World leaders and finance ministers of G20 and G7, business groups, academics and development organizations descended on Marrakesh, Morocco, for the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings from October 9th to 15th. IMF head Kristalina Georgieva reports that the World Economy Lost $3.7 Trillion Due to Pandemic and Economic Shocks since 2020 and that slow and unequal growth continues. African Bishops focus on High Debt Levels and Poor Economic Growth.
“Debt, climate issues and poor economic growth top the agenda during these meetings,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA Network. LeCompte was in Marrakesh for the IMF and World Bank meetings. “It's important that we are meeting in Africa where the average income hasn't changed since 2015 and the region is dealing with a serious climate crisis."
This is the first time since 1973 in Kenya that the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings have taken place in Africa. World leaders and World Bank attending the meetings should have promoted urgent debt relief, aid and lending policies to address the interlinked crises African countries face, noted a body that represented African Catholic Bishops.
The Catholic Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), through their Justice, Peace and Development Commission issued a statement while the meetings were held for the first time in 50 years in an African location.
“To successfully address debt crises, it is crucial to tackle the complexities arising from multiple creditors. This necessitates the coordination of efficient, prompt, and comprehensive policies that encompass both public and private creditors,” the Bishops said.
The statement, “A Call to Leaders Actions for a True Jubilee of Hope in Africa,” followed on Pope Francis’ declaration of year 2025 as a Jubilee year, under the motto 'Pilgrims of Hope'.
The faith leaders pointed out that in Africa nearly 600 million people live in poverty and near 280 million are hungry, calling to remove the obstacle of debt that prevents many countries from having the resources to invest in crisis response and protect their most vulnerable. They recalled that in 1999, St. John Paul II then Holy Father linked debt relief to the fight against poverty, stating that the message remains true today.
The bishops referred to decisions taking place regarding increasing international development banks’ ability to lend. “The momentum for reform of international financial institutions presents an opportunity to adapt them according to present needs and requirements. This can be achieved through strengthening human development values in their missions, boosting their financial capital, and improving their instruments for financing,” the Bishops said. “Any additional resources [should come with] increased accountability and meaningful involvement of the communities and societies affected by their programmes.”
The Catholic leaders also asked for policies to prevent new cycles of indebtedness, by “setting foundations for responsible lending and borrowing, debt contract authorization and disclosure safeguards and debt reduction clauses that trigger automatically when debtors suffer natural disasters or other shocks.”
"African religious leaders are on the front lines of countries facing debt, climate and food crises," stated Aldo Caliari, the Senior Director of Policy for Jubilee USA Network. Jubilee USA supports and advises the African Catholic Bishops on economic issues. It is from their inputs that "Africa Catholic Bishops are calling for real changes in the financial system to protect their people and our planet."
The statement referred also to the threat of climate change in Africa, the most climate-vulnerable region and the one least responsible for global warming. “In the face of a planet that is on the brink of becoming uninhabitable, we pray that [our leaders] make choices that promote life, not only for themselves but also for future generations, as it is written: choose life, so that and your children may live (Dt 30:19),” they added.
Since its foundation, the Jubilee USA calls to "Defusing the Debt Time Bomb: The Role of an Effective Crisis Prevention and Resolution Architecture." Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 750 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee USA wants an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA wins critical global financial reforms and won more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people.
On October 10, 2023, the IMF releases the Global Financial Stability Report and raises global concerns over continued inflation, the banking system and climate investments. On its side, Jubilee USA released its Statement on this Report. There it says, "The growing risks to financial stability are deeply concerning. Less financial stability means more conflict, more poverty and more crises. The IMF warns that inflation-fighting measures will need to continue.” However, when we fight inflation raising interest rates, creates higher debt loads for countries and makes food too expensive for all, this way we increase poor countries’ conflicts, poverty and crises. Also when "for the many developing countries at risk of debt crises, the IMF calls for preemptive debt restructurings.” In our world, "The loss of human life due to war and conflict is unacceptable. Beyond the deaths, conflict also hurts our global economy and the poor everywhere. High interest rates for extended periods will likely infect the banking system and impact all people as borrowers cannot repay their loans."
Therefore, the Statement call on attention that, "In developing countries, climate investments will need to rise to $2 trillion per year by 2030. The IMF expects private finance will need to provide the lion’s share of that amount. Developing countries need resources to tackle climate change. If they do not, it will impact financial stability.” Therefore, "All resources must be connected to zero emission targets."