After Plan B’s event in Madrid last March, many ICAN members decided to brief us with regular updates on what they are working on:
As a collective (ACiDe), we take into account the fact that debt is not a crucial issue currently for the social movements, “because Belgium is financing at historically low interest rates” BUT (1) it’s still the first national expense (20% of the budget, capital incl.) and (2) at the communal level YES debt is currently a big issue.
As a collective we are so trying – only now – to reinforce the links between active communal groups (there are 5 of them). The main objectives for 2016 as a platform is to create propaganda about the fact that low interest rates is not a “non-problem” + to make an interpellation at Parliament about the CRAC (a local FMI).
As a collective we are beginning to make more and more presentations in schools, associations and trade unions + making a tour of a play (theatre) about public debt.
As a collective we are participating in a new platform for the socialization of Belfius bank (which is the bank that finances communal debts and is already nationalized but still capitalist).
Because local groups of ACiDe have the same difficulties to inform / coordinate themselves as the national campaigns in ICAN, I think that if we achieve to create this dynamic inside ACiDe it’ll give us more energy to do the same at international level.
Forum of social and public finance (Italy)
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nuova.finanzapubblica/?fref=ts
Attac Italia website: http://www.italia.attac.org/joom-attac/index.php
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Attac-Italia-215888808423020/
On January 23th people and collectives from Parma, Reggio Emilia, Rome, Livorno, Genoa and Pisa gathered in Livorno in an attempt to revitalise the coordination work of the local debt audits started at the beginning of 2013 with the experience of the New public and social finance forum (which has been on hold for mostly all the time during 2014-2015).
In all those cities (and in other ones like Venice and Naples) local debt audit initiatives have been initiated.
The case of Parma for example is a successful story for they have already completed an audit of a private-public partnership with their municipality.
The assembly agreed on the importance of the audit practice and the need to recreate a national coordination that could encourage the initiatives at the local level. Other instruments have been considered useful at this scope: training seminars organised by activists, students and municipal administrators, on those articles of the international law that establish the priority of international law over the debt repayment, on accounting issue (ex: how to read a balance sheet of your municipality).
More recently, last July 18th (15 years after the G8), social and clerical movements met in Genoa (Italy) to share analyses, reflections and social actions to fight the “killing economy of debt”, and propose alternative solutions to the debt system. Organizations as well as individual participants at the meeting approved a Paper of Common Intents, expressing interest to commit to a campaign on debt audit issues on a local, national and international level.
A second meeting will be held in autumn (date to be decided), in order to start a process on local and sectorial realities (welfare, education, essential services, public works, etc), since the pressure of austerity and cuts on social welfare are more deeply felt on specific topics, and are now being driven by a grassroots base. This work will be accompanied by a facilitator group at the national level which will draft and submit a proposal to every interested group.
In the meantime, Attac Italy, along with other organizations as well as the signatories of the Genoa paper will launch on September 15 in Rome the opening of CADTM Italy, which will also serve as a support for the local/sectorial debt audit projects, another important step for the struggle against illegitimate debt.
Eurodad, European Network on Debt and Development
Eurodad is a network of NGOs, some of which have already done or commissioned debt audits, or have pressed their governments to audit debt along responsible lending and borrowing principles. We also do research, advocacy and campaigns on other debt-related topics such as sovereign debt resolution mechanisms or vulture funds legislation. We were originally founded to campaign for cancellation of developing countries’ debt, and we continue to have strong engagement on the global South and links with groups outside Europe. Since the Eurocrisis started, we increasingly worked on debt in Europe too.
Eurodad’s added value would mainly be to link ICAN actors with others in the debt justice movement, including outside Europe, and to contribute analysis on what is going on on European or global level. Many of our members have been involved in ICAN in the past (I guess they will communicate themselves to what extent they plan to be in the future). Because debt audits take place mainly on national or sub-national level, our members are more relevant actors for citizen debt audits as such.
We have been focusing a lot on research as a tool or form of activism. This year, we have started local authority debt audits: Local authorities across the UK have been encouraged to borrow toxic loans from banks, called LOBO loans. We have highlighted how LOBO loans are excessively expensive and risky for local authorities and contain derivatives, which are potentially illegal for local authorities. [Link: lada.debtresistance.uk]
In the UK local residents can object to their councils’ accounts if they think spending has not been done in the public interest or could be considered illegal. This year, Debt Resistance has helped residents submit legal objections in 24 local authorities across the UK.
Other current activities and areas of interest include a series of film nights on debt, engagement with student debt in the UK, and international solidarity activities.
Our debt audit work is greatly inspired by and has similarities with work in other countries so we find it very valuable to be part of an international network. But we are a fairly small group and at the moment don’t have a lot of resources.
Zukunftskonvent & RLF (Germany)
We are still supporting initiatives dealing with the debt issues from a clear left perspective (research, political education, funding, contributions to politicians, practical commitment); Greece remains a central issue; so I’m involved in different projects and check possibilities to work with the new group on debt policy what was launched in March.
During these last intense two years of electoral activity, that has taken a lot of energy from the movements, there has been a period for the PACD of apparent low activity (less mobilisation on the street, external communication and general coordination), but after our last state meeting in Madrid on July 4th, we are happy to announce that the platform has kept working and a lot has been done! Now, in a new political phase that is opening up (especially at local level, where political actors have changed), the PACD is building new energies.
A few highlights on the work done and projects that are running:
– Exchange on debt and audits with different local Councils that have been won by new political forces. Different cities are under different debt circumstances (eg. Madrid is the most indebted whilst Barcelona has no debt), and discussions are being held about developing audits and citizen participation. Eg. Citizen Municipal Audit of Madrid.
– Sectorial work is being done in the healthcare sector looking into what has been done towards its privatisation: Healthcare Audit in Madrid.
– Late last year we updated our preliminary analysis of debt in the Spanish state.
– Update of the analysis of Catalan debt and motion presented and approved in the Catalan Parliament for a citizen audit of public debt.
– More than 70 Citizen Municipal Observatories are running or are getting organised to launch; a tool that helps citizens self-organise to act as a ‘lobby’ for their city council demanding transparency, accounts and what is being done with public money. Website.
Madrid will be holding the annual Week on Debt from October 5th to 7th.
And last but not least, Barcelona is organising and AuditFest from October 14th to 15th, focused on audits, debt management and municipal public policies. The meeting is designed for municipal technicians, city councillors, auditors, and other political representatives (in government or in the opposition), members of political groups and activists of social movements. The aim is to share experiences, questions, proposals, methodologies and tools for better municipal public policies for the citizens.
CADTM Belgium together with CNCD-11.11.11 (from the Francophone and Flemish side) is bringing before the court the Cayman Islands based hedge fund NML Capital, owned by the US billionaire Paul Singer, that has challenged the Belgian law against vulture funds before Belgium’s Constitutional Court.
The law, at the initiative of the same organisations, was passed by the Belgian Parliament in 2015 to prevent ‘vulture funds’ from making huge profits out of financial crises.
NML Capital contests the validity of the law and claims for its cancellation, afraid of an extension of this law at the European and international scale.
For more information on this subject: http://cadtm.org/Belgian-legislation-against
For more information on our activities, please visit our webpage: http://www.cadtm.org
In particular, check-out the information (coming soon in English!) on our next big event of the year: “8 hours against illegitimate debt”.
CADTM is organising its big event of the year on December 4th in Brussels, at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. An entire day of conference, workshops, debates and entertainment around debt issues and a big concert at the end.
Some of the topics on the menu are: Greece, vulture funds, microcredits, student debt, mortgage debt, social debt, among others. The programme will come soon! For info and registration write to inscriptions[at]cadtm.org