The International Situation and CADTM action between 2009 and 2013

9 May 2013 by Eric Toussaint

Belém 2009

In the preamble to the CADTM International Political Charter adopted in Belém (Brazil) in January 2009, we state:

In 1989, the Bastille Appeal was launched in Paris. It invited popular movements throughout the world to unite in demanding the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the debt of the so-called developing countries. This crushing debt, along with the neo-liberal macro-economic reforms imposed on the South since the debt crisis of 1982, had led to the explosion of inequality, mass poverty, flagrant injustice and the destruction of the environment. It was in response to this appeal, and in order to fight against the overall degradation of living conditions of the majority of peoples, that the CADTM was founded in 1990. Nowadays, CADTM International is a network of some 30 active organizations in over 25 countries across four continents. Focusing on the debt and debt-related issues, the principal aim of its actions and the radical alternatives it proposes is to work towards a world based on sovereignty, solidarity and cooperation between peoples, respect for the environment, equality, social justice and peace (

This preamble written in 2008 took into account changes that have come about since 1990:
Since the CADTM was founded, there have been significant changes in the international context, not least regarding the nature of indebtedness: domestic public debt has dramatically increased. From a global viewpoint, two major opposing trends can be seen to have developed internationally. On the one hand, the neo-liberal capitalist offensive, whose principal proponents are the G7, 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.
, the WB 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.

and the WTO WTO
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.

, all of whom cater to the interests of multinationals and international financial capital, has become more widespread and entrenched. On the other hand, a counter-trend of powerful social movements against the neo-liberal offensive has been emerging since the end of the 1990s, especially in Latin America. The struggle of the international social movements has been strengthened, in the belief that “other worlds are possible”. Presidents advocating a break with neo-liberalism have been elected; initiatives to audit debt and suspend repayments on external public debt have been taken; recovery of State control over strategic sectors and natural resources has been envisaged. At the same time, neo-liberal projects such as the ALCA or resistance to imperialism in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan have failed. How power relations will evolve between these two opposing trends largely depends on how the peoples of the world will respond to the many facets of the international crisis – financial, social, political, environmental, cultural, as well as food, energy and climate.

The CADTM Worldwide Assembly, in Morocco from 19 to 22 May 2013, analyses the evolution since 2008.

Frankfurt 2012

The global crisis of the capitalist system has very badly affected the living conditions of the peoples over the last five years:

1. In the most industrialised countries: the banking and economic crisis that started in 2007 – 2008 in the USA and the policies applied by the governments and international institutions have caused, in the industrialised countries, the loss of tens of millions of jobs, reduction of purchasing power of the populations, increases in poverty, an acceleration of the increase in inequality, an increase in public debt, attacks on labour rights and collective bargaining agreements, restrictions of civil and political rights along with an increase of executive powers and in the case of the EU an increase in the power of the European Commission and other executive organs. The Northern countries where the people are the most hit are: the Baltic States, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Romania. The list gets longer every day. The policies that have been imposed on the Southern countries, by the creditors who are the cause of the Third World crisis and are those who make the most from it, are now being imposed on the industrialised countries.

2. In the global south (the so called “developing countries”): the food crisis of 2008-2009 was devastating, 120 million people were added to the 900 million already severely suffering from famine.
This crisis was the direct result of decisions made by northern multinational food companies, by the private financial sector (banks, assurance companies, pension funds Pension Fund
Pension Funds
Pension funds: investment funds that manage capitalized retirement schemes, they are funded by the employees of one or several companies paying-into the scheme which, often, is also partially funded by the employers. The objective is to pay the pensions of the employees that take part in the scheme. They manage very big amounts of money that are usually invested on the stock markets or financial markets.
), by North American and European governments, by International Multilateral Institutions (World Bank, IMF OMC et. al.). Among the factors that have caused the food crisis and that keep 1 person in 7 in the World under-nourished we can mention: Speculation on cereals and energy products; development of biofuels in the developed countries and some developing countries such as Brazil; land grabbing; trade openings imposed on Southern countries; abolition of subventions on basic foodstuffs and to their producers; the priority given to producing exportation products over local necessities.

3. Climate change is beginning to show its negative effects. Particularly in a certain number of southern countries. The worst is yet to come.

4. Some southern countries are subject to confrontations that are kept going by the predatory interests of transnational companies and by certain states trying to grab the natural and local resources.

All over the planet the women have been affected in their materiel conditions and social status.
These negative movements are the direct result of the global capitalist and patriarchal crisis. The different aspects of the crisis are directly interconnected.
In the North as in the South of the planet the debt system is used by the established powers, by big business, by the international institutions to force privatisations, opening of markets and to attack the social and political conquests of the peoples.
The peoples all together are victims of the debt system. As also are individuals: over-indebted Indian farmers pushed to suicide (more than 270,000 Indian farmers committed suicide between 1995 and 2011 hoping to relieve their families of the burden); millions of families, mostly in the US and in Spain (the list lengthens), dispossessed of their homes by their creditors, women victims of predatory micro-credit systems in southern countries; North American students pushed into debt and misery to pay their tuition fees (the total outstanding debt of US students is over $1000 billion, the equivalent of the foreign public debt ot of the South American and Sub-Saharan countries all together).

Considering the way the World has evolved since 2008 CADTM’s combat for the abolition/repudiation of illegitimate debt (as much for collectivities as for individuals), for the implementation of alternative political choices leading to rupture with the productivist and patriarchal capitalist system, the eradication of all forms of oppression is more important than ever because it ties together the emancipation struggles of all the peoples of the World.

An attentive and critical consideration of the CADTM January 2009 political charter comes to the conclusion that it is still as pertinent and as highly useful today as when it was adopted, as much in its analysis, in its propositions and in its resolutely unifying stance.

Nairobi 2007

The name of the organisation and its priorities

It will be up to a subsequent CADTM Worldwide Assembly to take a decision on an eventual name change for CADTM, which will be a reaction to legitimate questions that are regularly brought up, in particular in the Northern countries. Should CADTM change its name? Should CADTM limit its revindicative platform to the Third World countries as seams to be indicated in the present name?
There is another question that also comes up as much in the CADTM networks in northern countries as well as in southern countries: aware of the intensification of its action in Europe in the presence of the serious European debt crisis; is the CADTM in a process of reducing its efforts for third world debt abolition?

Without making a decision on the question of the name of CADTM, we can advance several considerations:

-  The CADTM political charter clearly says in article 1: “Both in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, debt is a mechanism used to transfer wealth created by workers and small producers to the benefit of capitalists. Debt is used by lenders as an instrument of political and economic domination which establishes a new form of colonialism.”
It would be sufficient to bring a few additions to open the questioning of the debt a little more and to take better into account, on the one hand its impact on the people, of the North as well as the South, and on the other its impact on individuals under the burden of excessive debt
We might suggest that keeping the acronym CADTM, that has over the last few years built up a notoriety and credibility, would not prevent changing its contents too, for example, “Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt”.
We will still present the acronym CADTM, followed by “Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt” In this way our revindications are not limited to one part of the World and they can involve different sorts of debts such as illegitimate personal debt.
This is only a suggestion to nourish thought on the question. As this question is not on the agenda of the upcoming Worldwide Assembly it will be treated by the assembly that follows.

Have CADTM efforts towards the abolition of Third World debt been withered down?
Concerning the other above mentioned question: aware of the reinforcement of its action in Europe in the presence of the serious European debt crisis, is the CADTM not in a process of reducing its efforts for third world debt abolition?
It is clear that CADTM activists based in Europe have taken an important part in the action of denouncing the debt burdened on Northern countries. This happened because of the deapth of the European debt crisis, the brutality of the austerity measures that are applied or in preparation, the rise of awareness in larger and larger sections of the European populations (a part of which had migrated towards Europe to find shelter and/or work. These migrants are among the hardest hit by the European debt crisis). In spite of this the CADTM members in Europe and Japan have not abandoned the struggle necessary for the abolition of Third World debt, particularly in the struggle against the 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.
of Egypt, Haiti and Tunisia (see below). European and Japanese CADTM members have also been active on the problems of climat change, ecological debt and land grabbing.

The great involvement of the whole CADTM International network, in the success of the World Social Forum in Tunisia in March 2013 also indicated that CADTM has not withdrawn into its actions n the North.
It must be added that the adoption at the Worldwide Assembly of November 2010 in Belgium, to transfer some of the tasks of the International Secretariat, all of which are actually handled by CADTM Belguim, to the South shows that CADTM is not reducing its actions in favour of the South.


Return to socio political events and the action of CADTM between 2009 and 2013

2009 commenced with a massive turnout at the World Social Forum, where over 130,000 activists in Belém (Brazil) joined in a mass rejection of the global capitalist crisis to fight for a socialist, feminist, antiracist, ecological, internationalist (see the final declaration of the social movements assembly, which CADTM played an active role in drafting). Let us also remember that this encounter at the WSF provided the opportunity to ratify the political charter and the movement’s charter. The following events in 2009 and 2010 did not meet the expectations raised by the World Social Forum, although a positive element of the international situation which we had stressed in the prelude to the political charter was confirmed. To this effect, in the prelude, we write: «Moreover, a counter tendency has been devloping since the end of the 90s: powerful mobilisations aginst the neoliberal offensive, particularly in Latin America, a strengthening of the international social movement which fights for « other possible worlds », the election of presidents extolling a break with neoliberalism, initiatives to audit the debt and to suspend payment of the foreign public debt, the start of regaining State control of strategic sectors and natural resources (…) ».

To this effect 2009 was marked by the victory of the unilateral act of suspending payment of the commercial debt of Equador (mainly as a consequence of the audit commission of the debt, in which CADTM was an active participant). The government of Equador, supported by the population, imposed a drastic reduction of the debt burden in June 2009. For their part, both in Bolivia and in Venezuela, the governments pursued their action in favour of regaining control of public authority in a number of enterprises.
This did not occur without a reaction from the dominant classes, from transnational companies and from Washington. Proof lies in the (new type) of coup d’Etat which, at the end of June 2009, ended a promising experiment in Honduras and which foreshadowed the coup in Paraguay in June 2011. CADTM condemned these coups and engaged in acts of solidarity.

As regards experiments currently being carried out in Equador,Venezuela, Bolivia and, to a certain extent, in Argentina, CADTM avoids presenting these countries as models to follow because it is aware of the limitations of the policies that have been set up (without neglecting the differences between the governments of these countries). The authorities of these contries do not break either with the extractive export model, nor with the capitalist system, which are closely linked. We support all the actions they take in the right direction, we defend them against the smear campaigns of which they are the object, without relinquishing our independence or our critical spirit. We give priority at all times to our relationships with the social movements of these countries. The organisations in Argentina and Venezuela who are members of CADTM are politically active whilst retaining their independence and their critical spirit as regards the government.

In Europe significant social struggles took place between 2009-2010 (in certain Eastern European countries, in Iceland, Greece, Spain, France – the large social movement opposing the counter reform of pensions which Sarkozy wished to implement -) and the members of CADTM tackled head on the question of the debt and of the refusal of politicians to adjust by developing a series of activities in favour of a citizens’ audit of the debt and of a suspension of payment of the debt in the countries worst hit by the crisis. These efforts largely contributed to different movements which had not previously declared themselves in favour of the citizens’ audit of the debt adopting this demand and this course of action. CADTM’s effort is very far from explaining everything, but it has undoubtedly exerted a positive influence on the choice made by other movements in favour of the citizens’ audit and in the direction of the radicalisation of their positions on the question of the illegitimate debt. That is the case in France, Greece Portugal, Spain and, most recently, in Italy and Belgium. This list will grow longer in the coming months and years. CADTM has also played a very important role in the creation of ICAN, the International Citizen Debt Audit Network, which includes both European and North African (Tunisian and Egyptian) organisations (see ).
In Asia CADTM was particularly active in 2010 in a campaign to cancel the debts of Pakistan following the catastrophic flooding which devastated the country.
Between 2009-2010, CADTM’s activities in Africa were very intense : among the most significant of these are the activity in liaison with the World Women’s March in Goma in the DRC and the intense preparation of the WSF, which was scheduled to take place in February 2011 in Dakar.

In 2011, the rebel social and political movement witnessed a revival, coming back out into the streets and into public spaces across the four corners of the planet. It took on a new form and new names such as the Arab spring, the Indignados, and the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS). The main regions involved were North Africa and the Middle East (including Israel), Europe, and North America. Of course, not all countries in these regions were swept by this wave of mobilisation and new forms of organisation, but its echoes were heard all over the world. In countries where there was no mass movement, activist minorities tried to lay the foundations for it, with varying degrees of success [1]. In 2011, Chile was the only country in the southern hemisphere with a movement closely associated to the Indignados [2].

In Tunisia and Egypt, countries that only very marginally export raw materials, living conditions have declined over recent years, leading to heavily repressed social protests. This sparked a mass reaction, which quickly took on a political dimension, starting in Tunisia. People came out onto the streets and public squares to oppose the repression, which led to 300 deaths, and to demand that the dictator Ben Ali leave power. He was forced to step down on 14 January 2011. As of 25 January 2011, the movement spread to Egypt, where the population had been subject to decades of neoliberal counter-reforms dictated by a combination of the World Bank and IMF, and, just as in Tunisia, a dictatorial regime allied to the western powers (and fully committed to an alliance with the Israeli government). On 11 February 2011, less than a month after the fall of Ben Ali, Moubarak was forced to step down. Other countries saw movements flare up, facing brutal repression. These struggles are still continuing, and the process has not yet been completed at the regional level. Other mass protest movements have developed elsewhere in the region, particularly in Morocco with the Movement of 20 February.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the dominant local classes are trying, with the help of the large western powers, the IMF, and the World Bank, to control the situation in order to prevent the movement from sparking a social revolution.

The World Social Forum, held in Dakar in February 2011, was positively influenced by the on-going movements in Tunisia and Egypt. The CADTM had a strong presence there, with a large delegation from CADTM Africa (reinforced by CADTM Europe and Latin America), and added to the activities. The WSF was preceded by convoys leaving the countries of the region (again with strong participation from the CADTM) to converge on Dakar, passing by Kaolack beforehand, where the CADTM held an international feminist workshop. This world assembly of social movements, which the WSF encompasses in one way or another, was bustling and very combative. The CADTM played its part.

Then, the winds of rebellion swept across the Mediterranean from North Africa to Southern Europe: Portugal (March 2011), Spain (April-October 2011), Greece (May-July 2011). In July-August, social protests also shook Israel: the Rotschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv was occupied, but without threatening the government (and without seeking to align with the Palestinian cause). In September, the movement managed to cross the North Atlantic. It reached the United States via the East Coast, beginning in New York and Wall Street, and then spread across the majority of the country all the way to the West Coast, where Oakland saw the radical bulk of the movement. On 15 October 2011, a date defined by the Indignados movement in Spain, more than a million people protested throughout the world, from Japan to the West Coast of the United States, and mainly in the most industrialised countries. Debt was the main issue for the majority of these mobilisations, in which the banks and the dominant 1% holding important positions of power were denounced.

The Indignados movement in its different forms did not manage to revive itself in 2012-2013, except in Portugal (but without being sustained for a long period as it had been in Spain in 2011). In Morocco, the Movement of 20 February withered despite best efforts to the contrary, particularly from ATTAC-CADTM Morocco.
In Spain, one of the very positive prolongations of the Indignados movement was the citizen debt audit platform that was established first in several cities, and then at the national level. There is hope, but not certainty, of seeing synergy develop throughout the Iberian Peninsula (Spain+Portugal), between the citizen movements acting on the issues of debt and the refusal of austerity.
In Europe, a new initiative seeking to replace the European Social Forum, which has been inactive since 2009-2010, has been underway since the beginning of 2011. CADTM Europe is participating in the coordination committee and is doing everything possible to ensure that the issue of illegitimate debt is dealt with as combatively as possible.

In Africa, international conflicts, greed-led competition for raw materials, and armed foreign intervention are still afflicting people. Activists from CADTM Africa are directly confronted by this in the DRC, in the Côte d’Ivoire, and in Mali. CADTM Africa denounced the armed intervention in Mali by France and its allies in January 2013. The CADTM, which denounces violence against women and all human rights violations, whoever the perpetrator, opposes the use of these crimes as justification for foreign interference and wars seeking to gain control over raw materials [3]. CADTM International has expressed its support for the action of CAD Mali, a member of the CADTM network. In other areas, CADTM International supports the action of the PAPDA (a member of the CADTM), and of all movements fighting against foreign military presence in Haiti, where again the humanitarian situation is being used as an excuse for interference.

The World Social Forum was held in Tunis in March 2013, with strong Tunisian participation and a genuinely radical nature. The CADTM participated extremely actively with a large African delegation reinforced by CADTM Europe and Latin America. Activists from CADTM Tunisia (RAID ATTAC CADTM Tunisia), and from Morocco (ATTAC-CADTM Morocco), played a central role in the preparation of the world assembly of social movements and in the event itself. For a week, the headquarters of RAID ATTAC CADTM Tunisia were transformed into a hive of activity in which many delegates from social movements from all over the world worked together.

In addition (or perhaps even as a main point), thanks to the work of RAID ATTAC CADTM, the first “Mediterranean Meeting in Tunis Against Debt, Austerity Policies, and Foreign Dominance - For a Free, Democratic, Social, United and Environmentally Friendly Mediterranean” was held [4].

Around twenty political groups participated in the meeting, responding to the invitation from the Tunisian Popular Front (within which the members of RAID ATTAC CADTM Tunisia are active). The CADTM participated in this meeting in order to contribute its point of view on the struggle for the cancellation of odious and illegitimate debt [5]. The final Manifesto from the meeting closely aligns itself with the point of view put forward by the CADTM on this issue [6].

As highlighted at the beginning of this text, between 2009 and 2013, women have faced a generalised attack seeking to derail their path toward equality and full emancipation. The CADTM has gone to great lengths to reinforce its participation in the feminist struggle on an international scale. This has given rise to concrete initiatives, mainly in Africa and Europe.

In all of its initiatives, the CADTM has tried to reinforce the convergence between the different movements fighting on the side of citizens and peoples. It is in this spirit that it actively cooperates with ATTAC, Via Campesina, the World March of Women, ICAN, Jubilee South, Latindadd, numerous unions, and many other organisations. This is also why it participates actively and constructively in the World Social Forum, in the Alter Summit (in Europe), in the various counter-summits against those of the powerful minority on the planet, and in many other events. It is in this same line of action that it supports and is involved in movements such as the Indignados, and Occupy.

A look back at politico-social events between 2009 à 2013 and on the CADTM’s action

2009 had begun with a rebound of the World Social Forum, which brought together over 130,000 activists in Belém (Brazil) in a massive rejection of the global capitalist crisis and a desire to struggle for a socialist, feminist, antiracist, environmental, international perspective (see the Final Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly, which the CADTM participated in authoring). For the CADTM, this meeting of the WSF was also an opportunity to ratify the Political Charter and the movement’s Technical Charter. The subsequent events of 2009 and 2010 did not live up to the hopes raised by the Forum, even if one positive aspect of the international situation we had underlined in the Preamble to the Political Charter was confirmed. In the Preamble, we wrote: “On the other hand, a counter-trend of powerful social movements against the neo-liberal offensive has been emerging since the end of the 1990s, especially in Latin America. The struggle of the international social movements has been strengthened, in the belief that ‘other worlds are possible.’ Presidents advocating a break with neo-liberalism have been elected; initiatives to audit debt and suspend repayments on external public debt have been taken; recovery of State control over strategic sectors and natural resources has been envisaged.”

From this point of view, the year 2009 was marked by the victory of the unilateral act of suspension of payment of Ecuador’s commercial debt (due in part to the work of the debt audit commission, in which the CADTM participated actively). The government of Ecuador, supported by the population, imposed a radical reduction of the weight of the debt in June 2009. Meanwhile, in Bolivia and in Venezuela, the governments continued their action to return control of a series of companies to the Public Authorities.

This did not fail to elicit a reaction from the dominant classes, from multinational companies, and from Washington. Proof of that is the coup d’état (of a new type) which ended a promising experiment in Honduras in late June 2009 and which prefigured the coup perpetrated in Paraguay in June 2011. The CADTM condemned these two coups and was actively involved in solidarity.
Regarding the experiments in progress in Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, and to a certain extent Argentina, the CADTM is hesitant to present these countries as models to be followed, being well aware of the limitations of the policies being implemented (not to mention the differences between the leaderships of those countries). The authorities of these countries have not broken with the extractivist exportation model, nor with the capitalist system, which in fact are closely linked. We support any action they undertake that is a move in the right direction, and we come to their defence against the smear campaigns mounted against them, without abandoning our independence and our critical spirit. In all cases, we give preference to our relations with social movements in these countries. The organisations who are members of the CADTM in Argentina and Venezuela conduct an active policy while strictly maintaining their independence and their critical spirit vis à vis the government.

In Europe, major social struggles took place in 2009-2010 (in Eastern European countries, Iceland, Greece, Spain, and France (the major social movement opposing the counter-reform of retirements being pushed by Sarkozy), and the CADTM’s members tackled the issue of debt and rejection of the policies of adjustment in a whole series of activities in support of citizen audits of debt and the need for suspension of debt payment in the countries hardest hit by the crisis. These efforts have contributed greatly to the adoption of those demands and that form of action by various movements who had not yet come out in favour of citizen audits of debt. The CADTM’s efforts don’t explain it all, far from it; but it’s undeniable that it has been a real positive influence on the choices made by other movements in support of citizen audit and toward a radicalisation of their positions on the issue of illegitimate debt. That is true in France, Greece, Portugal, and Spain, and more recently in Italy and Belgium. The list could grow even longer in the months and years ahead. The CADTM has also played a major role in the creation of the ICAN (International Citizen debt Audit Network), which comprises both European and North-African – Tunisia and Egypt – organisations (see
In Asia, the CADTM was especially active in 2010 in a campaign for cancellation of Pakistan’s debts following the tragic catastrophic floods in that country.

In 2009-2010, the CADTM’s action in Africa was very intensive – most notably the work in liaison with the worldwide women’s march in Goma, DRC and intensive preparation for the World Social Forum held in 2011 in Dakar.

Dakar 2011

During 2011, the social and political protest movement poured into streets and public squares all over the planet. It took on a new form and new names – the Arab Spring, the Indignados, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, and so on. The main regions concerned were North Africa and the Middle East (including Israel), Europe, and North America. Admittedly, all countries in those regions were not affected by the wave of mobilisations and the new forms of organization; but everyone saw and heard them. In the countries where it did not take massive form, active minorities tried to get it to take root, with varying results [7]. In the Southern hemisphere of the planet, in 2011, only Chile experienced a movement similar to the Indignados [8]’.

In Tunisia and Egypt – countries that are not exporters of raw materials (except marginally), the living conditions of the populations have worsened over the recent years, leading to social protests that have been violently repressed. Beginning in Tunisia, that was the cause of a massive reaction which quickly took on a political dimension. The people, united in the streets and public squares, confronted the repression (which left 300 dead) and forced the departure of the dictator Ben Ali. He abandoned power on 14 January, 2011. Beginning 25 January, the movement extended to Egypt, whose people had been subjected to neoliberal counter-reforms dictated by the World Bank and the IMF, combined with a dictatorial régime allied with the Western powers like the one in Tunisia (and totally compromised in an alliance with the Israeli authorities). On 11 February, 2011, less than a month after Ben Ali, Mubarak was forced to give up power. The movement spread to other countries in the region, and the repression came down hard on them too. The struggles are still going on; the process has not ended at the regional level. Mass protest movements are developing elsewhere in the region, notably in Morocco (the 20 February movement).

Dakar 2011

In Tunisia and Egypt, the local dominant classes are attempting, with the aid of the major Western powers, the IMF and the World Bank, to keep the situation under control so that the movement will not lead to a social revolution.

The World Social Forum held in Dakar in February 2011 was influenced positively by the movements underway in Tunisia and Egypt. The CADTM was a strong presence; a large CADTM Africa delegation (complemented by CADTM in Europe and Latin America) conducted many activities. The WSF was preceded by caravans that left the different countries of the region (with good participation by the CADTM) to converge in Dakar, stopping first in Kaolack, where the CADTM held an international feminist workshop. The World Social Movements Assembly that served as a kind of closure to the WSF was strongly attended and very combative. The CADTM contributed to the Assembly.

Dakar 2011

Then, the winds of resistance crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa to southern Europe: Portugal (March 2011), Spain (April-October 2011), and Greece (May-July 2011). In July-August, social protest also shook Israel: Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv was occupied, albeit without posing a real danger to the government (and with no attempt to reach out to the Palestinians’ cause). Then in September, the movement succeeded in crossing the North Atlantic. It reached the United States via the East Coast, beginning with New York and Wall Street and extending over a large part of the United States to the West coast, where Oakland saw its most radical manifestation. On 15 October, 2011, the date defined by theIndignados movement in Spain, over a million persons demonstrated around the world, from Japan to the West Coast of the United States, essentially in the most industrialised countries. The debt and denunciation of the banks and the 1% who dominate the planet were central or at least a major theme of these mobilisations.

The Indignados movement in its various expressions has not yet succeeded in rebounding in 2012-2013, except in Portugal (though it has not yet become prolonged in nature there as it did in Spain in 2011). In Morocco, the 20 February movement is fading despite the efforts of ATTAC-CADTM Morocco, among others.
In Spain one very positive extension of the Indignados movement is the citizen debt audit platform which has developed in several cities, and then at the national level in Spain. There is hope, though not the certainty, that a synergy will develop on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) between the citizens’ movements engaged in action on the themes of debt and refusal of austerity.

In Europe, starting in early 2011, a new initiative has developed aimed at replacing the European Social Forum, moribund since 2009-2010. CADTM Europe takes part in the co-ordinating committee and is doing its utmost to see to it that the issue of illegitimate debt is dealt with as combatively as possible.

In Africa, international conflicts, greed for raw materials and foreign military interventions are still sources of suffering for the peoples. The activists of CADTM Africa face these scourges directly in the DRC, Ivory Coast and Mali. The CADTM Africa network condemns the military intervention by France and its allies in Mali in January 2013. The CADTM, which denounces violence against women and violations of human rights, regardless of their perpetrators, opposes the instrumentalising of these crimes to justify foreign interference and war aimed at securing control of raw materials [9]. The international CADTM has expressed its support for the action of CAD Mali, a member of the CADTM network. Elsewhere in the world, the international CADTM supports the action of the PAPDA (a CADTM member) and all movements struggling against the maintaining of foreign military presence in Haiti – where once again, humanitarian motives serve as the pretext for interference.

Tunis 2013

The World Social Forum was held in March 2013 in Tunis with strong Tunisian participation and a radical stance that is no mere façade. The CADTM took an active part with a large (mainly) African delegation and reinforcement from CADTM in Europe and Latin America. The activists of CADTM Tunisia (RAID ATTAC CADTM Tunisia) and Morocco (ATTAC-CADTM Morocco) played a pre-eminent role, in particular in the planning and execution of the World Social Movements Assembly. During the week of the Forum, the RAID ATTAC CADTM office in Tunisia became a beehive of activity where a large group of delegates from social movements throughout the world worked together.
Partly (and even largely) due to the work of RAID ATTAC CADTM the first “Mediterranean Coordination against debt, austerity policies and foreign domination and for a free, united, democratic, social, feminist and environmentally responsible Mediterranean region [10]” was held.

Some twenty political groups took part in answer to the invitation of the Popular Front of Tunisia (in which RAID ATTAC CADTM Tunisia activists participate). The CADTM joined them to provide its point of view of the struggle to abolish odious and illegitimate debt [11]. The final Manifesto largely reflects the CADTM’s point of view [12].

Between 2009 and 2013, as we have underlined from the start of this piece, women have faced a generalized attack aimed at impeding their march towards equality and full emancipation. The CADTM has made numerous efforts to strengthen its participation in the feminist struggle internationally. The result has been concrete initiatives, mainly in Africa and Europe.
In all its initiatives, the CADTM has tried to strengthen the convergences between the different movements who are standing with citizens and peoples in their struggles. In that spirit, it collaborates actively with the ATTAC, Via Campesina, World March of Women, ICAN, Jubilee South and Latindadd movements, with numerous labour unions, and with many other groups. That is also why it participates actively, in a constructive spirit, in the World Social Forum, the Altersummit (in Europe), in the various counter-summits against the power elite of the planet, and many more. In keeping with that spirit of convergence, it supports and takes part in movements such as the Indignadxs, Occupy, etc.

A few additional remarks on the international economic situation and the tasks imposed by it
The increase in the public debt With few exceptions, public and private debt have increased over the past five years. In many countries, debt has increased by 20 to 30%.
The favourable economic situation in certain developing countries can reverse itself.

Despite this increase, in a series of developing countries who are exporters of raw materials, in recent years, reimbursement of the external and internal debt appears less unsustainable than it did, for three basic reasons:
1. The increase in tax revenues and the flow of hard currency since 2004 as a result of increases in the prices of the materials they export on the world market;
2. The decreases in interest rates Interest rates When A lends money to B, B repays the amount lent by A (the capital) as well as a supplementary sum known as interest, so that A has an interest in agreeing to this financial operation. The interest is determined by the interest rate, which may be high or low. To take a very simple example: if A borrows 100 million dollars for 10 years at a fixed interest rate of 5%, the first year he will repay a tenth of the capital initially borrowed (10 million dollars) plus 5% of the capital owed, i.e. 5 million dollars, that is a total of 15 million dollars. In the second year, he will again repay 10% of the capital borrowed, but the 5% now only applies to the remaining 90 million dollars still due, i.e. 4.5 million dollars, or a total of 14.5 million dollars. And so on, until the tenth year when he will repay the last 10 million dollars, plus 5% of that remaining 10 million dollars, i.e. 0.5 million dollars, giving a total of 10.5 million dollars. Over 10 years, the total amount repaid will come to 127.5 million dollars. The repayment of the capital is not usually made in equal instalments. In the initial years, the repayment concerns mainly the interest, and the proportion of capital repaid increases over the years. In this case, if repayments are stopped, the capital still due is higher…

The nominal interest rate is the rate at which the loan is contracted. The real interest rate is the nominal rate reduced by the rate of inflation.
implemented by the central banks of the most industrialised countries;
3. China, in its search for raw materials and for markets on which to sell its merchandise, has granted abundant lines of credit to countries in Africa and Latin America and to certain of its Asian neighbours.

Between 2009 and 2013, as we have underlined from the start of this piece, women have faced a generalized attack aimed at impeding their march towards equality and full emancipation. The CADTM has made numerous efforts to strengthen its participation in the As we pointed out earlier, these high raw-materials prices are strongly influenced by international speculation. But the situation is highly unstable. Raw-materials prices dropped nearly 30% between October 2012 and April 2013. That is partly the result of the decrease in growth in China (the principal importer of raw materials worldwide). A question that can reasonably be asked is: Is the speculative bubble Speculative bubble An economic, financial or speculative bubble is formed when the level of trading-prices on a market (financial assets market, currency-exchange market, property market, raw materials market, etc.) settles well above the intrinsic (or fundamental) financial value of the goods or assets being exchanged. In such a situation, prices diverge from the usual economic valuation under the influence of buyers’ beliefs. on raw materials about to burst? We will know the answer in the coming months. What is certain is that a bubble has formed and that one day it will burst. When will that happen? That is difficult to say; if not in the coming months, then in the next few years.

Since 2006, the CADTM has endeavoured to attract the attention of the peoples of the South and social movements to the need for taking advantage of an economic situation that is favourable to economies that export raw materials in order to change the model by reducing, gradually but surely, their dependence on extractivism and on exports of unprocessed raw materials. The relatively favourable economic climate in which a certain number of countries find themselves must be taken advantage of to conduct audits and to end payment of illegitimate debt.

That also holds for other categories of countries which, like Tunisia and Egypt, have solid arguments for repudiating the debt contracted by the despotic Ben Ali and Mubarak régimes.

The relatively favourable economic situation can reverse itself and catch those countries who have not prepared for it unawares. We must redouble our efforts toward citizen audits of debt in the developing countries in order to work toward repudiation of illegitimate debt and the implementation of a completely different economic and social model.

The strong increase in internal public debt The CADTM has also stressed another constituent element of the debt system: Internal public debt is increasing much faster than external debt. In certain cases, internal public debt is growing even as external debt is diminishing. The internal public debt of emerging countries more than quintupled between 2000 and 2013 – from 1,300 billion dollars to 6,800 billion dollars – while external public debt was increasing more slowly, from 1,000 to 1,500 billion dollars [13]. This new mountain of internal (and external) public debt must be denounced and governments’ reassuring statements must be ignored.

Learning from the experience of the peoples of the South Finally, in the Northern countries, the formulas that have been applied for 30 years in the countries of the Third World are being put into practice on a large scale. We need to learn from the struggles being carried on by the peoples of the South.

The IMF, the World Bank, and the other creditors want to extend their offensive to the entire planet. As a recent independent study of hundreds of reports issued by the IMF to set goals for its member countries has demonstrated, there is no doubt that the Fund wants to extend and broaden its offensive against the economic and social rights of peoples in the three years ahead. We must harbour no illusions about any possible abandonment of the austerity policies supported by the IMF.

Saying “NO” to the Creditors

It is possible and necessary to defy the International Financial Institutions and 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.

, to refuse the diktats of the private creditors in order to create leeway for improving the situation of a country and its people. As we can see in the following examples of several countries that have dared to say “No” to their creditors, it is worth being adamant.

Argentina’s suspension of debt repayments
At the end of December 2001, after three years of economic recession (1999 - 2001) and pressure from a massive popular rebellion that caused the fall of President De La Rua, Argentina decided to suspend payments, amounting to about $90 billion. This represented an important portion of its commercial debt.
Part of the money freed up was reinvested in the social sector, particularly in benefits paid to unemployed ’Piqueteros’. Some would claim that the real reason why Argentina recovered as of 2003-2004 is only because of the increase in the prices of its exports.
This affirmation is, however, false, because if Argentina had not suspended its debt repayments, the revenue from exports would have been swallowed up by them. The government would not have had the means necessary to stimulate economic activity. In addition, thanks to this suspension of payments that lasted until March 2005, Argentina was able to impose a 50% reduction of this debt on its creditors.
The CADTM, as well as numerous social movements and leftist parties proposed to Argentina to abolish, not only the debt that concerned private creditors, but also the IMF and other public creditors. The Argentine government did not follow this recommendation.
It is important to note that Argentina has also suspended payment of $6.5 billion to the Paris Club Paris Club This group of lender States was founded in 1956 and specializes in dealing with non-payment by developing countries.

since 2001. So we see that twelve years later Argentina is still holding out against the Paris Club. In spite of the 44 law suits brought before the World Bank and recent threats of expulsion from the IMF, Buenos Aires maintains its position. Argentina has not borrowed on the financial markets since 2001, but the country continues to function!

The Argentine experience must not be misinterpreted. It is not to be taken as an example, and we always need to adopt a frankly critical point of view. The Argentine government has maintained Argentina within the bounds of capitalism, no structural reforms have been undertaken, Argentine economic growth is largely based on the extraction and the exportation of primary products (genetically modified soya beans, ores,...). Nevertheless, what Argentina has demonstrated is that saying “No” to the creditors is possible. Elsewhere, an authentic left-wing government could go much further on the basis of this precedent.

Ecuador: audit and suspension of payment

Ecuador gives us another example. In July 2007, seven months after his election, the Ecuadorian President Raphael Correa decided to instigate an audit of the country’s debt and the conditions in which it was contracted. An audit commission, made up of 18 experts including the CADTM, was created for this purpose. Its final report was presented after 14 months of investigation. It showed in particular that numerous loans had been contracted in violation of basic rules. In November 2008, the new administration, on the basis of this report decided to suspend the repayment of bonds payable Payable A sum of money that one person (debtor) or group of people owes to another (creditor). in 2012 and 2030. Finally, the government of this small country came out on top in the tussle with North American bankers and those holding Ecuadorian securities. It repurchased bonds for less than $1 billion, which had a nominal value of $3.2 billion. Public finance thus saved $2.2 billion dollars of debt stock Debt stock The total amount of debt to which must be added $200 million a year (between 2008 and 2030) in 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. payments. This allowed the government to allocate more means to social projects in health, education, social assistance, and communication infrastructure development. The Ecuadorian constitution now prohibits private debt from being transformed into public debt and illegitimate debt from being contracted [14].

In addition, Ecuador no longer recognises the World Bank’s jurisdiction in international disputes court. It has rejected free trade treaty propositions from the US and UE. The Ecuadorian President has announced his intention to audit the current bi-lateral investment treaties. Finally, the Quito authorities have put an end to the US military presence on its territory.

In the case of Ecuador, we must again be careful not to hold up this ongoing experience as a model to be emulated. Critical analysis remains indispensable. Nonetheless, the Ecuadorian audit and unilateral suspension of payments experience shows that saying “No” to creditors is perfectly possible, and there are advantages to be gained in terms of making more means available for public health, education, and other sectors.

Iceland’: refusal to pay the demands made by the Netherlands and the UK

After its banking system collapsed in 2008, Iceland refused to compensate the British and Dutch savers who had put deposits amounting to €3.9 billion into subsidiaries of Iceland’s failed private banks. The British and Dutch authorities covered the losses to their citizens and presented the bill to Iceland. Under popular pressure (demonstrations, occupations, and referendums), the Reykjavik authorities refused to pay. Britain put Iceland on its terrorist list, froze its assets and, in conjunction with the Netherlands, sued Iceland the EFTA court [15]. Meanwhile, Iceland has completely blocked the outflow of capital. In the end, Iceland is faring better than the other European countries that accepted the conditions imposed by creditors. Here again we must not present Iceland as a model to be imitated, but learn from its experience.

These examples demonstrate that saying “NO” to creditors leads neither to catastrophe nor to the collapse of a country.

We must also recall that these experiences were preceded or accompanied by a popular movement that put pressure on the governments concerned. It is therefore important that knowledge of this at times, complex question must conveyed to the whole of the population. The task of a public audit is to raise public awareness. The illegitimacy of public debt must become visible to the majority of people.

To conclude this workshop, we repeat that the above examples are not to be taken to as models to be followed, but that these experiences are a source of important political lessons!

For the CADTM, cancellation of the debt is not an end in itself. It is an essential condition – albeit insufficient – for ensuring the fulfilment of human rights. Thus it is necessary to look beyond the cancellation of public debt for the means to achieve a form of social justice that is environmentally sound. Debt is part of a system that must be combated in its entirety. Together with debt cancellation, other radical alternatives must be brought into play. These include such measures as:

  • eliminating hunger, poverty and inequality
  • ensuring equality between men and women in all spheres of life imposing a new financial discipline by re-instating strict regulation of the flow of capital and goods, taxing capital (global taxes, wealth taxes), lifting bank secrecy, and banning tax havens, speculation and usury
  • mobilizing resources that do not generate indebtedness
  • implementing alternatives that free men, women and children from all forms of oppression, whether social, patriarchal, neo-colonial, racial, caste-based, political, cultural, sexual or religious
  • implementing an ambitious environmental policy aimed at re-stabilizing the climate
  • ensuring economic, political and food sovereignty for peoples.
    placing a ban on the patenting of living organisms
  • achieving demilitarization on a global scale
  • ensuring people’s right to move and settle freely
  • affirming the superiority of human rights over commercial law, and obliging governments, international financial institutions and companies to respect the various international instruments in force, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948), the Convention on the Political Rights of Women (1952), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, 1966), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1981), the Declaration on the Right to Development (DRD, 1986), the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (1990), the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998) and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).
  • ensuring people’s sovereignty over their lives and their future, which means placing natural resources in the public domain, together with the results of Research & Development, other common assets of humanity and strategic sectors of the economy.

Éric Toussaint is President of CADTM Belgium and member of the international secretariat of the worldwide CADTM network.

Translation: Mike Krolikowski, Ümit Hussein, Charles La Via, Matt Jenkins


[1In Sub-Saharan Africa, there were student protests in Burkina Faso in March – April 2011, in Togo in May-June 2011, and in Senegal with a movement entitled “Y’en a marre” (we’ve had enough) against the authoritarianism of President A. Wade in June 2011. These referred explicitly to the on-going Arab spring. In Senegal, the World Social Forum, held in February 2011 on the tenth anniversary of its creation, was extremely successful in the wake of the on-going Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. (See Olivier Bonfond ).

[2See Franck Gaudichaud, “Chile: When Triumphant Neoliberalism Begins to Crack.”

[3See press release: “The CADTM Africa network condemns the military intervention by France and its allies in Mali”

[4See Pauline Imbach, “Tunis: Birth of a Common Front of Political Organisations Against Debt”, published on 25th March 2013

[5See Dufaux and Eric Toussaint: “The creditor’s must be disobeyed and their demands for reimbursement of illegitimate debt refused!”

[6See the text of the Manifesto:

[7In sub-Saharan Africa, student mobilisations took place in Burkina Faso in March-April 2011 and in Togo in May-June 2011, and in Senegal a movement called Y’en a marre against the authoritarianism of President Wade arose in June 2011. They explicitly took inspiration from the Arab Spring then underway. In Senegal, the World Social Forum – which met in February 2011, ten years after its founding – was a major success in resonance with the uprising then in progress in Tunisia and Egypt (see Olivier Bonfond, ).

[8See Franck Gaudichaud, “When triumphant neoliberalism begins to crack: Reflections on the awakening of social movements and the “Chilean May”

[9See the press release “The CADTM Africa network condemns the military intervention by France and its allies in Mali”

[10See Pauline Imbach, “unis: Birth of a Common Front of Political Organisations Against Debt,” published 25 March, 2013

[11See Marie Dufaux and Eric Toussaint “The creditors must be disobeyed and their demands for reimbursement of illegitimate debt refused!”

[12See the text of the manifesto:

[13Source: JP Morgan, cited by The Economist, “Sovereign debt markets: An illusory haven,” 20 April 2013, p. 63.

[14See Eric Toussaint, “La Constitution équatorienne : un modèle en matière d’endettement public”, , 27 December, 2010 (in French only).

[15The EFTA (European Free Trade Association) court, which is in no way a progressive organisation, has judged in favour of Iceland’s position. See CADTM, “EFTA court dismisses ’Icesave’ claims against Iceland and its people”,, 29 January 2013.

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France.
He is the author of Greece 2015: there was an alternative. London: Resistance Books / IIRE / CADTM, 2020 , Debt System (Haymarket books, Chicago, 2019), Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012, etc.
See his bibliography:
He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He was the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt from April 2015 to November 2015.

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