Jubilee USA National Coordinator Neil Watkins wrote "Will Vultures Be Allowed to Undermine the G-8 Summit?", an article for commondreams.org that challenges the influence of vulture fund managers on the G-8 proceedings happening next week in Heiligendamm, Germany. In the article, Neil discusses the 2005 G-8 leaders made in Gleneagles, Scotland, while explaining how they have not kept their promises to civil society and impoverished nations who need their debts canceled to meet the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
The G-8 Summit is an opportunity for the leaders from the world's richest nations to actually tackle problems that are causing and sustaining poverty countries in Africa, South/Central America and Asia. One of these challenges are vulture funds, which are companies that purchase the debts of impoverished countries on the cheap, then sue them in U.S. and European courts for the initial cost of the debt. More often than not, the companies win their lawsuits, thus depriving impoverished countries of much-needed funds that could be directed toward furthering educational and health care initiatives. Neil writes:
Danny Glover (actor and activist) and Nicole Lee of TransAfrica Forum also wrote an exellent piece on the impact vulture funds.
In January, I saw first-hand the impact that decisions from a G-8 summit meeting can have on people’s lives. I visited a rural health clinic in Siavonga, Zambia which had recently abolished “user fees” for access to health care. For residents, it was a life-saving decision: now, many more patients had access to HIV/AIDS drugs that could literally save their lives.
Zambia is not, unfortunately, an isolated case. There are 14 African nations which have been sued by vulture funds, commercial creditors, and others creditors not party to the G-8 debt deal since 1999. Right now, vultures are threatening Zambia, Republic of Congo, and Liberia.
The vultures are undermining the promise the G-8 made two years ago in Gleneagles. To preserve their own initiative and credibility, leaders must take action now. In recent weeks, the Bush administration, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and German officials have all expressed concern about vulture activity. Even the Paris Club joined in last week and “agreed to intensify their work on this issue with a view to identify concrete measures to tackle this problem.”
And last week, Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ) called for stronger action in the US against vulture funds.