Jubilee 2000 Human Chain Birmingham Human Chain Human Chain to Drop the Chains of Debt UK Human Debt Chain Also Jubilee 2000 Debt Campaign Jubilee 2000 Human Justice Campaign Birmingham, UK, 16 May 1998 at the annual summit of the G8 Commissioned by Jubilee 2000 Campaign / J2K
In 1990 University of Keele economist, Martin Dent, had the idea to call for the cancellation of unpayable debts of poor countries & to link this to the Millennium & the concept of a biblical Jubilee. He persuaded banks & financial institutions to back his project and opened the first Jubilee 2000 office in London in 1996.
Initially supported by faith groups, particularly youth groups within the Christian church, Jubilee 2000 eventually attracted charities, multi-faith & secular support and became a coalition movement in more than 60 countries over 5 continents. Jubilee 2000 became Drop the Debt & led to the creation of Make Poverty History, the ONE campaign & the ongoing Jubilee Debt Campaign.
To organise an event to mark the meeting of the G8 & to present the debt cancellation message, Ann Pettifor, Jubilee 2000 Director, asked Birmingham faith groups for ideas. The Human Chain concept, symbolising the chains of debt affecting the poorest countries of the world, was originated by Paul White of Christian Aid.
In January 1998 Mitch de Faria was commissioned to event manage the first Jubilee 2000 Human Chain. An office for a dozen paid & volunteer staff was established in Carrs Lane Church Centre, Birmingham; with event stewards from the TUC & other unions, the number of volunteers rose to more than 400. The event office coordinated all activity on the ground, including safety, liaised with local support groups & communicated with the thousands of groups & individuals wishing to take part.
In 1998 the City of Birmingham had been given a number of major international media events, among them the G8 summit. The City Council's ideas about what was compatible with its own event planning for this period initially resulted in an unfavourable reaction to the proposed Jubilee 2000 project. But media interest and participation numbers proved the debt cancellation issue had countrywide popularity and with only days to spare the City Council gave the Human Chain its support.
Some 100,000* people from across the UK & beyond took part in the Jubilee 2000 Human Chain, arriving in Birmingham by car, bus & train & more media-friendly methods. The city was in tight shut-down for the gathering of the world's leaders but on the hottest day of the year, families, school groups, old people, members of religious orders, charity & church groups stood side by side to form the 7-mile Human Chain around the centre of Birmingham.
For 10 minutes, every member of the chain made as much 'joyous' noise as possible, shouting 'Break the Chains of Debt', sharing a moral commitment to a fresh debt-free start for the world's poorest nations.
Photos & video footage of the Birmingham Human Chain event circled the globe in newspapers & magazines, with particular interest in the USA where the Jubilee Campaign subsequently took off.
*The figure of 70,000 people was put forward by the police but the actual figure was significantly higher & may have been in excess of 110,000.
As a direct consequence of the impact of the Human Chain the issue of debt relief was added to the 1998 G8 agenda & has appeared on every agenda since. The G8 promised to act to the tune of some $100 billion. As at 2015 the estimation is that $130 billion has been written off for 35 of the poorest, most heavy indebted, countries.
The World Bank & IMF now say they are 'committed' to reducing unpayable debt but where there is need there are unscrupulous lenders, including so-called 'vulture' funders.
The post-Jubilee 2000 Jubilee Debt Campaign & other groups continue to fight for the cancellation of unpayable debt owed by the world's poorest countries.
Following the Jubilee 2000 Human Chain in Birmingham, Kofi Annan sent the following message to the organisation, 'A flame of hope has been kindled in the poorest countries of the world... On behalf of the United Nations, I extend my deep gratitude to you all for your indefatigable efforts ... millions of people are indebted to you'.
Martin Dent was awarded the OBE in 2000 & in 2001 he shared the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award with his Jubilee co-founder, Bill Peters. Martin Dent died in June 2014 aged 89. Bill Peters died in May the same year, aged 90.
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