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NGOs urge Swiss banks to ease developing country debt

NGOs argue that developing nation debt is borne by the world’s poorest populations. (Keystone / Nic Bothma)

A group of 11 NGOs has called on Swiss banks and government ministries to consider offering relief on billions in debt owed by developing nations. The consortium says that the coronavirus pandemic has increased economic pressure on the poorest countries.

The NGOs in question are Alliance Sud, Swissaid, Fastenopfer, Bread for All, Helvetas, Terre des Hommes Schweiz, Solidar Suisse, Public Eye, KEESA, Solifonds and MultiWatch.

They are also urging Swiss banks to make public the size of loans, the terms of credit and the method of repayment to developing countries. The consortium says that 86 of the world’s poorest nations owe CHF5.7 billion ($5.9 billion) to Swiss banks.

The conditions of these loans should be renegotiated to consider the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, they argue. They add that this would be in the spirit of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that seeks to reduce poverty.

The NGOs therefore want the Swiss government to convene a round table to negotiate how creditor banks can offer debt relief for developing countries. This, they say, should include the involvement of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), as well as members of civil society.

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