Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, International Policy Committee
U.S. Catholic Conference
October 4, 1999
The U.S. Catholic Conference applauds Wednesday's announcement by President Clinton that the United States would forgive 100 percent of the debts owed to the United States by some of the world's most highly indebted poor countries so long as the relief is used to finance basic human needs. It reflects an important advance beyond the Cologne Initiative and is another step toward achieving substantial if not outright cancellation of the debt of the world's most heavily indebted poor countries. By doing so, the President has demonstrated the U.S. commitment to improving the lives and well being of millions of the world's most impoverished people.
We are also encouraged by the Administration's interest in making poverty reduction a central goal of the economic conditions attached to debt relief, and we appreciate the Administration's emphasis on the need for citizen participation in decision making processes on development priorities. This was a major part of the appeal from Bishop Fiorenza, our Conference President, to President Clinton, a few weeks ago.
We remain concerned, however, that the amount of debt relief provided under the Cologne initiative may leave too many countries with debt service burdens that continue to absorb too much of their scarce internal revenues, effectively robbing them of the funds needed for health care, education, and other basic needs.
Furthermore, the success of this new initiative depends on the resources creditors provide. The President's leadership will undoubtedly signal other creditor nations and the international financial institutions to do their share to provide debt relief. But the U.S. Congress, too, must do its part by approving the President's supplemental request of $970 million to finance bilateral and multilateral debt relief.
While the challenge to eliminate the debts of the world's poorest countries remains, the President's announcement brings the world community a step closer to a just solution to this pressing problem. We will continue to urge the Administration and Congress to do more to respond to the appeals for debt relief from our Holy Father and the Church around the world.