions.
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and simply cannot afford to pay $270 million between now and 2010. Even more unjust is the fact that over half of the loans were granted to dictatorships that used them to buy luxury items and subjugate the majority of Haiti into submitting to their rule. How can we ask the poor citizens of Haiti to pay back these loans?
By unconditionally ending the debt now, millions of dollars could be invested in health care in a country where 50% of people are chronically undernourished and only 1 in 10 has access to clean water near their home. Haiti has the worst prevalence of adult HIV outside Sub-Saharan Africa and with the current infection rate, 1 in 10 Haitians will have the disease by 2015. Life expectancy in Haiti is only 53 years and falling, compared with 74.9 in Mexico and 77.3 in the United States. Haiti also has the worst infant mortality with almost 1 in 10 live births ending in death.
Immediate Debt Relief Will Save Lives Immediately
Acknowledging the need for immediate debt relief, 62 representatives from both sides of the aisle have already co-sponsored the bill. By canceling the debt immediately we can assist Haiti in the improvement of the healthcare, education, sanitation, and other essential services and infrastructure. Not only must Haiti be freed of the oppression of dictatorships, but also of the oppression caused by the onerous and odious loans they incurred.
Contact Your Representative Today!
The best way to reach your Representative this month is at a town meeting or other public meeting in your district. Members of Congress will be trying to see what their constituents care about, make sure Haiti makes the list. Last year several Representatives were convinced to sign on at these venues. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for an information packet you can hand to your member of Congress.
Call your representative in both the district and Washington DC offices. Ask them to cosponsor the Haiti Debt Cancellation resolution in the house (H.Res.241) if they have not already done so. To co-sponsor, the member’s staff should contact Kathleen Sengstock in Rep. Maxine Waters’ office at (202) 225-2201.
To find your Representative go to visit http://www.house.gov/. For more information, and to take action, visit the website of the Jubilee USA Network, www.jubileeusa.org or the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, www.ijdh.org.
A FEW MINUTES OF YOUR TIME COULD BENEFIT THE LIVES OF MILLIONS
For more information on debt relief, human rights in Haiti and the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, see www.HaitiJustice.org. To sign up for bi-weekly action alerts, send an email to HalfHour4Haiti@ijdh.org.