20 July, 2016
WASHINGTON – A United Nations global development summit begins its fourth day of difficult negotiations in Nairobi, Kenya. The member countries of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) define the institution’s purpose and economic and development focuses every four years. The more than 10,000 attendees include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the Vatican’s Cardinal Peter Turkson, heads of state and finance ministers. As delegates tire of round the clock negotiations, less than 48 hours remain to reach a deal that renews the UN agency’s mandate.
“We are facing a real battle on debt and tax policies,” stated Eric LeCompte, who serves on various UN debt and tax expert groups. “We are running out of time to reach an agreement. Amazingly, the world’s poorest people, the World Bank and the G20 all rely on the work of this institution.” LeCompte is the executive director of the religious development coalition Jubilee USA.
On Tuesday, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, the Pope’s chief emissary to the United Nations in Geneva, charged the delegates gathered in Nairobi to “help developing countries to attain long-term debt sustainability.” He asked the summit to “aim at a high level of ambition” and seek to support developing countries. Jurkovič also reminded all delegates of the UN mandate to address the predatory behavior of so-called “vulture funds.” The Vatican leader also made some of the strongest statements on trade policy noting, “Most importantly any development and growth strategy needs to be centered on the human person and on the primacy of human work. The Holy See believes that in order to achieve this result it is of primary importance to integrate the different social and economic dimensions of development, so as to create an international system balanced on an idea of development that would be truly sustainable, inclusive and equitable at all levels.”
“The Vatican delegation is the moral compass of this summit and they are bringing sides together to ensure we have a deal that lifts people and promotes the common good.” noted LeCompte. “Their presence and their words remind us that people’s lives are at stake.”
One of the highest ranking Vatican officials landed in Nairobi on Tuesday night to bring the message of Pope Francis to the UNCTAD meetings. Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, will headline a high-level session on Wednesday afternoon.
The Nairobi summit comes amid increasing debt crises across Africa, including significant crises in countries like Mozambique and Ghana. Thirty of the 38 countries that received international debt relief over the past twenty years are African.
“UNCTAD built the consensus for billions of dollars in international debt relief that benefited the world’s poorest countries,” stated LeCompte. “This year’s summit can continue that legacy by promoting improved debt restructuring and responsible lending and borrowing.”
Read the intervention from Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič at the XIV Ministerial Conference of UNCTAD
Read about a Ministerial Round Table on sovereign debt: Re-Assessing Debt Sustainability in the Contemporary Economy
Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 80 religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.