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FOCUS September 2000 Volume 21

Freedom from Debt

Editorial

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides the principle that everyone as a member of society is "entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality." It is important to note "national effort" and "international co-operation" under this principle.

People who are suffering under perverse economic and social conditions will find this principle most appropriate. The accumulation of national debts supposedly for development programs in many countries in Africa and Asia raises many questions. How did the debts come about in the first place? Who should be held responsible for their failure to provide the promised development, and their success in effectively bringing suffering to people? What national efforts and international co-operation led to this situation?

Relieving national debts will certainly create an opportunity for the governments and peoples in affected countries the chance to start anew. The basic need is to free resources within countries from debt servicing and channel them instead to economic and social support systems for those most in need.

Following the human rights principle of accountability, debt relief should not release persons and institutions from the responsibility for causing the problem in the first place. Debt relief should benefit the people who suffered.


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