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Led by Sanders and Omar, 300+ Global Lawmakers Call on IMF, World Bank to Cancel All Debt of Poor Nations Amid Covid-19 Crisis

"The steps that our international coalition of lawmakers is proposing are not radical," said Sanders. "It is the very least that these financial institutions should do to prevent an unimaginable increase in poverty, hunger, and disease."

Volunteer nurse Anita Thumbi is helped by another staff member to put on a face shield at a facility used to train the public on infection prevention and management at a local health centre in Waithaka, a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya on May 12, 2020. (Photo: Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images)

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ilhan Omar led a group of more than 300 lawmakers from around the world Wednesday in calling on political leaders and global financial organizations—including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank—to fully cancel the debt that is shackling poor nations as they work to combat the coronavirus crisis and avert total economic devastation.

"This is a global economic and public health crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes," Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, said in a statement. "We as a global community must seize this opportunity to get relief to those who are suffering by cancelling debt for nations who cannot afford it. As the largest contributor to the IMF and the leading force behind the establishment of the World Bank, the United States should take the lead in this effort."

"We cannot allow these countries to be deprived of the resources they need to purchase food, medicine, protective gear, and medical equipment."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders, a senator from Vermont, warned that without sweeping relief, poor nations could be forced to "dedicate money that should be going towards protecting the health and safety of their people to pay off unsustainable debts."

"We cannot allow these countries to be deprived of the resources they need to purchase food, medicine, protective gear, and medical equipment," said Sanders. "The steps that our international coalition of lawmakers is proposing are not radical. It is the very least that these financial institutions should do to prevent an unimaginable increase in poverty, hunger, and disease that threatens hundreds of millions of people."

The lawmakers' letter (pdf) was sent Wednesday to World Bank president David Malpass and IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva and also forwarded to world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The letter's demand for debt cancellation—not merely temporary suspension and deferment—for more than 70 International Development Association (IDA) countries as well as an urgent infusion of financial support was backed by hundreds of lawmakers from more than two dozen nations, including Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, France, Italy, and Argentina.

"We call on all G-20 leaders through these [international financial institutions] to support the cancellation of debt obligations held by all IDA countries during this unprecedented pandemic," the letter reads. "The vulnerable communities that lack the resources and privileges to adopt adequate public health measures will ultimately face the disproportionate burden of coronavirus."

"We also urge you to support a major issuance of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) in order to provide developing countries with urgent financial support," the letter continues. "An issuance of SDRs on the order of trillions of dollars will be required to avert major increases in poverty, hunger and disease."

As the Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor wrote Wednesday, the coronavirus crisis "has underscored the stark depths of global inequality: Even before the pandemic hit, 64 countries spent more in servicing their debts to richer countries, multilateral organizations such as the IMF, and private lenders than they did on the healthcare of their own people."

Sanders said Wednesday that the Covid-19 pandemic shows "that we have got to act as a global community—we truly are all in this together."

"That means protecting the most vulnerable amongst us," said Sanders.

Read the full letter and list of signatories below:

Dear President Malpass and Managing Director Georgieva:

Members of Parliaments across the world are writing to request extensive debt forgiveness for International Development Association (IDA) countries by all major international financial institutions (IFIs) during this global COVID-19 crisis.

We are pleased to see that the World Bank Group (WBG) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have already taken steps to implement debt relief and suspension for the world’s poorest countries. The recent IMF announcement of temporary debt relief funding for 25 member countries is an encouraging development but much more widespread and long term support is still needed.

That is why we call on all G-20 leaders through these IFIs to support the cancellation of debt obligations held by all IDA countries during this unprecedented pandemic. The temporary suspension and deferment of debt will not be sufficient to help these countries fully prioritize the prompt and sustainable management of the crisis at hand. The vulnerable communities that lack the resources and privileges to adopt adequate public health measures will ultimately face the disproportionate burden of coronavirus. Such harm means that global supply chains, financial markets, and other interconnected exchanges will continue to be disrupted and destabilized.

We also urge you to support a major issuance of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) in order to provide developing countries with urgent financial support. The pandemic-triggered economic crisis is expected to be far more devastating than the global financial crisis of 2009, when SDRs were last deployed. We concur with Managing Director Georgieva’s “lower-end” estimate of $2.5 trillion for the current financial needs of developing countries. An issuance of SDRs on the order of trillions of dollars will be required to avert major increases in poverty, hunger and disease.

Therefore, not only do we have a humanitarian duty to aid our petitioning countries in dire need, but we also have a common, vested interest to support comprehensive relief for effective recovery and resiliency. As a collaborative international community, we can only begin to move past this pandemic once this pandemic ends for everyone.

For those reasons, we urge the WBG and IMG to take strong leadership to provide extensive debt relief and financial assistance for all impoverished nations most at risk of the devastating human costs and the long-lasting economic injuries of COVID-19. We ask that you work with relevant bilateral and multilateral partners to provide a response no more than 15 days after receipt of this letter.

It is in our shared public health, security, and economic interests that we come together and act boldly to assist the most vulnerable nations among us. We stand ready to work with you and support immediate and long-term solutions to ensure fragile, destitute countries receive the flexibility and guidance they need in order to prevent humanitarian crises, protect public health, and promote global stability during this crisis and well after it is over for affluent nations.  

In service,

Ilhan Omar                                                                  Bernard Sanders

Member of Congress                                                   Senator           

United States                                                               United States

 
Additional Signatories

Diane Abbott, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Marcela Aguiñaga, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Omar Paul Aguilar Condo, Senator, Bolivia

Mertxe Aizpurua, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Alvina Alamestä, Member of European Parliament, Finland

Monica Aleman, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

François Alfonsi, Member of European Parliament, France

Daniel Almeida, Member of Congress, Brazil

Perpétua Almeida, Member of Congress, Brazil

Ana Claudia Almirón, Senator, Argentina

José Luis Ancalle Gutiérrez, Member of Congress, Peru

Rasmus Andresen, Member of European Parliament, Germany

Óscar Arellano Pizarro, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Bolivia

Wilson Arias, Senator, Colombia

Carola Arraya Borges, Senator, Bolivia

Jaber Asaqla, Member of Knesset, Israel

Miquel Aubà i Fleix, Senator, Spain

Manon Aubry, Member of European Parliament, France

Aida Avella, Senator, Colombia

Yuriri Ayala, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Sara Bailac Ardanuy, Senator, Spain

Adam Bandt, Member of Parliament, Australia

Paula Barker, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Pernando Barrena, Member of European Parliament, Spain

Monte Bassa i Coll Marta, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Fernando Bazán Villanueva, Member of Congress, Peru

Apsana Begum, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Marian Beitialarrangoitia, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Brando Benifei, Member of European Parliament, Italy

Alejandro Bernales Maldonado, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Benoît Biteau, Member of European Parliament, France

Inés Blas, Senator, Argentina

Malin Björk, Member of European Parliament, Sweden

Gustavo Bolivar, Senator, Colombia

Manuel Bompard, Member of European Parliament, France

Gabriel Boric Font, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Marc Botenga, Member of European Parliament, Belgium

Maria Wendy Briceño Zuloaga, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Jorge Brito Hasbún, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Sonia Brito Sandoval, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Bolivia

Richard Burgon, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Ian Byrne, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Daniel Caggiani Gómez, Member of Parliament, Uruguay

Renildo Calheiros, Member of Congress, Brazil

Miquel Caminal Cerdà, Senator, Spain

Ignacio Benjamín Campos Equihua, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Rego Candamil, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Miriam Elizabeth Cano Núñez, Member of Local Congress, Baja California, Mexico

Joan Capdevila i Esteve, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Damien Carême, Member of European Parliament, France

Giovani Alfonsin Carlo Ayllon, Senator, Bolivia

Áurea Carolina, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

Carlos Caserio, Senator, Argentina

Ofer Cassif, Member of Knesset, Israel

Laura Castel i Fort, Senator, Spain

Xavier Castellana i Gamisans, Senator, Spain

Carlos Castillo, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Natalia Castillo Muñoz, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Anna Cavazzini, Member of European Parliament, Germany

Ivan Cépeda, Senator, Colombia

José Chala, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Abraham Checco Chauca, Member of Congress, Peru

Ferran Civit i Martí, Member of Parliament of Catalonia

Maurice Closs, Senator, Argentina

Katalin Cseh, Member of European Parliament, Hungary

Joan Collins, Member of Parliament, Ireland

Jeremy Corbyn, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

David Cormand, Member of European Parliament, France

Mirella Cortès i Gès, Senator, Spain

Humberto Costa, Senator, Brazil

Miguel Crispi Serrano, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Esther Cuesta, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Clare Daly, Member of European Parliament, Ireland

María de los Ángeles Sacnun, Senator, Argentina

Diego Eduardo del Bosque Villarreal, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Nora del Valle Giménez, Senator, Argentina

Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, Member of European Parliament, France

Adriana Delgado i Herreros, Member of Parliament of Catalonia

Karima Delli, Member of European Parliament, France

Marcelo Díaz Díaz, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Bettiana Díaz Rey, Member of Parliament, Uruguay

Martín Doñate, Senator, Argentina

Primo Dothé Mata, Senator, Mexico

Lili Duran, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Norma Durango, Senator, Argentina

Richard J. Durbin, Senator, United States

María Eugenia Duré, Senator, Argentina

Gorka Elejabarrieta, Senator, Spain

Xavier Eritja Ciuró, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Luiza Erundina, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

Adelina Escandell Grases, Senator, Spain

Carlos Mauricio Espínola, Senator, Argentina

Brenda Espinoza Lopez, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Leticia Estrada, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Sabelio Estrada Soliz, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Bolivia

Federico Fagioli, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Argentina

Mehreen Faruqi, Senator, Australia

Jandira Feghali, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

Janeth Mercy Felipez Ríos, Senator, Bolivia

Maya Fernández Allende, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Enrique Fernández Chacón, Member of Congress, Peru

Anabel Fernández Sagasti, Senator, Argentina

Carlos Filizzola, Senator, Paraguay

Marcivania Flecha, Member of Congress, Brazil

Irene Fornós i Curto, Member of Parliament of Catalonia

Mary Foy, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Marcelo Freixo, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

Ricardo Fuentes, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Lilian Gálan, Member of the Chamber of Representatives of Uruguay

Diego García, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Member of Congress, United States

Silvina García Larraburu, Senator, Argentina

Guillermo García Realpe, Senator, Colombia

Pilar Garrido, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Golriz Ghahraman, Member of Parliament, New Zealand

Raphaël Glucksmann, Member of European Parliament, France

Anton Gómez Reino, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

María Teresa González, Senator, Argentina

Nancy González, Senator, Argentina

Sandra Paola González Castañeda, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Inés Granollers Cunillera, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Raúl M. Grijalva, Member of Congress, United States

Claude Gruffat, Member of European Parliament, France

Nancy Guamba, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador 

Verónica Guevara, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

José Gusmao, Member of European Parliament, Portugal

Txema Guijarro, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Itai Hagman, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Argentina

Heidi Hautala, Member of European Parliament, Finland

Ana Cristina Hernández Trejo, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Gonzalo Herrera Cáceres, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Bolivia

Tomás Hirsch Goldschmidt, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Marcela Holguín, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Eva Luz Humerez Alviz, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Bolivia

Diego Ibañez Cotroneo, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Ana María Ianni, Senator, Argentina

Yousef Jabareen, Member of Knesset, Israel

Giorgio Jackson Drago, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Yannick Jadot, Member of European Parliament, France

Pramila Jayapal, Member of Congress, United States

Márcio Jerry, Member of Congress, Brazil

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Kim Johnson, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Irma Juan Carlos, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Zitto Kabwe, Member of Parliament, Tanzania

Erika Kokay, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

Petros Kokkalis, Member of European Parliament, Greece

Edgardo Kueider, Senator, Argentina

Javier Lamarque, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Katrin Langensiepen, Member of European Parliament, Germany

Juan Ignacio Latorre Riveros, Senator, Chile

Ian Lavery, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Sergio Leavy, Senator, Argentina

Claudia Ledesma Abdala de Zamora, Senator, Argentina

Barbara Lee, Member of Congress, United States

Nelly Lenz Rosso, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Bolivia

Clive Lewis, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Rossio Magaly Lima Escalante, Senator, Bolivia

Carolina Lizárraga Houghton, Member of Congress, Peru

Juan Cristobal Lloret, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Lexi Loor, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Alexander López, Senator, Colombia

Cristina López Valverde, Senator, Argentina

Daniel Lovera, Senator, Argentina

Caroline Lucas, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Alfredo Luenzo, Senator, Argentina

Miguel Macedo, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Ernest Maragall i Mira, Member of Parliament of Catalonia

Joan Margall i Sastre, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Jordi Martí Deulofeu, Senator, Spain

Robert Masih Nahar, Senator, Spain

Marisa Matias, Member of European Parliament, Portugal

José Mayans, Senator, Argentina

John McDonnell, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Fernanda Melchiona, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

Jean-Luc Mélénchon, Member of National Assembly, France

Esteban Melo, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Carlos Saúl Menem, Senator, Argentina

Dalmacio Mera, Senator, Argentina

Tilly Metz, Member of European Parliament, Luxembourg

Ignacio Mier Velazco, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Roberto Mirabella, Senator, Argentina

Beatriz Mirkin, Senator, Argentina

Vlado Mirosevic Verdugo, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Claudia Mix Jiménez, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Csaba Molnár, Member of European Parliament, Hungary

Ricardo Monreal Ávila, Senator, Majority Leader, and Chairman of the Political Coordination Board, Mexico

Gerardo Montenegro, Senator, Argentina

Absalón Montoya Guivin, Member of Congress, Peru

Guadalupe Morales, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Lucia Muñoz, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Pabel Muñoz, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Amapola Naranjo, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Alejandro Navarro, Senator, Chile

José Emilio Neder, Senator, Argentina

Niklas Nienass, Member of European Parliament, Germany

Nazario Norberto, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Eleanor Holmes Norton, Member of Congress, United States

Joan Josep Nuet Pujals, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Emilia Nuyado Ancapichún, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Grace O’Sullivan, Member of European Parliament, Ireland

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Member of Congress, United States

Ayman Odeh, Member of Knesset, Israel

Kate Osamor, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Juan Mario Pais, Senator, Argentina

Maite Orsini Pascal, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Mònica Palacín i París, Member of Parliament of Catalonia

Ernesto Palacios Cordero, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Oscar Parrilli, Senator, Argentina

Lourdes Paz, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Elisenda Pérez i Esteve, Senator, Spain

Catalina Pérez Salinas, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Laura Imelda Pérez Segura, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Ancelma Perlacios Peralta, Senator, Bolivia

Gustavo Petro, Senator, Colombia

Bernat Picornell Grenzner, Senator, Spain

María Inés Pilatti Vergara, Senator, Argentina

Manu Pineda, Member of European Parliament, Spain

Gerardo Pisarello, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

María José Pizarro, Member of Congress, Colombia

Mark Pocan, Member of Congress, United States

Yofre Poma, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Alice Portugal, Member of Congress, Brazil 

Ayanna Pressley, Member of Congress, United States

Thomas Pringle, Member of Parliament, Ireland

Mauricio Proaño, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Norma Pujol Farre, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Yvan Quispe Apaza, Member of Congress, Peru

Juana Quispe Ari, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Bolivia

Mariano Recalde, Senator, Argentina

Sira Rego, Member of European Parliament, Spain

Diana Riba i Giner, Member of European Parliament, Spain

Carmita Ribadeneira, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Gabriela Rivadeneira, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Michèle Rivasi, Member of European Parliament, France

Antonio Rodas, Senator, Argentina

Edmilson Rodrigues, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

Matías Rodríguez, Senator, Argentina

José Luis Rodríguez Díaz de León, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Manuel Rodríguez González, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Maria Eugenia Rodríguez Palop, Member of European Parliament, Spain

Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, Senator, Argentina

Caroline Roose, Member of European Parliament, France

Camila Rojas Valderrama, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Isabela Rosales, President of Local Congress, Mexico City

Patricio Rosas Barrientos, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Marta Rosique i Saltor, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Josep Rufà Gràcia, Senator, Spain

Gabriel Rufián Romero, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Bobby L. Rush, Member of Congress, United States

Jordi Salvador i Duch, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Silvia Sapag, Senator, Argentina

Adriana Salvatierra Arriaza, Senator, Bolivia

Franklin Samaniego, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Miroslava Sánchez Galván, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament, Malaysia

Rocío Silva Santisteban Manrique, Member of Congress, Peru

Mounir Satouri, Member of European Parliament, France

Helmut Scholz, Member of European Parliament, Germany

Alejandra Sepúlveda Orbenes, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Orlando Silva, Member of Congress, Brazil

Guillermo Snopek, Senator, Argentina

Doris Soliz, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Ana Surra Spadea, Senator, Spain

Zarah Sultana, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Jorge Taiana, Senator, Argentina

Carolina Telechea Lozano, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Rashida Tlaib, Member of Congress, United States

Víctor Torres Jeldes, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Aida Touma-Sliman, Member of Knesset, Israel

Marie Toussaint, Member of European Parliament, France

Jon Trickett, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Rubén Uñac, Senator, Argentina

Miguel Urbán, Member of European Parliament, Spain

Roberto Uriarte, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Ernest Urtasun, Member of European Parliament, Spain

Feliciano Valencia, Senator, Colombia

Bairon Valle, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Pilar Vallugera i Balañà, Member of Congress of Deputies, Spain

Julio César Vázquez Castillo, Member of Local Congress, Baja California, Mexico

Leticia Varela, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Yanis Varoufakis, Member of Hellenic Parliament, Greece

Mirtha Vasquez Chiquilín, Member of Congress, Peru

Esteban Velásquez, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Julieta Kristal Vences Valencia, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Enio Verri, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

Pablo Vidal Rojas, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Alejandro Viedma Velázquez, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Marta Vilalta i Torres, Member of Parliament of Catalonia

Alberto Villa Villegas, Member of Federal Congress, Mexico

Esperanza Villalobos, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

José María Villalta Flores Estrada, Member of Congress of Deputies, Costa Rica

Idoia Villanueva, Member of European Parliament, Spain

Temístocles Villanueva Ramos, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

Nikolaj Villumsen, Member of European Parliament, Denmark

Ruben Wagensberg i Ramon, Member of Parliament of Catalonia

Mick Wallace, Member of European Parliament, Ireland

Joenia Wapichana, Member of Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

Claudia Webbe, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Mick Whitley, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Nadia Whittome, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom

Gonzalo Winter Etcheberry, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Salima Yenbou, Member of European Parliament, France

Gael Yeomans Araya, Member of Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Chile

Mauricio Zambrano, Member of National Assembly, Ecuador

Maricela Zúñiga, Member of Local Congress, Mexico City

 

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