Archive for the 'Take Action/ Appels à l’action/ Tomar medidas' Category

Debt in 2012: The Numbers

This publication by the SJC highlights the most recent figures concerning debt in impoverished nations. The numbers discussed below were obtained from international financial institutions.

Debt in the developing world has evolved in a long and complex process. Understanding it requires looking at the decisions of institutions like the IMF and the World Bank as well as the individuals in the countries that they effect. These individuals are rarely involved in the decisions that shape their standard of living. The numbers only slightly illuminate the reality of debt and debt repayment.

The Rise of Debt: the 1970s

  • Lending to countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America increased significantly during the 1970s. Major banks lent money to these countries without considering what the money was being spent on and whether or not loans could be repaid.
  • Between 1970 and 1982, the total amount of debt owed by impoverished nations was increased by a factor of 8. The percentage of developing nations’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) representing amounts paid in interest to lenders quadrupled during this period.

The Onset of the Debt Crisis: the 1980s

  • In 1972, the average interest rate paid by the impoverished nations was 5.4%. In 1981, the rate continued to skyrocket, reaching 16.8%. This dramatic inflation plunged many developing nations into a crisis in which they faced unsustainable debt payments.
  • The money was used to fund “prestige projects” by dictators and undemocratically elected governments. Some governments that were funded include the Mobutu in Zaire, Marcos in the Philippines and the apartheid government in South Africa.
  • This kind of debt is often referred to as “odious” because the funds were not used to benefit the people, and lenders were aware of what the money was to be used for.

Main Indicators of Debt Levels in Developing Nations
Between 1970 and 1982








Total external debt (millions of USD)








Annual debt payment as a percentage of GDP








Annual interest payment as a percentage of GDP








Source: World Bank, World Development Report 1985, Table 2.6, p. 24

The Crisis Escalates: the 1990s

  • The onset of protectionist policies by industrialized countries around the world began to impede developing nations’ ability to emerge from their state of extreme indebtedness.
  • These nations had to incur more loans to be able to make the annual interest payments demanded by international lenders. Such loans came with strings attached that were detrimental to the standard of living for the individuals within the country.
  • The IMF and World Bank insist on a particular sort of project when managing the debt of poorer countries. Aid was given to these countries only if they agreed to institute policies of economic liberalization. These economic requirements result in decreased spending on health and education and resulted in a decreased standard of living for individuals.
  • The focus of the these programs continues to be on economic indicators with limited regard for the effect on individuals and their quality of life.

State of Debt in Developing Nations: 2003-2010

  • Between 2003 and 2007 total debt levels in developing nations increased by a factor of 1.3.
  • Between 2003 and 2007, payments made by impoverished nations represent almost half of what their total debt level was in 2003.
  • In 2006, the citizens of Zimbabwe spent over 420,000 USD per day repaying odious debt. Zimbabwe is home to over 12 million people, 80 percent of which must survive on less than 1 USD per day.
  • In 2007, developing nations spent over 14 billion USD on principal and interest payments. The debt level continued to increase during this period.

Debt Levels Between 2003 and 2007

Debt level in 2003

2570 billion USD

Total payments (principal plus interest) paid by developing nations between 2003 and 2007 (in 2003 dollars)

1147 billion USD (45% of total debt in 2003)

Debt level in 2007

3360 billion USD

Source: SJC’s calculations based on figures from the FMI’s World Economic Outlook Database, April 2008

  • Data from the most recent Global Development Finance Report made by the World Bank shows that total external debt stocks owed by developing countries increased during twelve months by 200% to stand at $4 trillion dollars in 2010.
  • The most recent financial crisis has drawn attention to the debt owed by wealthier nations. US gross external debts reflected 95% of GDP and the European Union owed 85% of its GDP in 2010. These debts are balanced by debt owed to them. Poorer countries lack overseas assets to balance their debts and thus continue to suffer.

Indicators of Debt Levels 2005-2010







Total External Debt (billion USD)







External Debt outstanding to GNI (%)







Source: Global Development Finance 2012, Table 1, pg. 2

The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative

  • The HIPC initiative lists 41 impoverished countries, the majority of which are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. The HIPC Initiative, established in 1996, offers strategies for these nations to surface from their state of extreme indebtedness.
  • Unfortunately, experts have called these strategies into question, and the speed at which they have been implemented has been insufficient thus far to allow these nations to emerge from the crisis.
  • The HIPC Initiative has not achieved the objectives it was created for, nor has it been able to help arm impoverished nations against the insurmountable effects of the recent economic crisis.

 The Debt of Heavily Indebted Poor Countries for 2010
in Millions of US Dollars

Selected HIPC

Total External Debt







Sao Tome and Principe


Source: Global Development Finance 2012, Country Tables

Summary of Major Criticisms

  • Numbers only exist up to the 2010 period. It is difficult to make accurate predictions concerning debt projections for the future. However, debt may amount but be hidden by periods of relative economic productivity. When a crisis hits, developing countries are hit especially hard, always.
  • Debt lending has been reckless in the past. It has resulted in developing countries having little control over their debt management while banks hold most of the power. This is to the detriment of individuals within the country. Even the HIPC Initiative has failed to address this.

The Social Justice Committee of Montreal urges the Canadian government to argue for a closer examination of the debt of third world countries, with the aim of identifying credible and practicable policy options for addressing debt that has been deemed odious and thus unenforceable.

This could specifically be pursued by improving measurement methods to ensure a fast response to debt crises.


1. Global Development Finance 2012

2. Poverty Matters Blog: a Developing World of Debt (for useful graphics)

3. The Human Rights Effects of World Bank Structural Adjustment, 1981-2000 in International Studies Quarterly (2006).

4. Recent Development on Odious and Illegitimate Debt in Briefing Note Five of the Jubilee USA Network (2008).

5. Unfinished business: ten years of dropping the debt. Jubilee Debt Campaign (May 2008).


Murder of Colombian priest has Canadian civil society groups worried

Mining Watch Canada reports that Canadian civil society groups are calling for stronger protection of human rights defenders after the muder of Colombian priest Jose Reinel Restrepo.

Canadian labour, faith, social justice, and solidarity organizations have sent a letter to the Canadian Embassy in Colombia expressing concern that Canadian mining companies may well be aggravating or benefiting from violence.

Civil society groups are troubled by recent news of the murder of Father José Reinel Restrepo, an outspoken advocate against the displacement of the urban centre of Marmato in the department of Caldas to make way for an open-pit gold mine project owned by Toronto-based Gran Colombia Gold.

Read full article here.

Special Report from Wajir, Kenya on Food Crisis in East Africa

Visit Oxfam Canada to help fund emergency work in East Africa.

Action urgente – étudiant et activiste anti-mines assassiné au Salvador: Demandez une enquête MAINTENANT

C’est avec tristesse que nous apprenons qu’un activiste anti-mines et étudiant universitaire du Salvador, Juan Francisco Durán Ayala, a été assassiné (historique ci-dessous.) Joignez-vous au Comité Environnemental de Cabañas (CAC) et la famille de Juan Francisco pour forcer le Procureur Général et la Police Nationale Civile à enquêter ce meurtre et à obtenir  justice pour Juan Francisco.

Pour plus d’informations cliquez ici .

Projection de film: « L’or ou la vie » à l’église St. John’s United

Le mardi 28 juin à 19h15, St. Edward the Confessor Mission présentera « L’or ou la vie »  à l’église St. John’s United (98 Aurora, Pointe-Claire.) Ce documentaire, qui sera présenté en espagnol avec des sous-titres en anglais, illustre les problèmes causés par les mines d’or canadiennes qui opèrent en Amérique Centrale. Venez en grand nombre.

Le CJS vous invite à participer à un nouveau cours

Les droits économiques, sociaux et culturels au Canada et dans les pays du Sud 

Que sont les droits économiques, sociaux et culturels? Quels accords sont en place pour les protéger? Que font les groupes au Canada pour protéger ces droits, ici et à l’étranger?

Ce cours d’éducation publique de 5 semaines est une introduction aux droits économiques, sociaux et culturels. Les participants profiteront de la participation de conférenciers invités, partageront leurs savoirs et travailleront ensemble afin de développer des stratégies pour un changement social positif.

Du 20 septembre au 18 octobre 2011, tous les mardis soirs à 18h
Prix: 35$ (le prix peut être adapté aux besoins, contactez-nous)
Lieu: Centre St-Pierre, 1212 Rue Panet, Montréal (Métro Beaudry)
Garderie pour les enfants disponible sur demande. Boissons et collations offertes. 
Pour plus d’information sur les intervenants et l’inscription, visitez
*Les cours se dérouleront en anglais*

Au programme:

Chaque semaine des invités spéciaux aborderont des questions spécifiques entourant les droits économiques, sociaux, et culturels en discutant de leurs travaux concernant ces droits au Canada et dans les pays du Sud.

1ère semaine: Introduction aux droits économiques, sociaux, et culturels avec attention particulière sur le droit à un niveau de vie adéquat.
• Equitas sur l’histoire des droits économiques, sociaux, et culturels
• Project Genesis sur l’activisme anti-pauvreté à Montréal
• Le Comité pour la justice sociale sur une vision globale du rôle de l’endettement et le commerce international sur la pauvreté

2e semaine: Les droits du travail
• PINAY sur les droits du travail des femmes Philippines au Québec
• Aide internationale pour l’enfance sur le trafic d’enfants et les enfants travailleurs.

3e semaine: Droit à la santé et à la sécurité sociale
• À Deux Mains sur l’accès des jeunes au services de santé et à l’éducation sexuelle au Québec
• Handicap International  sur les accords anti-mines et les droits des personnes handicapées à travers le monde

4e semaine: Droit de la famille
• Coalition des familles homoparentales sur la reconnaissance juridique et sociale des familles homoparentales au Québec
• Carrefour canadien international présente sur les droits de la femme et la violence contre les femmes en Afrique

5e semaine: Droit des peuples Autochtones à l’autodétermination
• Chef Ghislain Picard sur le Plan Nord et les droits des peuples Autochtones à l’autodétermination au Québec
• Père Ernie Schibli présente sur l’industrie minière au Canada et les droits des peuples indigènes en Amérique Latine

Ce projet est rendu possible grâce aux contributions généreuses du Programme des droits de la personne du Patrimoine canadien et L’Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI).

A New Course Offered by the SJC

The SJC invites you to take part in a new certificate course:

Economic, social and cultural rights in Canada and the Global South 

What are economic, social and cultural rights? What are the agreements in place to protect them? What are groups doing in Canada to defend these rights at home and abroad?

This five-week popular education course will serve an introduction to economic, social and cultural rights. Participants will learn from guest speakers, share their knowledge, and work together to develop strategies for social change.

September 20 – October 18, 2011, Tuesday evenings at 6:00pm
Cost: $35 (Contact us if a sliding scale is needed)
Location: Centre St-Pierre, 1212 Rue Panet, Montreal (Metro Beaudry)
Wheelchair accessible. Childcare available upon request. Food and drink provided.
To register, and  for more information on participating speakers, visit

Course schedule:
Each week guest speakers will explore specific issues related to economic, social and cultural rights, and discuss their work defending these rights in Canada and the Global South.

Week One: Introduction to economic, social and cultural rights with a focus on the right to an adequate standard of living
• Equitas on the history of economic, social and cultural rights
• Project Genesis on anti-poverty activism in Montreal
• Social Justice Committee on how debt and international trade affect global poverty

Week Two: The right to work and labour rights
• PINAY on the rights of migrant Filipino women workers in Quebec
• Children’s Care International on child trafficking and international child labour

Week Three: The right to health and social security
• Head & Hands on young people’s access to sexual health care and education in Quebec
• Handicap International on anti-landmine agreements and the rights of the disabled globally

Week Four: The right to family life
• LGBT Family Coalition on the legal and social recognition of LGBT families in Quebec
• Canadian Crossroads International on women’s rights and gender-based violence in Africa

Week Five: Self-determination and the rights of indigenous people
• Chief Ghislain Picard on Plan Nord and the self-determination of First Nations in Quebec
• Father Ernie Schibli on Canadian mining and the rights of indigenous people in Latin America

This project is made possible by generous donations from the Human Rights Program, Canadian Heritage and L’Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI).

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