G7 Discusses Debt Relief for Islands as Hurricane Season Begins

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. Also focusing on empowering women in the economy, the group meets in Whistler, Canada, through Sunday. These meetings will help prepare outcomes for the upcoming G7 Ministerial meeting that President Trump attends later in June.

“As a new hurricane season begins, there is an urgency for the G7 to promote crisis response tools like debt relief,” noted Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte who tracked G7 meetings since 2010. “This is the first time that Finance and Development Ministers are meeting jointly at the G7 and they can promote solutions for when financial crises and humanitarian crises collide.”

Colorado State University's "2018 Tropical Meteorology Project Forecast Schedule," projects that the 2018 hurricane season could be stronger than the 2017 season. From Dominica to Puerto Rico, many islands are struggling to recover from the damage inflicted during the 2017 hurricane season. In September, Jubilee USA began collecting thousands of petitions and organized hundreds of national and local faith 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 public and private meetings. The Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Jubilee USA met with the White House and US G7 team around the proposals.

“Many of the islands that are prone to hurricanes already struggle with high child poverty rates and high debt burdens,” stated LeCompte. “When these islands are struggling to recover and meet the needs of their people, they shouldn’t be paying debt.”

According to Jubilee USA, since the early 2000s, debt relief processes cut the debt of some of the world’s poorest countries. In recent years, debt relief initiatives supported Haiti after it was struck by an earthquake and relieved the debts of three African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.

Read the Jubilee Caribbean Religious Leader Statement