Jubilee 2000

Date: 2000
Team: Ann Pettifor
Areas of expertise: Advocacy

bono-and-ann-in-cologne-chainJubilee 2000 Human Chain, Cologne G8 Summit, 1999: Perry Farrell, Youssou N'Dour, Bono, Ann Pettifor
bhamspiralchain_72_jpgBirmingham 16 May 1998 - 100,000 people gather to call on the G8 to cancel debts


Jubilee 2000 was a global campaign that led ultimately, to the cancellation of more than $100 billion of debt owed by 35 of the poorest countries.

Ann Pettifor’s role: Strategic leadership, design of campaign, public advocacy and mobilisation across 62 countries. Oversight of communications (online, print and broadcast) at both global and national levels.


  • High level of public understanding of the role of debt and of creditor institutions in the global financial system.
  • The mobilisation of millions of people across the world in support of campaign goal, as expressed in the record-breaking Jubilee 2000 global petition signed – on paper – by more than 21 million people.
  • The ground-breaking use of the internet and web for worldwide outreach, education and mobilisation
  • Greater awareness in debtor nations of the nature and scale of the debt. This challenged the corruption behind much lending and borrowing, and increased accountability of governments to their people for foreign lending and borrowing.
  • According to the World Bank, clearance of approximately $100 billion of debt (in present value terms) owed by more than 35 countries to foreign creditors.
  • The resulting savings were subsequently used to reduce poverty, and to fund health and education programmes in many countries (see chart from the World Bank and IMF below).

Geldof-Sachs-Bono-and-Annafter-popeBob Geldof, Jeff Sachs, Bono and Ann Pettifor in Cologne, September, 1999
ann-ali-360Muhammed Ali gets his Jubilee 2000 pin
wangari-360Nobel Prize-winner Wangari Maathai addresses the crowd outside Nairobi

“Pettifor was the genius behind the Jubilee 2000 campaign that in 1999 pressurised the rich world to write off more than $100bn of the world’s 42 poorest nations’ debts.. She had the communication skills and tireless energy to transform a good idea into political reality. She created the first worldwide petition, with 24 million signatures, and built a “big tent” coalition including Bill Clinton, Gerhard Schröder, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Mohammed Ali, Bono and thousands of international policy makers. She forced big changes.”

Judges of the Good List, published in the Independent newspaper, September 2006.

The brief

Thanks to pressure from campaigners in debtor nations opposed to IMF Structural Adjustment Programmes, UK charities and NGOs had campaigned for many years to have the debts of the poorest countries written off. There had been endless negotiations, but little progress. Finally in 1994 a consortium of NGOs – the Debt Crisis Network – recruited Ann Pettifor to lead debt cancellation advocacy in the UK.

Ms Pettifor worked with leading NGO figures to begin ‘cutting the diamond’ of the future Drop the Debt campaign. Thanks to pressure from a small group of evangelical Christians at the very early stages of the campaign, it was named “Jubilee 2000” after an earlier campaign established by Martin Dent. The principles of the biblical Jubilee and associated ‘Sabbath economics’  underpinned the ethical aspects of this social justice campaign, and played a key role in the mobilisation of people of faith. The year 2000 became an end-goal for massive debt cancellation, and provided the campaign with a time-line by which to apply pressure on international creditors, and to monitor and  assess progress.

Ms Pettifor helped frame the campaign’s economic, ethical and political analysis of the debt crisis, and drafted and edited the group’s early publications on the issue: notably “Debt, the most potent form of Slavery”. In 1997 Ms Pettifor led the constitution of a broader coalition of organisations, which included the British trades union movement as well as  e.g. the Mothers Union, the Women’s Institute, the BMA and a range of multi-ethnic associations.

The coalition then expanded to include international organisations. With time, campaigners in both creditor and debtor nations called for the establishment of similar Jubilee 2000 ‘franchises’ in their countries. The simple Jubilee 2000 petition outlined the principles of the campaign. The ‘brand’  – a chain integrating the number 2000 – could easily be adopted and adapted by campaigners. The template of inclusive and co-operative coalitions formed the organisational basis for adoption by ‘franchises’ in more than 60 countries, and in thousands of cities and towns across the world.

allthepeopleAmerican campaigners demonstrate outside Congress

DCH_Kenya_jpgDemonstration organised by the Kenyan Jubilee 2000 campaign
laptopburnPublicity stunt at the G8 Summit in Okinawa: highlighting the link between sovereign debt and the 'digital divide'

“The style of the campaign was not only to win the issue, but to do so in a way which changed the rules of the game about the transparency of global economic decisions, and which changed the awareness of those directly affected, as well as broader publics, about how debt affected poverty. Economic literacy and public education which enable local people to speak for themselves were just as important as technical research, professional advocacy (for further examples of this approach see Just Associates 2006) As one analyst of the movement has written, Jubilee 2000 ‘enhanced participants’ critical consciousness, facilitating collective action as the basis for social empowerment and social transformation’ (Mayo 2005:189).”

Adapted from ‘Levels, Spaces and Forms of Power: Analysing opportunities for change’ in Power in World Politics. John Gaventa. 2007. Routledge. (This case study is available to download from the resources section of www.powercube.net.)

Ms Pettifor remained Director of the UK Jubilee 2000 Coalition. As effective leader, she travelled widely to support Jubilee 2000 campaigns in countries as diverse as  Japan, Peru, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Nigeria and the United States until the campaign was disbanded –  as scheduled – at the end of 2000.

John Gaventa has noted (see above) that “the (Jubilee 2000) movement was able to align itself across all the dimensions of power……. Along the vertical dimension, not only did it mobilise at global meetings of the G7, IMF, World Bank, Paris Club and others, but it also built links with national organisations and campaigns in over sixty countries, which lobbied, campaigned, protested and educated in their own countries as well. In many places, the campaign linked with local groups, such as in Uganda where the Ugandan Debt Network mobilised and educated debt-awareness groups at the village and district level, who could articulate the connection between the global movement and budget priorities of local governments (Collins, Gariyo and Burdon 2001).

“Along the horizontal dimension, the campaign spanned mobilisation in multiple spaces. While much attention was focused on challenging and making more transparent the deliberations of relatively closed decision making spaces, at the same time it took advantage of new opportunities for consultation, e.g. invited spaces, where campaigners could also negotiate and make their case, such as those related to discussions around the Highly Indebted Poor Country programme (HIPC), led by the World Bank, IMF and other bi-laterals. At the same time, it carried out mass mobilisation outside of both the closed and invited spaces, often simultaneously, symbolised most powerfully when in July 1998 in Birmingham when a 70,000 person human chain surrounded the G7 meetings and demanded to be heard.”

World Bank Report, September 2009
Average Debt Service and Poverty Reducing Expenditures*

worldbankreportSources: HIPC documentsl and IMF staff estimates. *Prior to 2008, figures represent debt-service paid, and thereafter, debt service figures are projected.

ann-facing-popeMeeting with Pope John Paul II in September, 1999

“Ann Pettifor combined all the virtues of the best lobbyists. Marshalled her material, occupied the high moral ground, acknowledged when she was wrong, and had an infectious faith in her cause!”

Michael Holman, Africa editor of the Financial Times, in correspondence with Paula Goldman, social anthropologist and author.

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