Presentation of CADTM international affiliations


8 November 2007 by CADTM International

Against the debt, for the other worlds in prospect

"The most urgent task is not, in the manner of the World Bank and the IMF, to drive the destitute into the hands of the wealthy, but to consolidate for the long-term those social and ecological guarantees that some few have obtained, often at dire cost.
And then to extend these guaranties to all Earth’s people.
Albert Jacquard, J’accuse l’économie triomphante, 1995.

What is the CADTM?

The Committee for the Cancellation of the Third World Debt (the CADTM - Comité pour l’annulation de la dette du Tiers Monde) is an international network of individuals and local committees from across Europe and Latin America, Africa and Asia. It was founded in Belgium on 15th March 1990.

The network acts in close liaison with other movements and organisations fighting for the same ideals. Its main preoccupation, besides the debt issue, is the planning of activities and radical alternatives for the creation of a world respectful of people’s fundamental rights, needs and liberties.

The CADTM has always been a pluralist association composed of both private individuals and legally constituted organisations [1]. Its activities take place on the common ground occupied by the battles being waged by grassroots and cultural movements, trade unions, international solidarity committees and development NGOs. It is a member of the international council of the World Social Forum and is fully committed to its role within the international movement of citizens fighting for the “other worlds possible”. This movement is gradually defining a new, alternative form of globalisation, in contrast to that being pushed by those insisting on a globalised neoliberal capitalist model as the ultimate in human happiness, the natural state of society, the “end of history”, the inevitable destiny for all wherever they come from.

Consistent with its membership of the “alterglobalisation movement” refusing the neoliberal dogma, the CADTM’s mission is to contribute to the emergence of a world based on the sovereignty of its peoples, on international solidarity, equality, and social justice. Its aim is to “improve the level of information and education on development issues, particularly in the North-South context; to take any initiative, organise any activity, publish any information, run any project helping to promote international solidarity between citizens of the world, in the North, South, East or West, facilitating the emergence of a fairer world more respectful of the peoples’ sovereignty, of social justice, of equality between all human beings and between men and women”. (Extract from the CADTM statutes, as published in the Moniteur belge - Belgium’s Official Journal - on 6 February 1992). The projects, tools and activities it develops share Share A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset, representing one part of the total capital stock. Its owner (a shareholder) is entitled to receive an equal distribution of any profits distributed (a dividend) and to attend shareholder meetings. the dynamics generated by the coupling of action with research: publications (books, articles, analyses, reviews...), conferences and debates, seminars, training courses, international meetings and events, awareness-raising campaigns, concerts, etc. The CADTM is thus both a grassroots organisation for popular education and an action-oriented network. Its prime objective - and angle of attack - is the cancellation of the multi- and bilateral debt of the countries of the Periphery (the Third World and ex-Soviet block), as well as the abandonment of the structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).

policies being imposed by the troika Troika Troika: IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank, which together impose austerity measures through the conditions tied to loans to countries in difficulty.

of the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
, World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

World Trade Organisation
The WTO, founded on 1st January 1995, replaced the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). The main innovation is that the WTO enjoys the status of an international organization. Its role is to ensure that no member States adopt any kind of protectionism whatsoever, in order to accelerate the liberalization global trading and to facilitate the strategies of the multinationals. It has an international court (the Dispute Settlement Body) which judges any alleged violations of its founding text drawn up in Marrakesh.

. The aim is to bring the infernal spiral of debt to an end, and, ultimately, to establish socially equitable and ecologically sustainable models of development. The cancellation of the foreign debt payable Payable A sum of money that one person (debtor) or group of people owes to another (creditor). by the countries of the Periphery is not, however, for the CADTM, an end in itself. It is far more a means, an insufficient but essential pre-condition, for achieving the genuinely sustainable and socially equitable development that is required, as much for the North as for the South of our planet.

Aims and demands

The CADTM has set itself five missions:
—  to offer a detailed analysis of the origins and consequences of debt in the Periphery, and of the technical and political options for its cancellation;
—  to elaborate alternative policies for financing human development and radically transforming the world’s institutional and financial framework;
—  to define the road towards the universal protection of fundamental rights;
—  to strengthen social movements and citizen networks at national and international levels;
—  to challenge political leaders at each of these levels, pushing them to introduce guarantees Guarantees Acts that provide a creditor with security in complement to the debtor’s commitment. A distinction is made between real guarantees (lien, pledge, mortgage, prior charge) and personal guarantees (surety, aval, letter of intent, independent guarantee). of the fundamental human rights and to implement the alternatives proposed by the CADTM and other social movements.

The changes in the world economy over the last two decades have shown that populations on the Periphery cannot expect their claims to be satisfied by the unstable financial markets operational in barely a handful of developing countries. At the same time, the conditions attached to the loans of the IMF and the World Bank (with the blessing of the cartel of highly industrialised countries, the Paris Club Paris Club This group of lender States was founded in 1956 and specializes in dealing with non-payment by developing countries.

) have encouraged macroeconomic reforms that have exacerbated inequalities, generated wide-scale poverty, and left countries at the mercy of their debt and a global market dominated by the industrialised countries’ transnational corporations.

It is therefore crucial that these populations free themselves from their dependence on the financial markets and multilateral loans. An alternative model is needed, structured around a set of fundamental principles: South-South complementarity, the redistribution of wealth to put an end to scandalous social inequalities and the provision of well-resourced development funds under the democratic control of the citizens and parliaments of the countries concerned. This would require the introduction of transparent and efficient surveillance procedures, and, more generally, of mechanisms for direct and democratic popular participation allowing the citizens themselves to plan and run the social programmes determining their future.

How can these funds be resourced? In the first case, of course, with the amounts made available by the cancellation of the debt of the Periphery countries. Their debt has been reimbursed eight times over since 1980! But it has quadrupled in the meantime. This debt is illegitimate; it has, for the most part, never benefited the local population. It has allowed the transfer of massive amounts of capital from the South to lenders in the North (some 300 billion dollars per year), whilst capitalists in the South take their commissions on the way. Its reimbursement impacts directly on the countries’ social welfare budgets, and has resulted in the “economic re-colonisation” of the Periphery by the transnationals and governments of the most industrialised countries.

The dominant classes in the Periphery countries themselves participate in the globalised capitalist system, profiting from their country’s debt situation. They exploit the country’s salaried workers and small producers (farmers and tradesmen) and invest the capital thus accumulated in the highly industrialised economies. They then borrow from the banks and financial markets of the North. Their loans are often covered by State guarantees and, in the event of default, are taken over by the public authorities at home, thus increasing the national debt.

As for the industrialised countries’ transnational corporations (and this includes the banks) and the international institutions that defend their interests (the IMF, World Bank, WTO, Paris Club...) they are carving up the planet between them, starting with the Periphery, which they treat as a huge reserve of cheap raw materials and labour. They exploit the debt situation, forcing governments on the Periphery to adopt economic measures (for so-called “structural adjustment”) which allow them in practice to re-colonise. They exploit the local natural resources (oil, gold, diamonds, water, wood...), privatise the basic public services (water, health, education, electricity, telecommunications...), and reinforce the “all for export” model. Economic and political policy is set in the lender states’ capitals for adoption by the borrower governments. National cultures wilt under the “made in the US” lifestyle.

As noted above, debt cancellation remains for the CADTM an insufficient but essential pre-condition. We also call for [2]:
—  the payment of compensation by the most industrialised countries for the pillage they have wrought over centuries in the Peripheral countries. The last five hundred years in particular have been scarred by the colonial conquest, the ’mining’ and exportation of black slave labour, the extermination of populations, the extinction of local cultures (or of entire civilisations), the depletion of resources and degradation of the environment. The current subjection to a system of foreign debt is just one more level of exploitation. The populations on the Periphery are victims of this pillage; they are therefore entitled to reparation. Over the course of history the most industrialised countries have contracted a historical and ecological debt towards these people. It is now time to transform what is termed official development assistance ODA
Official Development Assistance
Official Development Assistance is the name given to loans granted in financially favourable conditions by the public bodies of the industrialized countries. A loan has only to be agreed at a lower rate of interest than going market rates (a concessionary loan) to be considered as aid, even if it is then repaid to the last cent by the borrowing country. Tied bilateral loans (which oblige the borrowing country to buy products or services from the lending country) and debt cancellation are also counted as part of ODA. Apart from food aid, there are three main ways of using these funds: rural development, infrastructures and non-project aid (financing budget deficits or the balance of payments). The latter increases continually. This aid is made “conditional” upon reduction of the public deficit, privatization, environmental “good behaviour”, care of the very poor, democratization, etc. These conditions are laid down by the main governments of the North, the World Bank and the IMF. The aid goes through three channels: multilateral aid, bilateral aid and the NGOs.
(ODA) into grants in reparation. In the light of the commitment made by the industrialised countries at the 1992 Rio conference (development aid levels of at least 0.7% of the gross national product Gross National Product
The GNP represents the wealth produced by a nation, as opposed to a given territory. It includes the revenue of citizens of the nation living abroad.
), the funds allocated to governmental aid should be tripled and redirected to a “reparation fund”. (In 2003 the average aid granted by the countries of the North amounted to 0.23% of their gross domestic product GDP
Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product is an aggregate measure of total production within a given territory equal to the sum of the gross values added. The measure is notoriously incomplete; for example it does not take into account any activity that does not enter into a commercial exchange. The GDP takes into account both the production of goods and the production of services. Economic growth is defined as the variation of the GDP from one period to another.
). The CADTM therefore backs the African organisations at the UN Conference Against Racism in Durban in September 2001, who demanded compensation for the historical crimes committed against their populations, and for the ravages of the slave trade in particular. It also supports those movements fighting for recognition of an ecological debt.

—  the return of property misappropriated by elites in the South: the peoples of the South have been despoiled by the vilest of dictatorships, often acting with the support of the North and aided by systems of social impunity. The despoliation continues in the guise of “good governance”. Ever since the removal of controls on capital flows under the pressure of the international financial institutions there has been a massive delocalisation of capital, and the laundering of criminal gains has become easier. The property misappropriated must now be returned to the deprived populations; to achieve this, international inquests will have to be held and the rule of banking secrecy abandoned.

—  the taxing of financial transactions (e.g. the Tobin tax Tobin Tax A tax on exchange transactions (all transactions involving conversion of currency), originally proposed in 1972 by the US economist, James Tobin, as a means of stabilizing the international financial system. The idea was taken up by the association[ATTAC and other movements for an alternative globalization, including the CADTM. Their aim is to reduce financial speculation (which was of the order of 1,500 billion dollars a day in 2002) and redistribute the money raised by this tax to those who need it most. International speculators who spend their time changing dollars for yens, then for euros, then dollars again, etc., as they calculate which currency will appreciate and which depreciate, will have to pay a small tax, somewhere between 0.1% and 1%, on each transaction. According to ATTAC, this could raise 100 billion dollars on a global scale. Considered unrealistic by the ruling classes to justify their refusal to adopt it, the meticulous analyses of globalized finance carried out by ATTAC and others has, on the contrary, demonstrated how simple and appropriate such a tax would be.

): even if the introduction of such taxation curbed the speculative frenzy of the financial operators and reduced the volume of transactions to 500 billion dollars a day (from the 1 250 billion a day in 2003), a levy of 0.1% would make 120 billion dollars a year available.

—  the establishment of a new global tax on the bigger fortunes, as proposed at the 1995 UN Conference on Trade and Development.

—  the introduction of an international programme for the conversion of military expenditure into social and cultural expenditure.

Measures such as these would liberate several hundred billion dollars for a development fund. The United Nations estimates that 80 billion dollars would be required annually over a ten year period to provide universal access to basic social services (in addition to the sums already being allocated for this purpose). These funds would offer the countries of the South the means to establish models of development at their own pace, financed for the most part from their own savings, organised into regional programmes, and respectful of their natural resource base and cultural specificities.

We repeat that the active participation of the local populations in the decision-making process on matters of direct concern to them is fundamental (through the parliamentary process in particular). In addition to this, all macroeconomic structural adjustment conditions imposed by lenders must be abolished.

The CADTM has also pronounced itself in favour of a new international economic and financial architecture. This means:
—  the radical reform or replacement of the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organisation;
—  the regulation of the financial markets. No development aid can achieve its aims if the shadowy and speculative financial markets remain unregulated. For this, all financial operations will have to comply with standards of traceability and transparency, and controls will have to be introduced on international capital flows;
—  the abolition of tax havens.
Finally, the CADTM sees the emancipation of women as an integral part of its principal aims and demands. It calls for a general reduction in working time. It adds its weight to the cause of immigrants without documentation and the collectives supporting them, and denounces the use of detention centres, expulsion orders, and policies of policing and exclusion. It supports those movements and citizens in the South and the North calling for radical agrarian reform and food sovereignty, and those who reject the development, cultivation and commercialisation of genetically modified organisms Genetically Modified Organisms
Living organisms (plant or animal) which have undergone genetic manipulation in order to modify their characteristics, usually to make them resistant to a herbicide or pesticide. In 2000, GMOs were planted over more than 40 million hectares, three quarters of that being soybeans and maize. The main countries involved in this production are the USA, Argentina and Canada. Genetically modified plants are usually produced intensively for cattle fodder for the rich countries. Their existence raises three problems.

- The health problem. Apart from the presence of new genes whose effects are not always known, resistance to a herbicide implies that the producer will be increasing use of the herbicide. GMO products (especially American soybeans) end up gorged with herbicide whose effects on human health are unknown. Furthermore, to incorporate a new gene, it is associated with an antibiotic-resistant gene. Healthy cells are heavily exposed to the herbicide and the whole is cultivated in a solution with this antibiotic so that only the modified cells are conserved.

- The legal problem. GMOs are only being developed on the initiative of big agro-business transnationals like Monsanto, who are after the royalties on related patents. They thrust aggressively forward, forcing their way through legislation that is inadequate to deal with these new issues. Farmers then become dependent on these firms. States protect themselves as best they can, but often go along with the firms, and are completely at a loss when seed thought not to have been tampered with is found to contain GMOs. Thus, genetically modified rape seed was destroyed in the north of France in May 2000 (Advanta Seeds). Genetically modified maize on 2600 ha in the southern French department of Lot et Garonne was not destroyed in June 2000 (Golden Harvest). Taco Bell corn biscuits were withdrawn from distribution in the USA in October 2000 (Aventis). Furthermore, when the European Parliament voted on the recommendation of 12/4/2000, an amendment outlining the producers’ responsibilities was rejected.

- The food problem. GMOs are not needed in the North where there is already a problem of over-production and where a more wholesome, environmentally friendly agriculture needs to be promoted. They are also useless to the South, which cannot afford such expensive seed and the pesticides that go with it, and where it could completely disrupt traditional production. It is clear, as is borne out by the FAO, that hunger in the world is not due to insufficient production.

For more information see Grain’s website :
(GMO). It opposes the criminalisation and repression of these social movements - and of social contestation in general.

More generally for the CADTM, all peoples should have the right to define their own mode of development, without being obliged to align themselves on the present predominant model whose potential for social and ecological devastation is obvious. A new international architecture is required, whose role would be to apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Multilateral Environmental Agreements, the basic conventions of the International Labour Organisation, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the European Convention on Human Rights, the Geneva Convention, etc.

In this context the democratic role to be played by the member states of the international institutions is of prime importance: their national parliaments should be required, after consultation with the ministries, trade unions, NGOs and associations concerned, to produce annual reports on the policies pursued by their governments within these organisations; priority should be given to ensuring that these policies are compatible with the promotion of fundamental human rights.

In this respect the CADTM upholds the principle of the inseparability of rights: economic, social, cultural and environmental rights should all be protected with the same vigour as civil and political rights. This requires in the first place the adoption of a protocol such as was requested in 1993 by the conference of Vienna, and, in the second place, the possibility of trying certain economic crimes as crimes committed against humanity and, by nature therefore, exempt of prescription. It is the judicial system’s prime responsibility, wherever it may be, to ensure that basic human rights are respected, in the North as in the South. All political activity should see this as its guiding priority.

The origins and development of the CADTM

The CADTM was founded in March 1990 following the “Bastille appeal”, made in France in 1989 (see below). In 1991 the CADTM became an ASBL under Belgian law (an Association sans but lucratif, a non-profit Profit The positive gain yielded from a company’s activity. Net profit is profit after tax. Distributable profit is the part of the net profit which can be distributed to the shareholders. -making association). Although from the beginning it focused on action at international level for the meetings of the G7 (the group of the seven most industrialised countries of the planet Germany, Canada, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan), or of the UN, the World Bank and IMF, its principal work between 1990 and 1993 was one of education and mobilisation in Belgium, its country of origin. From its early days the CADTM organised campaigns to raise the level of general awareness and mobilise the public on the urgent need to establish equitable relations between the North and the South: “The Third World Debt Time Bomb” (1990), “Third World Debt in a Time of Cholera” (1991), “While 40,000 Children Die Each Day, Every Minute Counts” (1992-1993), “Third World Debt: Necessary Solidarity Among Peoples” (1994-1997), “From North to South, Up to Our Ears in Debt” (1997-1998), “Resources for alternatives helping citizens and development” (1999-2000) and the campaign “Abolish the debt and liberate development” (2000-2004). 1994 was a turning point for the CADTM: taking as its model the US campaign “IMF, WB, WTO: 50 years is enough” it launched the global appeal “FMI, Banque mondiale, OMC: 50 ans, ça suffit!” and co-organised the September Madrid summit “the Other Voices of the Planet”.

It was also from 1994-1995 that the CADTM started publishing at international level (in French, Dutch and English). Between 1998 and 2002 it strengthened its financial resource base and its network of activists, both in the North and South. New committees and/or partnerships were set up (in West, North, and Central Africa, France and Switzerland) whilst other organisations joined or worked closely with the international network (organisations from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ivory Coast, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Bangladesh, India, Reunion Island...).

In 1998-1999 the CADTM played its part in the global campaign called Jubilee 2000 - in reference to the Year 2000 Jubilee celebrated by the different churches. In 1999 the network was closely involved in the organisation of the international meetings in Saint-Denis, Paris, under the banner “Against the dictatorship of the market: another world is possible” (co-organised by ATTAC-France, the CADTM, the Coordination for Citizens’ Control of the World Trade Organisation, the Global Alternatives Forum and the feminist organisation DAWN). These encounters were to prefigure the networking and mobilisation that was to follow with the alterglobalisation movement. In 1999 the CADTM, Belgium’s National Centre for Cooperation and Development (CNCD), the Friends of le Monde Diplomatique and a number of individuals founded ATTAC in Belgium. In December 2000 the CADTM was to organise, together with the CNCD, CONGAD Senegal (the NGO council in support of development) and Jubilee South, two international meetings in Dakar: “Africa: from resistance to alternatives” and “First South-North Dialogue”.

It was in 1999 that the CADTM gained national and international recognition as an authority on the question of debt in the countries of the Periphery, alongside other networks: in the North, Jubilee 2000 (particularly Jubilee 2000-UK and Erlassjahr 2000 in Germany) and Eurodad (a network of European NGOs working on the debt question); in the South, Jubilee South. As the CADTM’s publications gained in professionalism and international reach, so its work on the ground and the range of its network progressed steadily, in close collaboration with its natural partners: ATTAC, the World Alternatives Forum, the Women’s World March, the Via Campesina international peasant farmers’ movement, Focus on the Global South (Thailand)... or with national NGOs like RCADE in Spain (the “citizens’ network for the abolition of foreign debt”).

Between 2001 and 2003 the CADTM was directly involved in the preparation and running of the first three meetings of the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. In 2002 it played a part in the Peoples’ Forum at Siby, Mali (organised by CAD-Mali/Jubilé 2000 and held in June in parallel to the G8 G8 Group composed of the most powerful countries of the planet: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA, with Russia a full member since June 2002. Their heads of state meet annually, usually in June or July. summit G7 + Russia entrenched in the Rocky Mountains in Canada), and in the European Social Forum in Florence in November (in the course of which an assembly of all the social movements was organised and an appeal was made for a world-wide demonstration of opposition to the war against Iraq - over twelve million people took to the streets on 15 February 2003, in the four corners of the world, with several million more on 22 March.

In 2003 and 2004 the CADTM was even more active at national and international level: the network mobilised for Siby again (June 2003), Geneva (Switzerland) Annemasse, France (against the July G8 summit), and in mid-August 2003 at Larzac, France, where 200,000 participants (four times more than expected) gathered for three days in opposition to the Doha agenda proposed for approval at the September 2003 Cancun interministerial conference in Mexico. On other operations the network lent its weight to the civil disobedience campaign against GMO experimentation, showed solidarity with Palestine, and supported a number of social causes in France (the defence of the redistributive pension scheme, teachers’ working conditions, actors and theatrical technicians, etc.). Besides these of course there was Paris-Saint-Denis (second European Social Forum, November 2003), Mumbai (fourth World Social Forum, in India for the first time, in January 2004), Kita, Mali (third Peoples’ Forum) and its engagement in the new international campaign against the Bretton Woods institutions, now sixty years old, under the banner “At 60, it’s time to retire!”

A new potential...

The CADTM has always preferred to work as part of a collective on the elaboration of projects. It has sat on a number of committees responsible for the establishment of platforms and declarations at international level. Madrid 1994, Copenhagen and Brussels 1995, Chiapas and Manilla 1996, Mauritius and Caracas 1997, Saint-Denis 1999, Bangkok, Geneva and Dakar 2000, Porto Alegre 2001-2002-2003, Geneva 2003, Mumbai and Kinshasa 2004...all highlights in its history, through which it has made its contribution to the analysis being developed across the planet. These are examples of the democratic and restructural process, key elements helping to break down the sense of isolation and push forward the construction of a new partnership.

Indeed, it is a one of the CADTM’s distinguishing features that it has, from the very start, emphasised its international and internationalist calling. International - by the very nature of the issue, but internationalist also, for it has always sought to maintain a conduct in line with the anti-imperialist dynamic, with a new internationalism that was faltering at the time (the early 1990s) and clearly in more need than ever of reconstruction. Whilst the CADTM was establishing itself in Belgium, it opened its doors to other movements existing or being founded elsewhere, such as ATTAC from 1998-1999 or Jubilee South as of 1999. Whenever the opportunity arose, “social actors” from other parts of the world were invited to the CADTM, and the CADTM responded in its turn to the invitations to visit abroad after these initial contacts.

This international dimension has not prevented the CADTM from pursuing dogged activities at local level. The network is solicited by teachers, parishes, mosques, jobseekers, solidarity committees, trade unions... whatever the audience, the CADTM responds with the same objectives: understanding of the issue, awareness-raising, mobilisation.
As its own understanding of the mechanisms affecting the debt of the Periphery improved, the proponents of these mechanisms were refining their policies; the CADTM was required to extend its field of action. There is no sense in examining and condemning the broadsides against the education or health systems of the Peripheral countries, or in berating the damaging effects in these countries of privatisation and the dramatic consequences of unemployment and poverty, whilst turning a blind eye to the same perverse mechanisms, the same damaging policies, at work in one’s own back yard, failing to combat them with equal determination - even if they are not (yet) applied with the ferocity visible elsewhere. It is important, for example, when explaining the need for a global tax on speculative transactions, to address the issue of a tax on those excessive fortunes in one’s own country.

To take another example, this means that whoever is capable of decoding the injustice of the Periphery’s debt situation has a moral duty to attack with similar conviction the public debt of the industrialised countries. For the system of public debt in the North is also a means for transferring salaried workers’ and small producers’ wealth to the capitalist class. The same point can be extended to the East also: from the beginning of the nineties the CADTM opened up to the former Soviet states, who are also confronted with the problem of debt and adjustment, and where a number of different movements are working on alternative solutions.

A further indication of how the network’s reach has lengthened: the battle is now being fought in the fields of law and justice - in international law to be more precise. Legal action is being envisaged against the IMF and World Bank, for complicity with dictatorial regimes and the imposition of policies incompatible with human rights. The need to perform a citizens’ audit of the debt now occupies a central place in the activities of the CADTM and its partners; its initiatives with those of others on the issue of odious debt Odious Debt According to the doctrine, for a debt to be odious it must meet two conditions:
1) It must have been contracted against the interests of the Nation, or against the interests of the People, or against the interests of the State.
2) Creditors cannot prove they they were unaware of how the borrowed money would be used.

We must underline that according to the doctrine of odious debt, the nature of the borrowing regime or government does not signify, since what matters is what the debt is used for. If a democratic government gets into debt against the interests of its population, the contracted debt can be called odious if it also meets the second condition. Consequently, contrary to a misleading version of the doctrine, odious debt is not only about dictatorial regimes.

(See Éric Toussaint, The Doctrine of Odious Debt : from Alexander Sack to the CADTM).

The father of the odious debt doctrine, Alexander Nahum Sack, clearly says that odious debts can be contracted by any regular government. Sack considers that a debt that is regularly incurred by a regular government can be branded as odious if the two above-mentioned conditions are met.
He adds, “once these two points are established, the burden of proof that the funds were used for the general or special needs of the State and were not of an odious character, would be upon the creditors.”

Sack defines a regular government as follows: “By a regular government is to be understood the supreme power that effectively exists within the limits of a given territory. Whether that government be monarchical (absolute or limited) or republican; whether it functions by “the grace of God” or “the will of the people”; whether it express “the will of the people” or not, of all the people or only of some; whether it be legally established or not, etc., none of that is relevant to the problem we are concerned with.”

So clearly for Sack, all regular governments, whether despotic or democratic, in one guise or another, can incur odious debts.
is attracting increasing international interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. .

The openness of the CADTM’s approach is illustrated by its commitment to initiatives of public consultation (this includes the consulta for example, in which the Spanish public was consulted in March 2000 by the Citizens’ network for the abolition of the debt, and for which over a million participants were counted, and the referendum held in Brazil in September 2000 by the social movements, in which 6 million votes were cast, as well as the “spontaneous” popular vote on the FTAA [3], debt, and militarisation in Argentina, which mobilised over two million citizens at the end of November 2003) as it is by its role in the organisation of citizens’ debt audits or public debt tribunals.

These very practical initiatives have gradually given mass momentum to the international campaign for the cancellation of the debt; and this has in turn made a significant contribution to the success of other initiatives on the different continents world-wide (the international people’s tribunals in Porto Alegre in 2002 and Geneva in 2003 in particular). Finally we should mention the work of the CADTM network on the question of ecological debt, which adds further to the ground it covers.

As the CADTM’s activities have multiplied it has gained the support of an international network of scientists and university researchers across all the continents; this has enabled it to develop detailed scientific analyses and to reinforce its interventions through the creation of an international observatory on debt and development aid. It is therefore a source of scientific, technical and political expertise on the issue of development aid, and this has been recognised and utilised by numerous organisations in the alterglobalisation and trade union movements, in Belgium and elsewhere.

... for the alternative worlds in prospect

The CADTM’s activity is certainly modest in the face of the challenge before it - but it is only one of many other actors in what is becoming a historic social process known as the “alterglobalisation movement”, all of whom face the same challenge: the construction, together, of alternative worlds, worlds which so urgently - indeed vitally! - need to be established to dislodge the mortifying logic of neoliberal globalisation. Our achievements so far nevertheless prove that it is possible to make a personal contribution to the development of what is now an international movement that has not only taken the measure of the global transformation now underway but has also the capacity to respond actively to the new problems being posed.

For if, today, the world is marred by the all-too-legitimate anger of populations torn between feelings of lost dignity, desires for better livelihoods and revolt at the violence perpetrated by an iniquitous and impenetrable world system; if we cannot escape feelings of inevitable and “logical” pessimism at the scale of the neo-liberal offensive, the dramatic scope of its consequences and the powers of its proponents (embodied by the IMF, the World Bank, WTO and huge transnational corporations, as well as by the dominant financial centres and the G8): there is also a “wilful optimism” abroad, infusing huge sections of the world’s population and uniting them in the desire to regain control of their lives and build a common future together - a future no longer poisoned by war and the survival of the fittest, by profit, exclusion and global injustice.

The policies being imposed by these “(war)lords of the earth”, “new masters of the world”, threaten social, ecological, economic, and cultural catastrophe for the huge majority of the planet’s population, which is now united by the overall poverty and distress with which it is afflicted. For indeed now, for the first time at this scale at least these populations are organising in a common front against the system seeking to maintain them in misery and oppression.

We should neither overestimate the progress nor ignore the slender victory that the prospect of toppling the architects of capitalist globalisation represents. It is nevertheless true that within this multi-facetted, composite struggle, uniting people of all generations and social and cultural origin, are the seeds of determination, radicalism and political vision that must be nurtured, if we are to build a new and common future brighter than that currently being painted.

The CADTM will play its part in this struggle, in all its daily activities - in the words of French poet René Char, “there should be neither time nor patience for those who enter the world without the courage to disturb it” . And the story of this struggle forms the second part of this book, in the pages dedicated to the manifold appeals and declarations, analyses, decisions and positions formulated by the associations, organisations, social movements and peoples on the front lines in all parts of the world.
These are founding and reference texts within which the CADTM has no difficulty in recognising its own positions; they bear witness to the increasingly determined and courageous refusal of all those who, rejecting resignation, are fighting to counter the injustices of the global system.

The CADTM on its home ground: the international campaign for the cancellation of the debt of the Periphery countries

The international campaign for the cancellation of the debt of the Periphery countries plays a central part in the alterglobalisation movement. In the wake of the greatest petition in the history of humanity (24 million signatures collected between 1998 and 2000 in 166 countries) the network has united under a single banner a broad spectrum of political movements active on all continents of the world. Although the Periphery debt problem is not new (its origins can be sought in Mexico’s decision to default on its debt in August 1982), several years were needed to form an international network worthy of the name.

Between 1982 and 1990 the campaign for the non-payment of foreign debt in the Peripheral countries took on massive and popular proportions in Latin America, the continent most affected by the crisis. A number of trade unions and small producer organisations in Latin America made efforts to achieve a movement of continental solidarity, following Cuba’s initiative to launch its “unpayable debt” campaign in 1985. Latin American governments failed finally to agree on a common position on the non-payment of their debt.
In the second half of the 1980s there were more and more calls from Sub-Saharan Africa for an end to debt service Debt service The sum of the interests and the amortization of the capital borrowed. payments. At a meeting of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa in 1987 Burkina Faso’s young President, Thomas Sankara, proposed the creation of an African coalition for debt cancellation. Following his assassination not a single African head of state was willing to take up the call. There were also pioneer organisations in the North: CEDETIM in Paris, who raised the issue in 1983, the CADTM itself, who in 1990 joined the “Ca suffat comme ci” campaign launched for the G7 conference in Paris in 1989 (see below). The writings of Susan George, today vice-President of ATTAC-France, also had a significant impact and helped establish the movement in its early days.

The international campaign was given new impetus at the end of the 1990s following the launching, with the support of the Churches, of Jubilee 2000. In May 1998, at the instigation of Jubilee 2000-UK, 70,000 people encircled the Birmingham G8 summit, demonstrating their support for the cancellation of the poor countries’ debt. 1999 saw the official launching of Jubilee South in Johannesburg. With its headquarters in the Philippines Jubilee South is a network for organisations from all continents of the South (Asia, Africa, Latin America), with coordination at national and continental level.

The success in Birmingham marked the start of a large-scale international campaign: two years later there are Jubilee 2000 collectives in 66 countries. Other networks have been formed in several northern countries, such as France’s “Debt and Development Platform” in particular, which brings together NGOs, trade unions and organisations like ATTAC and CADTM-France. In Spain a citizens’ network was formed in 1999 (RCADE - the Citizens’ Network for the Abolition of the Debt) which organised a referendum on debt cancellation debt, in which more than a million voters took part on 12 March 2000. These networks meet up at seminars (Amsterdam April 2000, Brussels December 2001), international conferences (Bangkok and Geneva in 2000, Dakar December 2000, Genoa July 2001, Liege September 2001, or as at Porto Alegre in February 2002 for the Peoples’ Debt Tribunal), or at demonstrations (the G7 summits in particular and the general assemblies of the IMF and World Bank).

Several networks have made efforts at structural convergence. The movement is of course rocked by debate: should there be conditions attached to debt cancellation? Jubilee South, the CADTM and RCADE say that the only legitimate conditions are those which are defined by the local population themselves and which guarantee that the funds released by cancellation be used for social development purposes. Several Jubilee 2000 campaigns in the North however have accepted the attachment of conditions by the lender institutions.

There are also other points of contention: should the new IMF and World Bank strategies be followed under critical supervision, or should we purely and simply oppose them? Should all the Periphery’s debt be cancelled, or just that of specific countries (the “poorest”)?

From 1999 on, the movement in the South gained progressive momentum. Major campaigns were held in Peru (1999), Ecuador (1999-2001), Brazil (September 2000), South Africa (1999-2000), Argentina (2001-2004), etc. There is far more to the network, however, than its work specifically on the debt. There is constant synergy at work, given the common ground to be covered from one battle to the next; several of the networks share a common interest in the financial markets, the international financial institutions, the WTO, etc.

The cancellation of the Periphery’s debt is also central to ATTAC’s international platform; similarly, organisations like 50 Years is Enough (United States), the Bretton Woods Project (United Kingdom), or Agir Ici (France) logically share a desire to see cancelled the debt underlying the structural adjustment policies of the institutions they are challenging, the IMF and World Bank; the international farmers’ movement Via Campesina (70 million small producers) also campaigns for an end to debt. The Women’s World March echoes the call; the large international trade union organisations ICFT and WCL (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and World Confederation of Labour) support the cause; and finally the networks working on international trade, such as Focus on the Global South, also call for debt cancellation, in so far as the debt is used by the lenders to blackmail the South into fully opening up its national economies.


[1The organisations involved in the founding of the CADTM in Belgium in 1990 came from a variety of different fields and illustrate the inherent diversity of the CADTM itself: grassroot cultural organisations (Equipes populaires - an educational organisation associated with the Christian Workers Movement -, the Joseph Jacquemotte Foundation, the Léon Lesoil Foundation, Belgium’s Jewish “Union des progressistes juifs”), trade unions (the Liege and Limburger branches of the CGSP public servants’ union , all of the CGSP’s educational branch, the Anvers section of the “ACOD Onderwijs”, the “Fédération des métallurgistes” of Liege Province) NGOs (Peuples solidaires, GRESEA, Forum Nord-Sud, Centre tricontinental, Socialisme sans frontières, FCD Solidarité socialiste, Oxfam solidarité, Centre national de coopération au développement), solidarity committees (Comité Mennan Men-Haiti, Charleroi’s Comité Amérique centrale), peace organisations (Coordination nationale d’action pour la paix et la démocratie - CNAPD -, VREDE), political parties (Socialist Workers’ Party, Communist Party), and a feminist group working with battered women and their children.

[2For a fuller account of the CADTM’s proposals, see Eric Toussaint, La Finance contre les peuples. La Bourse ou la Vie, chapter 19, co-edition CADTM (Liege) - Syllepse (Paris) - CETIM (Geneva), 2004, 638 pages.

[3FTAA : Free Trade Area of the Americas.

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