Researching the Cancel the Debt Campaign

Westminster Justice & Peace Volunteer, Anne Tran, has been researching the latest developments in the campaign to cancel the debts of developing countries. She also helped to create a collage of Justice & Peace member photos, making our own contribution to the Cancel the Debt message. In this article she gives her own assessment of the campaign. Anne is a third-year International Politics student.

The Jubilee Debt Campaign focuses on pressuring the UK Government to cancel the debt, on what is owed by developing countries, in this case the pandemic has made the situation worse. Since the coronavirus, there is a greater need to drop the debt. Countries are now faced with the decision between paying back the debt or responding to the Covid health crisis. This demonstrates the dilemma faced by poor countries and their financial situation, that prevents them from exercising their own freedom to choose and attend matters that best suits their needs. In response, this led to supporters from different organisations and religious groups such as Christian Aid, CAFOD, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Oxfam, ONE and Global Justice Now vocalising their support by encouraging online petitions and releasing supporting statements. 

The Catholic church has shown their support, especially with CAFOD and their initiative to promote the campaign through gathering hundreds of images of supporters holding up signs saying ‘Cancel the Debt’, along with an uploaded video with the members of the public and other organisations expressing their solidarity to cancel the Debt. The Justice and Peace Commission Team has also contributed towards this, with the staff members participating in the picture campaign, to help put the campaign forward. Outside of the Catholic realm, Oxfam has provided research in response to the campaign by outlining suggestions for world organisations and private lenders to take certain initiatives to attempt to alleviate the debt.

However, there is indication that the Jubilee Debt Campaign at the moment is currently stagnant. My reasoning follows: In April G20 Finance Ministers agreed to suspend debt for 77 countries for the rest of the year (saving $12Billion) and also encourage the initiative towards private lenders (also saving countries $8 Billion) with the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). But, unfortunately, over the past few months the campaign and G20 no longer became a topic of interest. Instead it was overshadowed by the United States and China’s strained relationship and lack of involvement. This hindered the development that was made in April with the campaign. Consequently, G20 then retracted their statement and revised their initial stance and became more reluctant to take on the debt suspension. Instead, they have now stated that countries that wish to cancel the debt can follow through at their own expense. However, the hidden element of pressure, stress, or lack of emphasis on the importance of the liability in the first released statement, lessened the weight of importance compared to before. This made the campaign less effective as the months passed by and no longer became an issue of interest. But not all is lost. In October, G20 made another announcement that they have chosen to extend the suspension of the debt repayments for 6 months to provide additional support, after meeting with the group’s finance ministers and central bank governors, providing more hope towards the campaign.

The Financial Times have also provided an update on the campaign in an article by Jonathan Wheatley and David Pilling on 12 October 2020. They have highlighted the importance of the necessary aid that West African countries are needing at the moment, although countries like Kenya have stated that the campaign may prolong the country’s debt repayment. Ghana has stressed upon the responsibility as a former British Colony to help them with the debt along with other western states. This outcry has led to organisations like the Jubilee Debt Campaign, Westminster Justice & Peace and CAFOD to strengthen their support by continuing to release current updates on the Jubilee Debt Campaign and promoting the cause. We have seen the success of the support received from examples above where the petition may have had a moment of pause due to the uncertain political climate, but we can clearly see the long-term benefits from all the different organisations work in their constant advocacy, that encourages and moves the campaign forward. This has been evident through G20’s recent October announcement, demonstrating progress that has been made so far with the help of these organisations.

My research on the Jubilee Debt campaign regarding the petition has led me to believe that crisis management regarding any type of social, economic or health issue is a concern for all. Prior to the pandemic, or after, these issues remain important and still affect the lives of different individuals around the world. It is unfortunate that at times like this there are no direct solutions. But through researching on The Jubilee Debt Campaign, it has allowed me to gain a deeper insight into the different realities that developing countries face. There is no straight answer that can solve all the problems proposed, but I do believe a difference can be made. I have to credit the different organisations and groups for their sense of injustice that have led the campaign to a level of success with G20’s response and public awareness. However more can be done, as demonstrated above from the various examples, publicity and petition signatures are not enough to combat the World Politics from overshadowing the aims of the debt campaign. This highlights a serious issue today, especially on the importance and relevance on certain issues proposed, that are overtaken by the political tension among powerful states. Whilst challenges are ongoing battles, developing countries are confronted with daily discernments of life-threatening ultimatums. Overall, we must continue to create awareness and provide more informed decisions as a common goal to help these countries in need.

Westminster Justice & Peace advocates call on the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the G20 countries to Cancel the Debt of developing countries and restructure those repayments towards healthcare to beat coronavirus.


16 April 2020 Jubilee Debt Campaign –

11 August 2020 CAFOD Blog on History of Debt Campaigning and Call for Photos –

12 October 2020 Financial Times –

14 October 2020 Jubilee Debt Campaign –

Christian Aid Petition –

Global Justice Now Petition –

Campaigners Disappointed by G20 Meeting

Campaigners outside Parliament representing CAFOD, Christian Aid, Global Justice Now, Jubilee Debt Campaign and Oxfam call on G20 Finance Ministers meeting on 14th October 2020 to Cancel the Debt

Source: CAFOD / Independent Catholic News

Against a backdrop of a world reeling under the coronavirus pandemic – in spite of appeals from international humanitarian aid agencies and campaigners – in their virtual meeting today, the G20 finance ministers failed to cancel any developing world debt.

Dario Kenner, CAFOD’s Sustainable Economic Development analyst commented: “Private creditors are profiteering off the backs of the world’s poorest people. Any debt relief that developing countries might receive from donor governments is only snatched away again by private creditors who continue to demand repayments.

“Private creditors like BlackRock, JP Morgan and HSBC have failed to do the right thing so it’s now time for G20 governments to compel them to cancel the debts of developing countries. This will free up money that is urgently needed to tackle the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.”


CAFOD Briefing paper:

Have You Signed the Petitions?

Thank you to those who have signed the petitions for the UN Global Ceasefire and Jubilee Debt Campaign!

It only takes a short amount of your time but really does make a difference.

Colette Joyce, Justice and Peace Co-ordinator, says: “In these days of crisis, a great number of online petitions have been pouring into the Commission inbox and I have been signing and promoting as many as possible to beg for social change at home and abroad, but found it isn’t easy to keep current when policy is changing on an almost daily basis. We strongly encourage people to continue to put immediate pressure on governments to make urgent and essential policy improvements, but we decided we needed to look at the big picture as well, to see what large-scale changes need to be made in the longer term to move us away from daily fire-fighting.

The COVID19 pandemic is laying bare the staggering inequalities between human beings and the huge injustices that maintain our structurally unfair societies. At the same time, we have discovered that despite, maybe even because of lockdown, there is an increasing capacity for universal co-operation. Now is the time to harness it for the greater good!”

Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ, Justice and Peace Chair, writes: “Pope Francis is urging us to recognise how on a global scale now is the time to make choices which will build a new more human future. The current global crisis requires us to put aside our past divisions and to work together for the health of the whole human race. This requires us to cancel the debt of the poorer nations and to put an end to conflicts between peoples. It is our hope that this radical call will be heeded by those who have the power to bring this about.”

No-one is safe until everyone is safe!

Full report from Independent Catholic News

Sign the Petition – Drop the Debt

To Chancellor Rishi Sunak:

Dear Chancellor, at the IMF spring meetings please push the IMF to:

  • Cancel debt payments for countries suffering from the economic impacts of coronavirus,
  • Help countries in trouble to restructure their debt rather than bailing out lenders.

Pandemic and Debt

The Jubilee Debt Campaign, founded in 1996, have written to all their supporters to urge the UK to cancel unfair debt at home and abroad:

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on debt both at home and abroad could be enormous, so we’re pushing hard to make sure there is a just response.

Global south debt
The economic turmoil caused by coronavirus is pushing indebted countries deeper into crisis. Many of you added your name to the petition to the Chancellor calling for debt cancellation and everyday more countries are speaking out about debt. Together we need to keep campaigning so that the global south is not forgotten amidst all the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Debt in the UK
There is a huge risk that more people fall into a debt trap because of the outbreak. Today our letter calling for a £10 billion debt write-off was signed by almost 80 other organisations and academics, and was published in the Financial Times. You can read more about the impact of coronavirus on debt in the UK in our blog.”