G20, IMF and World Bank Negotiate COVID-19 Debt Relief and Aid Deals

Hundreds of Faith Communities, Development and Human Rights Groups Press for More Aid

Washington DC – World leaders met virtually for the Annual IMF and World Bank Meetings and moved forward several agreements on debt relief and aid for developing countries to combat the coronavirus crisis. In recent weeks, the Pope, G7, United Nations agencies and development groups called for a permanent debt reduction process.

Hundreds of anti-poverty organizations, religious institutions and faith communities signed a letter to press the G20 and IMF on a pandemic response plan for developing countries. This weekend more than a hundred organizations and faith communities are organizing G20 petition drives, hosting educational events and dedicating worship services for, "Jubilee Weekend: Curing Poverty, Inequality and the Coronavirus.”

"Before the pandemic hit newspaper frontpages, many developing countries already had poor health services, faced financial crises and inequality globally was on the rise," stated Eric LeCompte, a UN finance expert who heads the religious development group Jubilee USA Network. "As the coronavirus crisis became apparent, religious institutions and development groups led the calls for debt relief, protections for the vulnerable and aid for the developing world."

Synagogues, churches, Muslim groups and faith communities are participating in a range of countries including Kenya, Ghana, Italy, Nigeria, France and Japan. Across the United States, events are planned in more than one hundred cities and towns from Chester, Pennsylvania to Sandy Springs, Georgia to Missoula, Montana and Lakewood, California.

Jubilee USA Network, the convener of the actions that coincide with the IMF, World Bank and G20 meetings, is also organizing a running letter to world leaders on debt, tax and transparency responses to the COVID crisis. The letter currently counts more than 220 signatories that include some of the largest religious, development, labor, environmental and human rights organizations in the world.

This week the IMF announced it would cancel debt payments for 29 of the world's poorest countries into the spring and the G20 agreed to suspend debt payments for 73 developing countries through next June. The most significant announcement was that the G20 would convene a special meeting in the next few weeks to agree on terms for a debt cancellation process for developing countries.

"We've seen progress on some debt relief, but the big focus now needs to be on the process to permanently reduce debts of countries in crisis,” noted LeCompte.

During the meetings, the IMF reported increased resources for concessional lending to the most vulnerable countries. Part of these contributions were from rich countries transferring IMF-issued global reserve funds or what are known as Special Drawing Rights.

"Rich countries hold $176 billion of largely unused IMF-issued global reserve funds that they could donate for lending and debt relief,” said LeCompte. "The IMF could unlock access to trillions of dollars in new global reserve funds which translate into lifesaving resources in developing countries.”

Major religious institutions lead the Jubilee USA letter to the IMF and G20. The signers include: The All Africa Conference of Churches, National Council of Churches, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and United Church of Christ Churches. The Unitarian Universalist Association and the largest representations of Quaker communities and Buddhist consortiums are on the letter. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops sent a separate joint letter with Jubilee USA and Pope Francis called again for a debt relief process in his just released Encyclical Fratelli Tutti.

Counting their membership in the millions, labor unions including the United Steelworkers (USW), American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) joined faith groups in the G20 and IMF letter. Other signers include human rights organizations like Amnesty International USA and Pax Christi and also environmental advocates ranging from Amazon Watch to Friends of the Earth. Development groups were represented on the Jubilee USA letter such as Islamic Relief, American Jewish World Service, American Friends Service Committee, Bread for the World, Action Aid, Oxfam, RESULTS and Health Gap.

Around the world, the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (Jubilee Asia Pacific) convened 125 global organizations to host actions and events during the IMF and World Bank meetings.

Read the list of groups and faith communities participating in "Jubilee Weekend: Curing Poverty, Inequality and the Coronavirus," here.

Read Jubilee USA's COVID-19 Jubilee White House, IMF, G20 Letter here

Read Jubilee USA's press statement on the IMF and World Bank Development Committee Communiqué here.

Read Jubilee USA's press statement on the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings and Communiqué here.

Read Jubilee USA's press release on the IMF's World Economic Outlook and Global Financial Stability reports here

Read Jubilee USA's press release on the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting here