Meeting Minutes from InspireSeattle Social on March 20, 2010

Our speakers, Betsy Bell and Sammi Fredenberg, addressed the issue of the fight against global poverty and unfair lending practices to poor nations.  They both stressed that the initiative is a response to injustice; not necessarily a 'generous act... It is a necessity.'  The Jubilee campaign began in the Global South in the 1980 and gathered support from the northern wealthy nations  in the mid 1990s. The primary goal is to cancel illegitimate debt held by the World Bank, the IMF and other international Financial Institutions and to end harsh Structural Adjustment Programs.  These goals coincide with the United Nations Millennium goals which are designed to alleviatee poverty, infant mortality, illiteracy and the degradation of women. 

Many examples of globalization issues were presented that followed the theme : the world's poor have gotten poorer; prior to debt creation, world poor farmers could feed themselves, "meager lives vs. destitute lives".

Example:  Haiti had in 1986 an adequate rice production for self and world export.  Then free trade, barriers let down, price supports for US farmers underbid the Haitians.  Now Haiti has no significant rice production for trade let alone their own population. Haiti has to pay back the loan in American dollars.  Haiti cannot pay back with their own currency.  The end result:  Haiti, in order to GET their money to pay, is currently cutting down their rain forests to pay back in American money.  Cutting of the rain forests is becoming their limited way to a cash flow. Another example on the local eradification efforts of the Haitian pig; similar dynamic as what occurred with the rice decline.  A new pig from Wisconsin was introduced to the Haitian farm families which could not adapt to a foraging, outdoor life and was useless as a rural farm animal so the Haitians lost a mainstay of their economic culture.

Another example was the world wide increase in the growth of coffee to satisfy the market.  Loans are required to be paid back (consequence:  no good world wide credit rating if NOT); countries must make this payment as first priority. Example of Philippines where they have in their Constitution that a requirement that the loan is paid back before any money spent on other country programs. Jubilee believes that this issue has been responsible for the increase of slums worldwide, the increase of major health issues (increase of malaria, diarrhea, maternal pregnancy deaths etc) as poor/developing nations pay their money for the loan instead of their own infrastructure.  Example:

South Africa pays 20% of their GNP for loans)


Information was presented on the role of Multilateral (IMF, World Bank, African Bank, Asian Bank, private banks); In the beginning these loans were paid back at very low interest rates, however during the 73-75 recession interest rates soared extending payback into the future and often requiring new IMF loans to pay down the old ones.  The underlying purpose of the loans was to increase markets in the developing countries for US and other wealthy nations’ goods and services. Very little loan money ever helped the peasant class in any developing country.  Bilateral loans –those from one government to another—were actually canceled in 2000, the Year of the Jubilee as a result of the first Jubilee initiative with the G 8 countries.. The US portion was a meager 87 million in debt.    In addition to canceling IMF held debt, the campaign has been attempting to prevent Vulture Funds ( where a company buys up the debts or securities in a distressed environment, then sues for the full amount owing once the country has had its debt canceled ---example of a company Donegal International in the country of Zambia:  Zambia’s debt was canceled by the IMF and the African Development Bank.  Children began to go to school again because the fees were dropped. Other improvements were accomplished.  Then the Donegal International Corp demanded full payment of the debt stock they had purchased when things were desperate. The Jubilee campaign that calls for an end to irresponsible lending and debt audits conducted by members of civil society.

Discussion of the IMF:  initial role was to help poor countries get on their feet, but in the end it became

in the speakers minds, in existence for the interest of the financial community.  Examples given of their

role:  IMF became the watch dog; new rules placed on fees for education; ending the subsidy on necessities such as bread, rice, milk, fuel; development of export crops/metals: ore, fish, seal, timber; eliminating custom barriers for imports, and in general micro managing a DC’s finances so as to insure hard currency payment of the debt. 

Infoormation about Food First:  group promoting sustainable agriculture, study impact of GMO; group looking at 'food sovereignty' and promoting no  more below cost dumping of imports; ending displacing farmers all around the world.

UNM  Goals:

1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (halve proportion of people living on less than $1 a day; halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger)

2)  Achieve universal primary education-- by 2015, all children complete primary school

3)  Promote gender equality/empower women

4) Reduce child mortality

5) Improve maternal health; reduce maternal mortality; achieve universal access to reproductive health

6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases ( years 2010 and 2015)

7) Ensure environmental sustainability ( reverse loss of environmental resources, reduce bio diversity

   loss, integrate principles of sustainable development, issues of safe drinking water, basic sanitation,

   species protection; fish stock protection; CO 2 emissions control; ozone depletion substance use.

8) Develop a global partnership for development (open non discriminatory trade and finance system;

    debt problems of developing countries; LDC special needs with tariff/debt relief, poverty reduction)


Action items accomplished by the group:

 1) Cards passed out to write: Senators Murray and Cantwell; Rep McDermott; then collected; to be mailed by the speakers

 2) Call 1-223-334-2131 DC Hotline regularly to your rep.  "Put it on speed dial"

 3) Make an appt with congressional member:  per Sammi  "they want to see more grassroots people like you and me rather than the special interest groups"  and she stressed that is it fun!

Thanks to all that participated!

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First speaker and host: Betsy Bell (left)
Second Speaker: Sammi Fredenburg (right)


Thanks to Barbara Sardarov, as organizer and emcee for the night



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