Hurricane-hit islands need debt relief

by Rev. Dr R Osbert James, Chair, Jubilee Grenada

I write you in my capacity as chairman of the Grenada Jubilee Committee and Coordinator Jubilee Caribbean.  In April I went to attend a side event at the UN to attempt to get the Call of Jubilee Caribbean known to many of the bodies meeting at the Forum for Financing and Development.

The Call of Jubilee Caribbean came out of a March workshop held in Grenada to discuss the vulnerability to natural disasters of small island developing states and their debt burden.  The Call of Jubilee Caribbean urged the Governments of the Caribbean and the international financial institutions to put in place a mechanism for debt relief as an instrument for emergency support and reconstruction before we enter the next hurricane season. What we are requesting is as follows:

  • That our heads of State and Government 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;
  • That the IMF use its rule-setting power to endorse a full debt moratorium once a hurricane or any other serious disaster brings destruction beyond a pre-defined level and make sure that a serious debt restructuring of all external commitments shall be possible under due consideration of our peoples’ human rights;
  • That the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) support a comprehensive debt restructuring process once it is needed.

Not long after we made this call, the Prime Minister of Grenada, just before the Commonwealth Summit, supported our call with a letter which was printed The Guardian of the UK on Sun 15 April 2018, 18.01 BST. The following is the text of the letter:

Hurricane-hit islands need debt relief

Those who have contributed the most to climate change are the real debtors so it is unfair that small island states be indebted as a result, write Keith Mitchell, prime minister of Grenada, andGaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda. Plus a coalition of organisations calls on Theresa May to apologise for the UK’s anti-gay legacy

This week we will meet with fellow Commonwealth heads of government in Windsor. One of the most pressing challenges facing smaller Commonwealth governments is the impact of climate change, and the rising debt burden we face as a result.

The 2017 hurricane season was one of the most devastating in Caribbean history. In Barbuda and Dominica destruction totalled more than twice annual GDP. The growing severity of hurricanes in the Caribbean is related to climate change, a major global threat primarily caused by countries far richer and larger than our own.

In the wake of increasingly frequent and devastating disasters, and in the absence of sufficient grants to support climate mitigation and adaption and sustainable development, small islands have no choice but to resort to taking on more debt. Yet many already have large debts as a result of past disasters and injustices, loss of trade preferences, and exclusion from debt relief schemes, while our small size makes us more vulnerable to economic shocks such as global financial crises.

As climate change gets worse, we urgently need a new system for fast and effective debt relief when disasters hit. We should not have to bear these extra costs ourselves through climate risk insurance. We call on larger Commonwealth countries, including the UK, to play a leading role in the creation of such a system. Those who have contributed the most to climate change are the real debtors and it is, therefore, unfair that small island developing states, which are most vulnerable, like those in the Caribbean, be indebted as a result.

We look forward to this meeting resulting in a bold decision to address the issues raised above, in the best interests of all.

Keith Mitchell Prime minister of Grenada
Gaston Browne Prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda


Jubilee Caribbean is promulgating its call and to create awareness of potential for crisis given the start of the new hurricane season if a hurricane of the magnitude of that which hurt us in 2014 and Dominica in 2017 occurs before a mechanism is in place.

Jubilee Caribbean is a network of member churches and affiliated national councils of the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC). It is committed, however, to collaborate with any religious body or social partners who share our values. In its quest to achieve our mission, we will form partnerships and alliances nationally, regionally and internationally.  This mission is to hold Creditors accountable, advocate for national governments to implement policies and laws to ensure accountability and transparency and to network with the global Jubilee movement, government and Civil Society to ensure leverage in negotiation.

Article Footer 468x60

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Related Posts