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Caritas leaders plead with G-7: Don’t forget struggling Africa



John Burger - published on 05/21/23

Continent needs debt relief and other means to deal with increasing food insecurity, bishops say.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s in-person visit to the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, will help keep the crisis in his country on the front page. But a group of Catholic bishops are sending a message to the meeting of leaders of the world’s most prominent democracies: Don’t forget Africa!

The continent “has been hit hard by multiple crises in recent years,” say the bishops, who are leaders in African Caritas organizations. “The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, energy, health, economic, and war crises have disproportionately affected Africa, where the largest share of the world’s poor live.”

Caritas is an international Catholic aid and development agency.

The bishops, in a letter, urged the Group of Seven to “take bold action to support Africa in this time of need, including debt cancellation, increased aid, and fairer trade policies.”

“Effective and reliable processes to alleviate unpayable debts require (1) Reconnecting debt relief and human development needs, (2) Covering all creditors, (3) Securing an automatic debt standstill, and (4) Making debt relief accessible to all developing countries in need.”

Food insecurity, war

Africa has been struggling with war, sectarian conflict, and food shortages — the latter of which has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, a major world supplier of wheat. Most recently, war has come to Sudan, where the military and a rebel group are vying for power [photo above].

In Nigeria, meanwhile, Christians continue to be at risk of Islamist violence. In the latest incident, Fulani herders allegedly killed more than 100 Christians in villages throughout the north of the country.

Saying that last year over 300 million Africans experienced food insecurity, the bishops called for greater access to Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), an international reserve asset created by the International Monetary Fund to supplement the official reserves of its member countries, and multilateral development banks, which provide financial and technical support to developing countries to help them strengthen economic management and reduce poverty. 

“African leaders and their full societies should be part of deciding the future of the World Bank, and make the case for highest-ambition scenarios in funding and how they can translate into vibrant, inclusive economies that meet everybody’s needs,” the bishops said. “As put by Pope Francis in 2015: ‘reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes.’”

The bishop-Caritas officials also recommended changes to national laws that would make access to private credit easier for struggling countries. “Given the more than 60% of debt owed to private creditors, debts cannot be reduced without their participation,” the bishops said. “The G7 includes the major debt issuance jurisdictions that need to coordinate domestic legal reforms to deter creditor litigation against countries renegotiating debts. Prompt passage of the New York Taxpayer and International Debt Crises Protection Act will do that for the large share of debt issued in that jurisdiction, and offers a simple and effective model other G7 countries can follow.”

We reiterate Pope Francis’ call for a new kind of politics and a different global economic narrative that promotes the human person’s dignity and the common good

“We reiterate Pope Francis’ call for a new kind of politics and a different global economic narrative that promotes the human person’s dignity and the common good, calling on world leaders to engage in dialogue and collaboration to address the issue of debt crises faced by developing countries,” the Caritas leaders said. “Rekindling hope and promise for Africa and its future generations requires action from the international community. We believe that by working together, we can ensure that Africa receives the assistance it requires to overcome these crises and build a brighter future for all.”

The letter was signed by 23 bishops, including Archbishop Gabriel Justice Yaw Anokye of Kumasi, Ghana, and President of Caritas Africa, and Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui and president of Caritas Centrafrique.

The Associated Press reported that the agenda to be undertaken by the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – included the war in Ukraine, China’s threat to Taiwan. But it was not totally ignoring Africa. 

“To address the rise of Global South nations, including many former colonies of Western powers with varied views on and ties to Russia and China, the G7 will offer these countries more support in health, food security, and infrastructure to develop closer ties,” the AP said.

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