Resolution in Support of International Debt Relief

WHEREAS the world’s poorest nations bear a crushing debt of more than $2 trillion borrowed from the world’s richest nations, from multilateral organizations and from private banks in the richest countries; and

WHEREAS these poor nations’ debt service payments often dwarf their spending on programs that would improve their citizens’ lives, such as Bolivia which in 1998 spent 17 times more on debt service than on rural clean water and sanitation programs, or Nicaragua, which in 1997 sent more than 50 percent of all government revenue to wealthier nations and banks for debt service, or Mozambique, which now spends four  times more on debt service than on health services, even though 25 percent of its children die before age five; and

WHEREAS all African nations combined paid 31 percent more in debt service than they received from wealthier countries as aid, and paid the International Monetary Fund $600 million more in debt service than they received as loans; and

WHEREAS these debts encourage poor nations to exploit their natural resources, tolerate exploitative labor practices and promote emigration and social instability; and

WHEREAS U.S. President Clinton, the World Bank, the New York Times, among many other leading political and civic organizations agree that debt relief is needed to lift the poor nations from poverty, and support this effort; and

WHEREAS world religious leaders have joined in support of this effort; and

Whereas we find in the Torah the institution of the Yovel, or jubilee whereby citizens are afforded the opportunity of a fresh economic start every 50 years; and

WHEREAS, Maimonides rules that the noblest tzedakah is that which enables the poor to attain economic independence.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Rabbinical Assembly support the international effort to call on wealthy nations to forgive the impossible debt of poor nations.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Rabbinical Assembly call upon the leaders of the nations that will benefit from debt relief to assure that the funds formerly designated for debt servicing be used for direct welfare and relief.

Passed by the Rabbinical Assembly Plenum, March, 2000