Debt justice campaigns at World Social Forum in Dakar

23 February 2011 by Cristiano Morsolin

Several non-governmental organizations launched at the World Social Forum in Dakar, capital city of Senegal, an international campaign to demand G20 G20 The Group of Twenty (G20 or G-20) is a group made up of nineteen countries and the European Union whose ministers, central-bank directors and heads of state meet regularly. It was created in 1999 after the series of financial crises in the 1990s. Its aim is to encourage international consultation on the principle of broadening dialogue in keeping with the growing economic importance of a certain number of countries. Its members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, USA, UK and the European Union (represented by the presidents of the Council and of the European Central Bank). countries to combat financial activities of tax havens that are extremely detrimental to developing countries. The campaign calls citizens around the world to send messages to G20 Presidents to bring the issue of financial secrecy in tax havens to the November Summit of developed and emerging countries, according to AFP news agency. The campaign calls the people to write especially to Nicolas Sarkozy, since France is chairing the G20 this year. Christian Aid, CCDF-Terre Solidaire, Latindadd, Oxfam and Tax Justice Network Afrique are among the promoters of the initiative. These social groups estimate tax losses in developing countries at 170,000 million dollars per year, due for instance to companies receiving their profits in bank accounts in tax havens.

Tens of thousands of people from different movements and social organizations from the five continents are participating in the World Social Forum in Dakar, with anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal features. They are working on issues such as: economic solidarity, fair trade, foreign debt, financial system reforms, food sovereignty, climate justice, human rights, children and women exploitation, migration, decolonization, among other things.
Jubilee South, a network that works against the foreign debt and domination, is present at the Forum where it has been organizing activities about the situation in Haiti, the climate crisis and climate finance, the organization of a Peoples Tribunal on Environmental Debt, among others. “The main challenge at the World Social Forum is to develop and anti-systemic alternative to fight climate change and the consequences new debts will have on Southern countries”, said Sandra Quintela, Jubilee South / Americas coordinator according to newspaper Tiempo Argentino.

Meanwhile, La Via Campesina, a network made up by farmers organizations from all regions is also present at the Forum working on issues such as violence against women, food sovereignty and land grabbing.
“The European approach to the current debt crisis repeats the errors that helped turn the sovereign debt Sovereign debt Government debts or debts guaranteed by the government. crisis of Southern countries in the 1980s into what was later called “a lost decade for development,” says Oygunn Brynildsen Policy Officer at Eurodad. “Rather than holding investors responsible for the risks of their investments, public funds are being used at the expense of tax payers to bail-out the private sector,” she added. However, “there are alternatives to handle such protracted crises in ways which do not put the burden on the poor,” says Nuria Molina, Eurodad Director. “Rather than condemning debtor countries to protracted adjustments, while securing profits from risky investments, governments must put in place fair and transparent debt workout mechanisms based on well-tested insolvency principles, ,” Molina said.


“It would be sufficient to bring home 30% of the illegal funds deposited by some African presidents in bank accounts located in Western countries to reimburse the continent’s entire foreign debt”: said, speaking at the World Social Forum, by Eric Toussaint. The activist Eric Toussaint, president of the Belgian Committee to Cancel Foreign Debt in the Third World (CADTM), which highlights Africa’s potential to help itself financially. However, banks in the donor countries propose easier terms loans that are nothing more than “the illegitimate recycling of the same all African funds, fruit of illicit appropriation or kickbacks, deposited by some corrupt leaders or regimes,” said Toussaint, a historian and political scientist. Toussaint said that these sums “are three times greater than the total sum of Africa’s foreign debt”, which the 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.

has estimated to be some USD 134 billion. In accordance with international legal instruments and following Nigeria’s example, which has managed to recover the funds deposited by former president Sani Abacha, “many African countries could follow this road to resolve so many budget problems,” said Toussaint, who also asked countries of the South to adopt “a more dignified behavior” toward international financial institutions of the Bretton Woods system, which often demand what are actually “illegitimate” funds, which do not conform to national and international financial law. A similar appeal was advocated by the Senegalese activist and philosophy teacher Aminata Diaw Cissé, the head of the Council for the Development of Social Sciences Research in Africa (CODESRIA) “democracy as a technical solution to our problems is in crisis”. Ms. Cissé added, “every important political decision comes from such institutions such as the World Bank and 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.
while our economic and political policies guided by donor countries will not be able to lead to a true development”. At the end of the “Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast (…): Africa, is Democracy in Crisis?” roundtable, held in Dakar yesterday, Ms. Cissé insisted that “to make us less vulnerable if would be necessary to affirm a true Pan–African vision, which is to lead African states out of the condition of Nation-States”. Many participants at the Forum believe that Africa’s development future will only succeed if adequate resources are mobilized to ensure that young people receive “universal scholarization”. The participants at the reflection group “Financing of Public Education and Efficiency” organized by the ‘Coalition of Organizations in Synergy for the Defense of Public Education’ (COSYDEP), believe that education should become inclusive and be based on national languages because “none of the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved if Africa does not first resolve young people’s and women’s illiteracy; strong political will and public funds are needed”.


Haiti’s ex-leader Jean-Claude Duvalier, the dictator known as Baby Doc who was overthrown in 1986, is arrived unexpectedly in the capital Port au Prince from exile in France. Mr. Duvalier has been charged with theft and misappropriation of funds during his 1971-1986 rule. He is also being sued for torture and other crimes against humanity.
The sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein, world-systems analyst (he was Directeur d’études associé at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and was president of the International Sociological Association), declares to SELVAS Observatory that “in a world in which, in virtually all countries in the world, officials regularly abscond with public funds, Duvalier pushed the envelope, as we say in English. His degree of public theft of the funds of his poor country was a monumental exaggeration. One can only hope that he will meet his just rewards at the hands of a Haitian court”.
Walden Bello said that “the debt incurred by the Duvalier regime is illegitimate and should be cancelled. If this is not agreed upon multilaterally, then it should be done unilaterally”, in a note that it’s publishing by Belgian Committee to Cancel Foreign Debt in the Third World CADTM )and EUROPEAN UNITED LEFT/NORDIC GREEN LEFT – GUE NGL EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARY GROUP.

Camille Chalmers, the manager of the Platform for an Alternative Development (PAPDA), a Haitian network, granted MISNA an interview.
Since 1915, under the first US occupation, the Department of State has continued to exert more or less strong pressure on Haitian politics, through control of the Haitian armed forces, for example, until 1995. Officers were US trained, while arms and munitions also came from the USA, while many members belonged to the CIA. When we consider the de-classifed documents about Raoul Cédras (military chief of staff, who plotted against Aristide in 1991) we read that he was a CIA member. Therefore, there was a direct relationship between regulatory and control mechanisms in Haitian politics and this American domination. For example when President Aristide decided to sign a cooperation accord with Switzerland to train Haitian police, the USA cried foul. It was unacceptable; the Haitian army and police had to be trained in the USA. At the same time, when there are elections, the ballots should be printed in the USA, Mexico and Canada. In 1995, the former director of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) confirmed this, the US put pressure such that the ballots were printed in California; one can only imagine how much to print and ship them to Haiti this would cost for five million of them.

(..) Former US president Bill Clinton confessed during a Congressional hearing that he pressured Haiti to adopt policies that have helped to destroy the farming system; these declarations have not changed current policies. Nothing has changed, the US still offers the same paradigms, the same vision on how to run the country. We had a self sufficient agricultural economy until 1972-73 until in the 80’s there was a demographic explosion and an intense urbanization. Starting in the 1980’s, neo-liberal policies have demanded that Haiti adopt complete liberalizations of foreign trade making Haiti the most open country in the region where the average return on trade tariffs to be 2.9%, even more liberal economically than the USA. This has made competition totally unfair between US agricultural products and local produce, especially as far as cereal production. Starting from there Haiti moved from a 98% self sufficiency rate to the current situation, whereby, for example rice, we import 82% of it from the USA, even if we know how to make quality rice. A new form of dependency was established, with the consequences that today we are in a situation of food dependency. Many millions of dollars every year head to the USA, to purchase American farmers’ production. It is an essential element in the context of the world domination context, which is completed by the presence of MINUSTAH as a military occupation and the Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti (CIRH) for the institutional political aspect.

(…) The issue is not yet over, the Monsanto corporation has taken advantage of the post-quake crisis to generously offer 450 tons of hybrid seeds. We reacted. There were protests in Papaye. Monsanto says that these are not GMO 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 :
and that they are hybrid, but they create dependency nonetheless because we do not have the technological package needed to cultivate such seeds and so we are forced to buy other Monsanto products. The great lesson to take from this juncture is that some actors try to take advantage of the crisis and the weakness of Haitian institutions, to increase dependency and strengthen the presence of multinationals in Haiti. But the Monsanto seeds have been accepted by the Haitian government and a USAID project called Winner.

ECOLOGICAL DEBT: Historic Moment in the defence of the Rights of Nature

On November 26, a historic case was filed by an international coalition of defenders of nature’s rights at the Constitutional court of Ecuador against BP and its crimes against nature. Ecuador recognises the rights of nature in its current constitution adopted in 2008. The rights of nature are universal. This provides the fundamental basis for this legal case.
The case was brought with regard to the massive environmental disaster caused when BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, 2010. That incident exposed BP’s drive to maximize 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. with total disregard of nature and its rights. The company constantly lied with regard to the scale of the disaster and toped this up by using unusually high amounts of toxic chemical dispersants to cover up the spill. This disaster was not limited to the Gulf Coast but has wider reach through the movement of water as well as atmospheric pollutions.
The defenders of nature are not seeking financial compensation since the harm done to nature cannot be compensated for in monetary terms. Some of the key demands in the case include that BP should release all data and information on the ecological destruction caused by the oil spill. Another demand is that they should also to refrain from extracting as much oil underground as they spilled in the Gulf of Mexico incident.
Besides this case the activists called for support for the Yasuni ITT proposal of the Ecuadorian government to leave the oil in that sensitive ecosystem underground. They also urged the US government to extend the moratorium on offshore oil drilling.
Speaking after filing the case, the defenders of nature insisted that phasing out crude oil as a major energy source should be an issue of critical importance at the climate conference in Cancun. It is the key way to phase out the current carbon economy, tackle climate change and halt the forces that are driving the current global crises.
The case was jointly filed by

1. Vandana Shiva, (eco-feminist and winner of the1993 Right Livelihood Award, considered the Alternative Nobel Prize)

2. Nnimmo Bassey (Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Coordinator of Oilwatch International and 2010 laureate of the Right Livelihood Award)

3. Delfín Tenesaca (President of ECUARUNARI, indigenous Andean Ecuadorean organisation)

4. Blanca Chancoso (Ecuadorean indigenous leader)

5. Líder Góngora (representative of the ancestral peoples of Mangroves)

6. Alberto Acosta (Ex President of the Constitutional Assembly of Ecuador)

7. Ana Luz Valdéz (representative of social movements from Chiapas, México)

8. Diana Murcia (Colombian human rights lawyer) and

9. Cecilia Chérrez (President of Acción Ecológica, Ecuador)

There is a note about ecological debt:

Jose Augusto Padua
– UFRJ University of Rio de Janeiro, said that “over the last few years, two fundamental concepts - environmental justice and ecological debt - have renewed the debate about the global transition toward sustainability, creating a stronger link between the movements for social change and environmental care Care Le concept de « care work » (travail de soin) fait référence à un ensemble de pratiques matérielles et psychologiques destinées à apporter une réponse concrète aux besoins des autres et d’une communauté (dont des écosystèmes). On préfère le concept de care à celui de travail « domestique » ou de « reproduction » car il intègre les dimensions émotionnelles et psychologiques (charge mentale, affection, soutien), et il ne se limite pas aux aspects « privés » et gratuit en englobant également les activités rémunérées nécessaires à la reproduction de la vie humaine. . Even though these concepts did not originate in academic circles, intellectuals and researchers alike have also begun to incorporate and develop these principles. The concept of environmental justice emerged from the Black Movement in the United States. Informed by their experiences in the civil rights battles of the 60s, organized defense groups of colored people began to notice - at first intuitively and later more systematically - that the most polluting and environmentally damaging economic activities were deliberated distributed, being predominantly concentrated in the neighborhood of Black, Native American and Latino communities. Such “environmental racism” illustrated the correlation between social and environmental inequality, causing the most marginalized sectors of society to receive a disproportionate 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. of the environmental impact created by the socio-economic system. Although the dominant classes were largely responsible for this impact, through their unsustainable consumption and production patterns, they were protected from the degradation by intentionally targeting its effects to the public space and to the areas occupied by the non European-American sectors of society. The conceptual innovation consisted in framing the environmental debate in
terms of rights and justice and not solely in terms of conservation and survival.
The central premise was that all people are equally entitled to a healthy
environment, and that any structure or process that in practice targeted the most economically disadvantaged populations for environmental risk and degradation was unfair. Such degradation, where unavoidable, should be distributed equally through all sectors of society. In this way, the movement against environmental destruction and degradation began to be considered as an arena for the struggle for true democracy and the affirming of human rights”.

Jose Augusto Padua writes an interesting book: “Environmental History: As If Nature Existed. Oxford University Press, USA (Apr 2010). This volume brings to the reader the history of the alteration of environment by human action, and the reciprocal influence of the environment upon human history. The collection traces the long history of geographical shifts in human occupation, the difficult path to industrialization, the forced displacements and destruction of forests and marshes, the state-led industrialization in response to poverty, and the destruction of forests due to European colonialism etc. A set of macro- and micro-regional studies of environmental history and economic development with respect to India, China, Bangladesh, and Brazil are discussed. As a whole, this collection offers some of the best recent works at the intersection of two new sub-disciplines taking history, economics, and nature into account. Contributed by experts in the fields of sociology, history, ecology, and economics, this pioneering work is an invaluable resource for academics of all social science disciplines, environmentalists, economists, anthropologists, urban policy planners, and researchers.

Cristiano Morsolin is italian expert of Latinamerican SELVAS Observatory. He works in Latin America since 2001. He collaborates with Jubilee South, Latindadd, Cadtm and other social networks.
He writes some books, such as “Sobre la deuda ilegítima. Aportes al debate: argumentos entre consideraciones éticas y normas legales”. Quito: Centro de Investigaciones CIUDAD: Observatorio de la Cooperación al Desarrollo en Ecuador, Jubileo 2000 Red Guayaquil. 2008. 191 p (©id=151561&tab=opac ) and “Oltre il debito - America Latina: la conversione in investimenti sociali è conversione” Emi-Roma.



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