‘Cancel all debt’: Activists disrupt IMF, World Bank annual meet

Call for reparations as solution for stabilising global economy during debt restructuring panel

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Wednesday 12 October 2022
CodePink activists Olivia DiNucci and Nancy Mancias disrupted the panel with a banner asking the institutions to “cancel all debts.” Photo: CodePink__

International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group annual meeting was disrupted October 11, 2022 by two activists from a women-led peace group. CodePink demonstrators interrupted the debt restructuring panel and demanded cancelling all debt. 

The boards of governors of the IMF and World Bank Group normally meet once a year to discuss the work of their respective institutions. The annual meeting is taking place in Washington, District of Columbia, from October 10-16, 2022. 

Government debt levels, rising interest rates and the risks of a systemic sovereign debt crisis were topics to be discussed for the panel titled ‘IMF Seminar: Debt Restructuring: Why Too Little and Too Late’

Read more: Why African countries are reluctant to take up COVID-19 debt relief

CodePink activists Olivia DiNucci and Nancy Mancias disrupted the panel with a banner asking the institutions to “cancel all debts.” The women shouted, “cancel all debt, reparations now,” even as security personnel escorted them out of the venue. 

A press statement quoted Mancias: 

The IMF and World Bank are loan sharks trapping countries into debt. We need localisation and ecological sustainability for the people, planet, and peace. We are calling on the IMF and World Bank to end its debt-trap monetary practices, which are causing countries to sink further down into economic crises.

The solution to stabilising the global economy is not going to be found in debt restructuring but rather in debt cancellation, the group claimed.

The path to economic sovereignty for the Global South is not through the predatory loans offered by the IMF/World Bank, CodePink further said. It is through reparations of all wealth and resources that have been stolen from countries through colonisation, illegal invasions, occupations and extraction of oil, gas, and coal, it said. 

United Nations Development Programme, a UN agency, called for debt relief for 54 countries on the same day as the protest, October 11, 2022. Without action, poverty will rise and desperately needed investments in climate adaptation and mitigation will not happen, the agency warned. 

A UNDP paper — Avoiding ‘Too Little Too Late’ on International Debt Relief — highlighted the ripple effects of government responses to the recent economic crisis and the potential impacts. 

Read more: Somalia drought: FAO asks for $131 million to aid relief efforts

The 54 countries with severe debt problems include 28 of the top 50 most climate-vulnerable nations in the world, the body said. 

Although they are home to more than half of the world’s poorest people, they represent little more than three per cent of the global economy, it added.

Down To Earth had earlier reported that almost 60 per cent of Africa’s low-income countries are in debt distress or at high risk of it. These places have record levels of private as well as public debt. 

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