Debt, Finance, and Future Lending Policies Urged in Advance of 2025 Jubilee Year

World leaders attending the annual IMF, G20 and World Bank meetings should promote urgent debt relief, aid and lending policies to address the interlinked crises African countries face, noted a body that represents African Catholic Bishops. The statement from the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Catholic Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) was issued as the meetings are 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,” follows 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, then Holy Father St. John Paul II 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. “Moreover, . . . 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. "Africa Catholic Bishops are calling for real changes in the financial system to protect their people and our planet."

The statement referred 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.

Read the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Catholic Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) statement here.

Read the press release on the statement here.