Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A man walks among the destruction left by Hurricane Irma at the Phillipsburg Town Beach on September 11, 2017 in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. (Photo: Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)

In Midst of 'Immense Suffering' Caused by Climate Crisis, Caribbean Religious Leaders Call for Debt Relief

"We in the Caribbean, like some other nations elsewhere in the global south, are least responsible for but most affected by climate change."

Jake Johnson

Citing the destruction wrought by last year's uniquely devastating Atlantic hurricane season and other natural disasters, a group of Caribbean religious leaders issued a letter (pdf) on Friday calling on governments and international financial institutions to relieve the debt of island nations and allow them to devote their resources to meeting the needs of their citizens.

"Islands that are struggling to recover after natural disasters and meet basic needs of their people should not be making debt payments."
—Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA
"Across the Caribbean, we still see immense suffering from the hurricanes that landed last year," Jubilee USA executive director Eric LeCompte said in a statement endorsing the Caribbean leaders' call. "Islands that are struggling to recover after natural disasters and meet basic needs of their people should not be making debt payments."

Signed by 22 faith leaders from several Caribbean islands, the letter notes that research "points to the fact that the growing severity of hurricanes in the Caribbean is related to man-made climate change."

"We in the Caribbean, like some other nations elsewhere in the global south, are least responsible for but most affected by climate change," the letter continues. "The few dozen small Island States across the world, for example, have neither the size nor developmental history to have been major contributors to current climate change. Yet these small Island States are the most easily devastated by rising seas and harsher storms. Our brothers and sisters who inhabit these places are in peril, through no fault of their own."

In order to be prepared for the next hurricane season and future disasters caused or made worse by the climate crisis, the faith leaders made three demands:

  • Our own heads of state and government must unite and collectively demand the creation of an efficient debt relief option ahead of the next hurricane season through all available means, including the United Nations system and the Bretton Woods institutions.
  • The IMF must use its rule-setting power to endorse a full debt moratorium once a hurricane or any other serious disaster brings destruction beyond a predefined level and make sure that a serious debt restructuring of all external commitments  shall be possible under due consideration of our peoples' human rights.
  • The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank must act as supporters of a comprehensive debt restructuring process once it is needed.

"As churches in the Caribbean we have witnessed the grief and despair of our people last September, and we are not prepared to enter the next hurricane season without at least being able to tell them that our authorities shall be able to use scarce resources for immediate relief and midterm reconstruction rather than debt service," the statement concludes.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Amazon Workers to Protest 'Corporate Law-Breaker' CEO Jassy, Demanding End to Union-Busting

"If Jassy comes to New York he should come to bargain a contract with Amazon workers, not bluster or practice union-busting."

Julia Conley ·


90+ Groups Warn 'Kids Online Safety Act' Could Have 'Damaging' Effects

"Congress needs to pass real laws that rein in the abuses of Big Tech and protect everyone's privacy and human rights rather than using kids as pawns to advance poorly drafted legislation in order to score political points," said one critic.

Jessica Corbett ·


'No F*cking Excuse': Outrage in Houston Over Officials' Late Notice of Boil Water Alert

"Would have been nice to know BEFORE my little girl showered, drank water from the tap, and brushed her teeth this evening," said one mother after authorities took at least six hours to notify more than 2 million residents of the advisory.

Brett Wilkins ·


Inspired by Starbucks Organizing Wins, Peet's Coffee Workers File for Union Elections

"We deserve a say in how our workplace is run and we deserve to be fairly compensated for the value we create," said one Peet's employee.

Jake Johnson ·


Rev. Barber Breaks Down Why Democrats Must Engage With Low-Wealth Voters

In future elections, said the co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign, Democrats must "focus clearly and intensely on poor and low-wealth voters who tend to, when they vote, vote progressive if they're targeted."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo