Social democracy in peril.
The new fascism.
Coming Together at the Seams
The view from Porto Alegre ...
... and direct action in New York.
Not Just Black and White
LOCAL MOTION: Oak Park, Illinois
A Scandal Bigger than Enron.
An Open Letter to George W. Bush
Kenny Boy? Never heard of him.
The military busts the 2003 budget.
Bush stealth-attacks reproductive rights.
Bush hands AIDS policy to the Christian right.
Chechnya remains mired in misery.
Ann Pettifor: Discrediting the Creditors.
BOOKS: Micah Sifry follows the third way.
BOOKS: Randall Kennedy's Nigger.
MUSIC: Something is in the water.
FILM: Let's play Rollerball.
February 19, 2002
Discrediting the Creditors
In Person: Ann Pettifor.
LondonAnn Pettifor, former coordinator of the international debt cancellation
campaign Jubilee 2000, sits down to talk at the south London offices of Jubilee
Research @ the New Economics Foundation, where she has been based for the past
Settling her dog under the table, she calls her son to dispense with directions
for cooking a stir fry. Then, with dinner under control, she turns her attention
to the slightly more taxing issue of international economics.
You know, the anti-corporate left sometimes gets it wrong, she
confides. They focus on what they can see and touch, which is trade. And
because the international financial regime isnt visible, it isnt
attacked. But in reality, it has a much greater power of determination than
Its not McDonalds or Nike that rule our world, she arguesat
least they make thingsbut the international giants of the banking
world like J.P. Morgan Chase and Citigroup. The problem with globalization
lies in the liberalization of capital flows, [not] trade flows. Those who own
capital operate in a global economy detached from real political, social and
environmental relations. And this detachment has not come about accidentallyit
is a result of structural imbalances that have been deliberately
constructed by those in power.
As a kid growing up in a poor gold-mining town in South Africa, Pettifor realized
that apartheid did not happen because people were prejudiced and racist, but
[because] it was manufactured, created. I was concerned about imbalances of
power that are not there accidentally: employers taking the profits from capitalism
while workers get nothing, [or] the inequalities between women and men and blacks
Its a pattern that is repeated in todays economic relations between
the Northern and Southern hemispheres, she says. It is structural: [it
has] to do with the way in which the global economy has been engineered. My
mission has been to discover the girders that hold up that structure, [and]
to redress the imbalances.
Not an easy mission, but it is one for which Pettifor is well suited. After
a couple of years teaching in Tanzania, she became involved in local and national
politics in Britain. But it wasnt until 1994 that she began to work on
developing-country debt, relocating to Washington as a lobbyist for the Network
for Social Change. There she developed her talent for demystifying the impenetrable
world of international finance for ordinary people.
This proved key to the success of the movement she co-founded to bring about
the cancellation of the unpayable debts of the worlds poorest countries.
Under her guidance, the Jubilee campaign gathered momentum though the late 90s
until, by 2000, more than 24 million people around the world had signed a petition
urging leaders to do just that.
The worlds poor countries have seen only $36 billion of debt relief from
a potential $100 billion promised, but Pettifor is upbeat about the movements
achievements to date. While the Jubilee coalition no longer exists in its previous
incarnation, activists in both the North and South continue to lobby for total
debt cancellation. We have thrown up a lot of contradictions, and we have
raised massive public awareness, she says. This momentum cant
Now Pettifor is working toward changing the process by which debt cancellation
is agreed upon, spurred on by the ongoing debt crisis in Argentina, a country
impoverished by international creditors.
The Jubilee Framework for international insolvency proposes that
when a nations debts can be repaid only at a cost to the fundamental human
rights of the population, it should be able to file for protection from its
creditors, rather like Chapter 11 in the United States. An ad hoc court would
then negotiate a settlement between the debtor nation and its creditors. The
judge would be a third party nominated by both the debtor and creditor and,
crucially, citizens would be entitled to participate in the legal proceedings.
The IMF, it appears, isnt thinking quite as radically. It doesnt
support the idea of a third-party judge, for example, and it believes it should
retain a central role in any process, despite its creditor status. But Pettifor
is encouraged by what she has heard so far. The top level of management
[at the IMF] has been cleared out, and they are now willing to think new thoughts
and admit that mistakes have been made.
Pettifor will continue working at a U.N. conference on development finance
in Monterrey, Mexico in March, as well as at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings
in Washington. Before that, though, shell head to Ecuador for a meeting
with debt activists from around the world with the aim of building a new coherent
and focused global campaign around the Jubilee Framework. Her mission
may not yet be accomplished, but its certainly looking less and less impossible.