Statement on Debt Relief for Poor Countries, October 1999
Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Catholic Relief Services
The U.S. Catholic Conference and Catholic Relief Services welcome President Clinton's new proposal to provide deeper debt relief for the world's poorest countries. We are pleased that the President chose the occasion of his meeting with African finance and foreign ministers to speak out on this issue of critical importance to poor people in Africa as well as other regions of the world. Each day, poor countries are repaying foreign debts at the price of lost health, education, and productive opportunities for their most impoverished and vulnerable citizens. The President's personal engagement on the issue of debt relief signals the recognition that high-level U.S. leadership is essential to achieve a resolution of this urgent problem.
The proposal has opened the possibility for more generous debt relief on a more timely basis than that provided under existing U.S. or international policy. We applaud the fact that, in several respects, the President's initiative appears to go further than the recent proposals of other creditor governments such as Germany and the United Kingdom.
Because many of the specific details of the initiative remain undefined, we will follow with great interest further elaboration of the proposal. We are especially concerned about the suggestion that much of the additional debt relief will be provided only to countries that are judged to have reform programs that are "exceptionally" strong. We hope that this criterion will be interpreted in a way that allows more countries to receive an additional $70 billion in debt relief from all creditors more quickly, a prospect held out by the Administration.
This initiative represents a significant step in the direction of the comprehensive debt relief proposed in H.R. 1095, the "Debt for Poverty Reduction Act," introduced on March 11 by Representative James Leach and seven other Representatives. The U.S. Catholic Conference and Catholic Relief Services actively promoted the introduction of this legislation and will mobilize Catholics throughout the United States in support of its passage. We encourage the Clinton Administration to move in the direction of H.R. 1095 as it defines the details of its initiative.
The U.S. Catholic Conference and Catholic Relief Services are committed to building broad support for comprehensive debt relief among the U.S. public and within the U.S. Congress. We welcome any opportunity to work in partnership with the Administration in this effort.