UNLESS YOU are a global rock star or an inveterate campaigner you probably find it hard to get excited about the issue of debt. We all know that debt repayments are crippling the most disadvantaged nations in the world and we all agree that something should be done about it. But we lose interest when it gets down to specifics. Anyone who wants to know how developing nations can be relieved from the burden of debt seems to need an MA in economics and a PhD in voluntary-sector jargon.
But it would be a shame if interest in today’s conference on debt at the Vatican were limited only to the experts. The prospect of a son of the manse meeting the Supreme Pontiff is, in itself, intriguing. As is the fact that Gordon Brown is one of the few politicians in the world to have received a papal endorsement of an individual policy. Last autumn John Paul II gave public backing to the Chancellor’s vision of an International Finance Facility. The IFF, as it is known, would double the global aid budget and help the international community to achieve its ambitious target of halving the number of those living in extreme poverty by 2015. It’s not necessary to know precisely how the IFF works to recognise that it is something of inestimable importance for the world’s poor, and thus to the very future of the human race.
But the world’s richest countries are not falling over themselves to join the RomeLondon axis. Gordon Brown hopes that by winning the Pope’s support he can inspire grassroots campaigners to increase pressure on governments to back the scheme. So, the stakes are high at today’s seminar.
Unless the Pontiff and the “Iron Chancellor” can stir the bored majority into action the world’s poorest will continue to live their brief lives without food, clean water, hospitals, schools and medicine. As Catholics, we cannot consent to the triumph of apathy.