Letter to Minister Manley Re: Southern Africa food crisis - July 19, 2002

The Honourable John Manley
Minister of Finance House of Commons
Ottawa, K1A 0A6

July 19, 2002

Dear Minister Manley,

Southern Africa is facing its worst food crisis in over a decade, with millions of people facing starvation. The UN World Food Programme has launched an emergency appeal for assistance, and Canada is responding promptly and generously.

As development, human rights, church and environmental organizations, our concern extends beyond the need for emergency aid. We are dismayed to see millions of dollars continue to be taken out of the region by creditors like the World Bank.

The Halifax Initiative Coalition asks that you, as a Governor of the World Bank and IMF, press for a complete halt on multilateral debt payments by impoverished countries, and for the complete cancellation of these debts. More than 300,000 people may die in the coming months in southern Africa because of the food shortages. 60 million people are at risk. Yet more than US$150 million is taken out of these countries every year by the World Bank. Payment of the interest alone is over US$60 million annually.

At the G8 summit, Canada took the lead in promising a new era of partnership with Africa. This partnership has to begin today, with the cancellation of multilateral debt. People in these countries cannot wait for slow and inadequate processes like the HIPC Initiative.

The roles of the World Bank and IMF go beyond debt, of course. We would like to request a meeting with you prior to the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings, so that we may discuss various aspects of international finance and the reform of financial institutions.


Pamela Foster

Members of the Halifax Initiative are: Canadian Labour Congress, Social Affairs Office of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, CUSO, Kairos: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, MiningWatch Canada, North-South Institute, Oxfam Canada, Results Canada, Rights & Democracy, Social Justice Committee, World Interaction Mondiale.