Council of Europe: Cancel Haiti's debts now!

28 January 2010

Council of Europe: Cancel Haiti's debts now!

A call from SP Senator Tiny Kox on behalf of the United Left group in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for Haiti's debts to be immediately cancelled won broad support in the 47-country body. “Giving money now to combat the results of the catastrophic earthquake then shortly after demanding money in payment of foreign debts makes absolutely no sense,” said Kox.

Senator Kox expressed his appreciation of the recent $200m plus reduction by creditors of Haiti's debt, but noted that there remained more than $600m to be repaid. Social democratic, Christian Democrat, Liberal and Conservative political groups today gave their backing to the call to end the fleecing of bankrupt Haiti and instead to give the country help. In the Dutch national parliament Development spokesman Ewout Irrgang had previously made a similar call on the SP's behalf to the government of the Netherlands.

Tiny KoxDuring the debate on the question of what Europe can now do for Haiti, it was clear that while everyone was shocked by the extent of the disaster, they were also glad to see how massive was the aid being offered in response. “We are seeing a wave of solidarity across the globe,” said Kox. “Twenty-five years of neoliberal promotion of egotism have clearly not yet been able to destroy humanity's fundamental understanding of the need for solidarity.”

Following the example of the group of the United Left in the European Parliament, the SP Senator warned of the dangers of competition amongst donor countries and NGOs. He described it as 'hopeful' that earlier in the week, in Montreal, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had declared that “it’s important that we see ourselves as partners with Haiti – not patrons.” In Montreal spokespeople from the international community last Monday promised that Haiti would receive help in its reconstruction.

In the Council of Europe debate a large number of speakers called for better international coordination of aid under the leadership of the United Nations. The feeling is also growing that in the case of future disasters international assistance must be more speedily provided.

On behalf of the United left group, Kox proposed looking into how, in addition to material support from the European Union, the United States and other wealthy countries, the Council of Europe could offer specialist knowledge and expertise in the construction of improved social and political infrastructure, of which the country was in dire need. "We can't blame Mother Earth for this earthquake,” said Kox. “Its simply in her nature. But we can certainly take steps to ensure that preventive measures are taken to protect people from the results of such an earthquake and to limit the damage. Rich countries can do that now, so let's help poor countries too to help themselves to create better protection.”

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