News Release

Competing World Forums: Africa Debt

Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and Tony Blair were among the speakers today at the World Economic Forum, a gathering of CEOs and government officials in Davos, a Swiss ski resort. They addressed issues of poverty in Africa. AP reports that the singer Bono praised Gates, saying: “He is a brainy man and he thinks extreme poverty is stupid.”

Meanwhile, the World Social Forum is meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, including tens of thousands of activists and thousands of non-profit organizations from over 100 countries working against what they call the corporatization of the globe. A focus of the World Social Forum this year is the massive debt that poor countries are continuing to pay.

The following people are at the World Social Forum:

TAOUFIK BEN ABDALLAH
DEMBA MOUSSA DEMBELE
“We are pleased to see Mr. Clinton, Mr. Blair, and Mr. Gates taking an interest in the struggles of African peoples,” said Demba Moussa Dembele of the Forum on African Alternatives in Senegal. “But will that meeting mean anything? We are tired of hearing noble speeches about our continent, no matter how famous the speaker. Their pledges will be worse than meaningless unless fundamental changes are made in the global economic system and unless the huge debt burden that has been forced on our people illegitimately is eliminated. Fine words in the absence of firm action will placate some, but consign our needs to a heap of hypocritical and forgotten promises.” Program coordinator of Enda, an environmental group in Senegal, and a coordinator for the African Social Forum, Taoufik Ben Abdallah said today: “If they cancel the debt, then they lose a political tool that they have been using to pressure poor countries with on a number of issues. They have been unwilling to let go of that political tool.”
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NJOKI NJOROGE NJEHU
Njoki Njoroge Njehu of Solidarity Action Network in Action (Kenya) said today: “We are telling anyone who wishes to help Africa: We are not requesting charity; we are demanding justice. Our continent has been exploited and abused by powerful outsiders for centuries. After slavery and colonialism, the latest tool for imposing foreign interests on us is the lethal combination of debt and the economic conditions of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. We can no longer tolerate a system that demands the most impoverished continue to pay the wealthiest for the privilege of struggling to eat, to breathe, to live. We demand justice!”
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SOREN AMBROSE
Based in Washington, D.C., Ambrose works with the 50 Years Is Enough Network, which focuses on global debt issues.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167