4th January, 2010
I am proud of the great Jubilee 2000 petition, which I helped draft.
Within a short time, and making revolutionary use of the internet, we had circulated the petition worldwide. Millions were printed, signed and returned in battered packages to our small HQ in London.
As Paula Goldman noted in an article in the Financial Times (17 May 2008) “the Jubilee 2000 petition holds two world records, according to Guinness World Records: it was the largest petition ever signed (24,391,181 signatures) and the most international (with people from 166 countries signing). Sheer size was no doubt key to the Jubilee petition’s success: when talking to decision-makers, campaigners could rightly claim historic levels of public interest.”
Now our example is being followed by the people of Iceland.
About one quarter of Iceland’s voters – 56,000 people – recently signed a petition which urges President Olaf Ragnar Grimsson to ‘drop the debt’ owed to the British and Dutch governments. This petition reflects the view of 70% of Icelanders, according to a poll taken in August.
This debt – which amounts to 12,000 Euros per Icelandic citizen – is the result of reckless lending by an unregulated, private bank – and reckless, unregulated borrowing by British and Dutch depositors that earned high real rates of interest on their risky deposits – until things went wrong.
For political reasons, these depositors were bailed out by the British and Dutch governments – at a cost of about 50 Euros per citizen.
A country with a population the size of the city of Leicester – 317,000 – is now asked to bear the full burden of losses incurred by a private bank, and by private citizens in two countries with a joint population of 76 million.
Icelanders – the people of countries as diverse as Rwanda, the Phillipines and Argentina feel your pain. Millions of Jubilee 2000 campaigners would salute your struggle to drop the debt. They would urge you to follow their example, and keep up the pressure. After all they did not give up until more than $100 billion of debt owed by 42 countries was acknowledged as unpayable by powerful creditors.
You dear people of Iceland, can do the same.