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Response by the Presidency on Behalf of the G8 to the Jubilee 2000 Petition

Birmingham, 16 May 1998

On behalf of the G8 Heads of State and Government gathered here in Birmingham, I welcome the commitment so many of you have shown today to help the poorest countries in the world. Your presence here is a truly impressive testimony to the solidarity of people in our own countries with those in the world's poorest and most indebted. It is also a public acknowledgement of the crucial importance of the question of debt.

I can assure you that all leaders here fully share your concern over the debt burden faced by many poor countries. More than that, we are all committed to helping heavily indebted poor countries free themselves from the burden of their unsustainable debts. This is why over the years we have, where possible, cancelled bilateral aid debt and in the context of the Paris Club rescheduled or cancelled substantial proportions of other bilateral debt. Aware that this still was not enough, we initiated in Lyon two years ago, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative designed to ensure a sustainable exit from their debt burden for all the most affected countries. Over the last three years, official creditors in the Paris Club have forgiven in favour of the poorest countries US$ 8 billion with more than US$ 5 billion of that relief going to Africa.

Since then we have focused our attention on implementing the Initiative successfully. This requires a partnership between creditors and debtors and effort on both sides. Debt relief in itself is no magic solution; it can only be part of the answer to achieving sustainable development. Where a country shows a real will to pursue policies that will relieve poverty and build a sound economy, we will do our part and contribute the funds necessary to reduce their debt burden to a sustainable level. This will ensure that the resources freed up are put to good, productive use, generating growth and bringing real benefits – in the form of better education, better health, and sound, honest government – to the poorest people. We will continue to support such efforts through our development assistance programmes, through which G8 countries currently deliver some US$10 billion a year to heavily indebted poor countries.

So far six countries have qualified for debt relief from the HIPC initiative totalling around US$ 5.7 billion. Among those six countries, Uganda has been the first to complete the process, recently receiving additional debt relief of nearly US$ 650 million. In addition to these countries, two more countries have already benefited from preliminary positive indications regarding their possible eligibility under the HIPC Initiative.

Our ambition, reaffirmed by all G8 leaders today, is to ensure the speedy and determined implementation of the initiative and encourage all eligible countries to take the policy measures needed to embark on the process as soon as possible, so that all can be in the process by the year 2000. We will work with the others concerned to ensure that all eligible countries get the relief they need to secure a lasting exit from their debt problems. We are keenly aware of the importance of making progress. For the sake of our citizens in our own and all other countries, we must not fail.

Source: Released at the Birmingham G8 Summit

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