US faith groups give G20 nations failing grade on poverty

June 25, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C.

An alliance of religious denominations has given the world’s richest nations a near-failing grade for their progress on eradicating world poverty.

Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of more than 75 religious groups that advocates debt forgiveness for poor nations, gave the Group of 20 a “D” grade in a report released June 22, ahead of the June 26-27 G20 summit in Toronto, Religion News Service reports.

Melinda St. Louis, the deputy director of Jubilee USA, said the G20 has made “shockingly little progress” since its last meeting in September.

In the last nine months, the G20 has delivered only $1.2 billion in new resources to low-income countries; the Canadian government will spend the same amount on security alone for the three-day summit.

The report points to other failures at meeting monetary promises. Of the approximately $50 billion in promised additional assistance to low-income countries, the G20 has delivered just $24.78 billion. Nearly all of this assistance is in the form of new loans, which will add to these countries’ debt load.

Briggs Bomba, a Zimbabwe-born economist and campaign director for Africa Action, called the use of loans an “injustice” that “threatens to wipe out the gains that we saw with debt relief.” Bomba said loans reflect the “old paradigm” of addressing poverty.

The G20 also received failing grades for progress on the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, combating climate change, and developing standards for responsible finance. Of the 14 commitments listed in the Jubilee USA report, the G20 got a grade of “B-” or better on only four of them.

The report encourages the G20 to consider the cancellation of debt and “dramatically increase non-debt-creating” assistance. Cancelling those debts would be in addition to commitments already made by G20 nations.

Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service, emphasized the leadership role of the United States.

“What the U.S. does in making commitments” and in “following through with those commitments and urging other countries to follow through is critical,” she said.

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