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CADTM - 30 years of struggle against debt
by CADTM , Chris Den Hond
16 November 2020

CADTM - Committee for the Cancellation of Illegitimate Debt = 30 years of struggle against debt

Badly impacted by Covid-19, our meeting days largely took place online, with activists contributing from countries such as DRCongo, Morocco, Sri Lanka, France, Brazil, India, South Africa and Argentina.

A short flashback, to the time when the CADTM turned 20:

Myriam Bourgy:

An organization such as the CADTM shows that it is possible to act directly on an issue such as debt which seems elusive but is essential, in the South as in the North.

Virginie De Romanet:

The change of name in 2013 was highly relevant moving from “Committee for the Cancellation of the Third World Debt” to “Committee for the Cancellation of Illegitimate Debt”, since we don’t work only on issues in the South, but also in the North.


In the 1980s, Fidel Castro in Cuba and Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso took steps toward debt cancellation.

Éric Toussaint:

Already in 1985, Thomas Sankara was convinced that repayment of public debt had to be stopped. On 16 October 1987, 33 years and two days ago, he was assassinated. Because he was a threat for other heads of state and for big powers such as France, which saw Burkina Faso as indeed other West African countries as belonging to its backyard. Next Fidel Castro called for the suspension of debt payments under the motto: debt is unpayable and it is immoral. This combined to produce a powerful movement of solidarity with Third-World countries and in 1989 a big campaign was launched in France that was called “Ça suffat comme ci”, playing on “ça suffit comme ça” (Enough is enough). The CADTM was created in March 1990 in the wake of this major initiative in France which itself reflected what was happening in Latin America and in Africa.

Virginie De Romanet:

I knew nothing about the issue of debt. I had some vague idea that poor countries had contracted loans and since they were poor, they couldn’t manage to repay. I was far from suspecting that their debt had been deliberately created to uphold dictatorships, the capitalist system and that those countries had repaid several times over and were still just as indebted, if not more so.

Najla Mulhondi:

For me the link between colonialism and debt is the relationship to oppression, to unfair, inequitable and even inhuman domination.

Eva Betavatzi:

I found out about the CADTM because in 2013-2014 when I was living in Athens I lost my job and wondered why. Everybody was telling me that it was because of the debt crisis, that Greece was a debt colony. So I became interested in the debt issue and that is how I found out about the CADTM and started to work with the team to try and understand where the Greek debt was coming from. In 2015, I participated in the Truth Committee on Greek Public Debt. They had opened their field of enquiry into private debt, particularly that related to housing, since at the time many Greek people were facing eviction for non-payment of their mortgage. There were a staggering number of non-performing loans, i.e. of loans that were not paid back to the bank, and the Troika, especially the ECB (European Central Bank), insisted that these loans be bought by vulture funds to “sanitize” the banks’ balance sheets. That is how I saw the connection between Greek public debt and issues of private debt.

Anaïs Carton:

I have just joined the CADTM. I am the newest member of the team. I am quite committed in the struggle for the rights of undocumented people and I am trying to see the connection between that form of domination and the issues of debt and migration.

Robin Delobel:

A significant moment I keenly remember is the World Social Forum in Tunis in 2013 when I met many members of the international network, and also in Morocco. In 2016 I attended a counter-summit organized by Attac CADTM-Morocco where I met lots of Moroccan activists.

Christine Vanden Daelen:

Seeing all the wayward trends in international cooperation and realizing that it was the exact opposite of what I wanted and hoped for, I thought: “How can I act internationally while remaining in Belgium?”

Joaldo Dominguez:

I’m interested in debt because I think it is a historic device for domination, that prevents peoples from developing correctly and undermines a people’s potential. So I think that if countries organize citizens’ audits of debt to check what part is legitimate and what part is not and must not be paid, they will be able to develop lots of projects in the fields of health, education and infrastructure.

Eva Betavatzi:

We are now involved in more and more fieldwork. We support movements that struggle for healthcare, for housing; yesterday we talked with a movement for education. Within these popular movements there is a growing interest in the issues of private and public debt. That is how we have extended our field of enquiry.


Director: Chris Den Hond

Chris Den Hond

a participé à la fondation du CADTM Belgique en 1990 et est vidéo-journaliste. Il écrit sur les luttes au Moyen-Orient où il se rend régulièrement. Il collabore au Monde diplomatique et à Orient XXI.