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LWF Tenth Assembly: External Debts to Developing Countries Should Be Cancelled

Call for International Mechanism toward Justice-Oriented Debt Management

WINNIPEG, Canada, 31 July 2003 The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has asked International Financial Institutions to acknowledge that part of the debt given to developing countries is illegitimate and odious. "The debt is the responsibility of the creditors and has to be cancelled," the LWF Tenth Assembly said in a public statement here July 30.

The Assembly noted that the debt burden had increased and was a major barrier against poverty eradication and fulfillment of basic human rights for all.

In the statement, the highest decision-making body of the LWF noted that the present financial external debt could only be understood if seen in relationship to the historic exploitation of colonialism. "External debt has in fact become a modern tool for domination," the Assembly stated.

"Moreover, research has shown that substantial parts of the external debts of countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are illegitimate. Loans were freely offered to illegitimate and undemocratic governments which then contracted these loans. In many cases, the contracted debt was misused or diverted, both by illegitimate and legitimate governments. Only a minor part has been actually used for social development," the Assembly noted.

The Assembly called on LWF member churches to challenge commercial banks, which are or have been involved in illegitimate lending to take their responsibility and cancel their claims.

The Tenth Assembly underlined the need to develop mechanism at an international level that would help establish a justice-oriented debt management. "This mechanism should ensure full and active participation of indebted countries, securing that the lenders take their responsibility," it noted.

The Assembly urged the LWF to advocate for trade and development policies that uphold the objective of enhancing human well-being to which the international human rights instruments give legal expression.

This requires the LWF to initiate an international campaign involving member churches, communities and individuals, and promote access to basic goods and services. "In particular the LWF was urged to promote trade and development policies, which secure access for all to safe water, adequate nutrition, shelter, healthcare including medication and primary education, noted the statement.

Further, the LWF churches were encouraged "to hold international financial institutions, governments and corporations accountable to respect these fundamental human rights."

The Assembly urged the global communion of Lutheran churches to continue campaigning with individual governments to ensure access to treatment, medicines and public health programs for people living with HIV/AIDS and other diseases, specifically as they concern Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), trade rules and the responsibility of governments to ensure that these health requirements are provided.

The Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is taking place 21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the Healing of the World." It is being hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).

There are around 820 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth Assembly including 380 delegates from the 133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years. Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets annually, and by its Executive Committee.

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