Before the Next Hurricane Strikes, Protect Islands with High Debt and Poverty Rates


On the first day of the 2018 hurricane season, G7 Finance and Development Ministers are reviewing proposals for debt relief and “innovative financing” when islands are hit by natural disasters. These meetings will help prepare outcomes for the upcoming G7 Ministerial meeting that President Trump attends later in June.

Thanks to our work together since September, the G7 and world leaders are considering proposals for debt relief when islands with high poverty rates and high debt burdens are hit by hurricanes.

Colorado State University tracks tropical weather and projects that the 2018 hurricane season could be stronger than the 2017 season. From Dominica to Puerto Rico, many islands are still struggling to recover from the damage inflicted during the 2017 hurricane season. Last September you joined with Jubilee USA as we began collecting thousands of messages for hurricane debt relief. We organized hundreds of national and local Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities urging debt relief initiatives when hurricanes strike. These initiatives include providing “breathing space” so when natural disasters hit developing islands, they can temporarily stop debt payments and put the money into disaster relief. If a debt payment moratorium is not enough, then Jubilee USA advocates restructuring the debt to deliver further aid.

In recent months major religious leaders and Heads of State went on record calling for such processes including Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell. Caribbean Leaders of the Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Methodist, Anglican and Episcopal Churches and the Salvation Army joined Jubilee Caribbean urging that this process be in place before this year’s hurricanes hit. The proposals were discussed at the April United Nations Forum on Financing for Development during high-level Jubilee public and private meetings. 
A few weeks ago we met with the White House and US G7 team around our proposals. At the White House, The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church, United Church of Christ, The Catholic Church and Jubilee USA found that the White House supports some of our efforts. Your voice and your action is urgently neded now.

Many of the islands that are prone to hurricanes already struggle with high child poverty rates and high debt burdens. Please tell the White House, IMF and G7 that when islands are struggling to recover and meet the needs of their people, they shouldn’t be paying debt. 

We are seeing progress because of your partnership and action. 
Expanding debt relief and disaster protections is another extension of all we have achieved together in recent years. Because we campaigned together, we won recent debt relief initiatives to support Haiti after it was struck by an earthquake and a process that relieved the debts of the three African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. Because of your continued action since last year, we now are in sight of achieving new processes that can protect the vulnerable in the face of crisis.

Earlier this week, the Caribbean Development Bank held its annual meetings with Caribbean leaders and finance ministers in Grenada. Grenada's Presbyterian Pastor and head of Jubilee Caribbean, Reverend Osbert James offered the opening prayer. His words are inspiring:

"At this the 48th meeting of the banks governors, I pray that the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) will resolve to support and champion efforts to urge the IMF to use its rule-setting power to endorse a full debt moratorium once a hurricane or any other serious disaster brings destruction beyond a pre-defined level and make sure that a serious debt restructuring of all external commitments shall be possible under due consideration of our peoples' human rights. Mindful that national debt and vulnerability to natural disasters are among the major causes of poverty, I pray that the CDB will see debt restructuring as  a means of providing a breathing space for our small Island states who too often have been locked in a vicious cycle of build and rebuild."

Please join Jubilee Caribbean and Jubilee USA and take urgent action now. 


Eric LeCompte
Executive Director

Twitter: @JubileeUSA