Debts for nature

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In pursuit of its goal Debts for Nature Campaign (www.deseurope.org) announced the contest of ecological projects of regional and global importance. Eventually selected projects would be used as lobbying arguments along the communication with creditors – world’s developed countries.

To be well effective, we seek campaign’s country representatives in European States.

Debts for Nature Campaign’s goal is to redirect Euro 1 billion of European debts on environmental expenditure during coming five years within the frameworks of Debt for Environment Swap* Agreements. Such agreements are to
prescribe how the debt payments in local currencies would be spent on environment in the very debtor countries (and not be paid back as they were supposed to be paid).

How feasible is the goal of the Campaign is?
Since 1987 over 30 countries have benefited from Debt for Environment Swaps (DES) which have generated over US $
1 billion in funding for the environment worldwide. In Europe since its beginning in 1992, actual Debt for Nature swaps has reached almost 400 million, i.e. 0.1 % of general debts of European economies in transition (these debts are more than $ 400 billion).

Out of these 400 billion, bilateral debts (sovereign debts to national governments) constitute up to 30 % and are most feasible to be swapped. Hence the Campaign’s main target audience is the Governments of the creditor countries. It is left to convince them to swap small portion of the debts to solve environmental problems of the region and worldwide: climate change, water quality, pollution of seas, waste management, etc.

Why do creditors swap their debts?
First of all, by swapping their debts they increase environmental expenditure in other countries and indirectly, improve ecological conditions in their own countries (environmental problems often recognise no boarders). Thus, Finland agreed to swap 50 million of USD of Russian Debt to be spent on the improvement of the ecosystem of the Baltic Sea.

Secondly, execution of environmental projects sometimes needs high technology solutions, which could be bought in the developed countries.

Finally, by swapping their debts, developed countries make the steps to comply with official international commitments, like the Millennium Development Goals 2 and the UN target to provide yearly 0.7 % of Gross National Income as official development assistance flows to the developing world.

What has been done by the Campaign so far?
In June, 2003 we announced the contest of ecological projects of regional and global importance. Eventually selected projects would be used as lobbying arguments along the communication with creditors – world’s developed
countries. More than 20 projects of the kind have been already received in Ukraine within the contest

Debt-for-Environment Swap (DES) is the cancellation of external debt in exchange for local currency environmental expenditures We quite intensively lobbied during last EFGP council meeting in Malta, April, 2003 and during Kyiv Environment for Europe Conference (Kyiv – Ukraine), May, 2003. At the last event we advocated the open call for the wide application of DES along the UN Economic Commission for Europe region by European Ministers of the Environment and partially succeeded in that. 54 European Ministers of the Environment welcomed by consensus the new DES initiative in Europe (Georgia), calling other heavily indebted countries of UNECE region to use more actively the DES mechanism along the Continent (refer to the quotation from the Ministerial Declaration on www.des-europe.org.

The Future
This is the beginning of very big thing that will require efforts in both developed counties and economies in transition. Therefore Debt for Nature Campaign seeks the Campaign representatives in European States who would coordinate campaigns activities in his/her country. The vision on how to get the YES of creditors within specified time is already present and will be finally developed with the contributions of those who will take part in the Campaign. The same refers to the more detailed sequence of campaign steps. This could be presented already on the coming FYEG’s general assembly in November 2003.

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