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April 01, 2020

Avaaz to G20: offer debt relief to fight COVID-19

topic: Humanitarian Aid
type: Petition
by: Yair Oded

With insufficient healthcare systems and fragile systems of governance, some of the world’s poorest countries face an incredibly high risk of a humanitarian disaster and economic collapse as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In many nations in Africa, South America, and South Asia, a breakout of the disease could result in a far greater devastation and higher death toll than in the rest of the world, with millions of lives on the line.

There, governments haven’t the resources to provide the proper medical treatments needed to combat the virus, on a large enough scale and are unable to extend financial support to citizens hurt by the economic collapse that accompanies the pandemic. 

Such difficulties are exacerbated by these governments’ billions of dollars worth of debt to wealthy countries, the interest rates on which have soared since the beginning of the crisis. 

As the pandemic progresses, and the number of infections continues to rise in the Global South, more and more voices - including from institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - call on the world’s wealthy nations to provide immediate debt relief to developing countries who desperately need these resources to tackle the outbreak of the virus. 

A petition launched by Avaaz calls on the G20, the world’s 20 strongest economies, to cancel the debt obligations of the world’s poorest countries in order to enable them to divert all resources at their disposal to dealing with the pandemic. 

“We are deeply concerned that the world’s poorest countries won’t have the resources to contain the coronavirus. We call on you to save lives by agreeing to cancel their debt, starting with an immediate suspension of debt payments. We also urge you to provide additional funding so all governments can spend money fast to contain the virus, boost their healthcare systems, and ensure people can afford to stay at home,” the authors of the petition state. 

The petition’s authors also highlight past incidents in which enormous debts were wiped out to assist struggling nations. This was the case in 2005, when the G8 finance ministers cancelled $40 billion in debt owed by the world’s most indebted countries, as well as after the Ebola outbreak, when the IMF cancelled $100 million in debt for the countries worst-hit by the pandemic. 

The petition has so far garnered over 700,000 signatures. Help Avaaz reach 1,000,000 supporters in order to exert the greatest pressure possible on G20 leaders. 

In these times of global chaos, it is important that we, the citizens of the world, demand that our leaders act with humaneness, solidarity, and responsibility - recognising the importance of supporting those most vulnerable to the pandemic, whether in our own nations or on a global scale. 

Image: James Bradley via Flickr.