A Possible Remedy for Terrorism: Development Aid

World Diplomacy Considers Arms Limits and Debt Cancellation

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ROME, SEPT. 20, 2001 (Zenit.org).- International diplomacy is beginning to reflect on a kind of Marshall Plan that would do away with economic marginalization that is sometimes at the root of terrorism.

Such a plan could include the cancellation of debt, aid for countries that do not harbor terrorism, and restriction of arms sales.

Among the first to voice such ideas were the European Union´s bishops, at the end of their meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in preparation for Friday´s meeting of the Council of Ministers.

While condemning the recent attacks on the United States, the bishops explain in a statement that «injustices exist in the world; they are the source of many political and social conflicts. The world is divided into rich and poor, and not by religions and cultures. The present challenge lies in a new policy of development for the poorer countries.»

Vatican representatives at the United Nations have told ZENIT that diplomats are working on the basic idea of reconstructing a system of international relations and «counterpoising,» which will replace the anarchy created after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Such a system could extinguish the motivating force behind terrorism.

Muslim fundamentalism is fueled by the world´s widespread poverty. Thus, an aid program is being studied specifically for those countries that will openly and definitively dissociate themselves from terrorism.

Precedents for such programs exist. In order to count on the support of Egyptian troops during the 1991 Desert Storm operation, U.S. President George W.H. Bush canceled the enormous debt Egypt had with the United States, amounting to billions of dollars.

The same could be done today, to bring relief to poor countries burdened by inordinate debt.

French economist Michel Camdessus, former director of the International Monetary Fund, and a member of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, agrees with this twofold battle against war and poverty.

In an interview with the APIC agency, Camdessus said that one of the indispensable measures in renewing international credit institutions is to «listen to the cry of the poorest peoples,» as John Paul II asked the G-8 summit in Genoa to do.

Camdessus believes that such a position implies the following question: «Is it possible to create an institution, a sort of G-24, in which rich countries will feel they are the legitimate representatives of the poorest?» In fact, a total of 17 countries sit on the U.N. Security Council.

As regards external debt, Camdessus sees an «additional» reduction as fundamental, «combined with other forms of aid for development.»

War must also be combated, if a more just global development is to take off, Camdessus stressed. «If we de not impede the arms traffic and take serious action to preserve peace, there will be no development,» he asserted.

Lastly, the former IMF director said that the so-called Tobin tax, aimed at monetary transactions to discourage speculation and finance development in poor countries, is «impossible to carry out.»

Camdessus believes that a tax «on the export of arms is easier to apply than the Tobin tax, because the U.N. already has a register in which all countries must declare the destiny of arms, their quantity and the nature of their sales.»

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