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UNEP and Habitat Welcome G8 Cologne Debt Relief Initiativ

Nairobi, 21 June 1999 - Speaking to the press here today, Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Acting Executive Director of the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) said he welcomed the debt relief plan agreed to by world leaders at the G8 Summit in Cologne, Germany, last weekend.

"Debt relief is a necessary pre-condition for sustainable development - an important step towards increasing resources for education, health and the environment," said Toepfer. "Debt relief is also essential in order to alleviate the conditions of the urban poor," he said.

"It is not always easy to understand the interlinkages between poverty, environment, and economic development," said Toepfer. "And, while I welcome the debt plan, in order to achieve the goals of poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability, it is also important that the international community increase its level of overseas development assistance (ODA) to deserving countries."

Toepfer continued, "The 1999 Cologne Debt Initiative, and in particular the relaunch of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative, is a clear signal that debt relief, and I believe overseas development assistance, must increasingly be tied to good governance. For example, debt relief will only alleviate the living conditions of the billion people who are homeless or live without adequate shelter in our cities if governments and local authorities commit themselves to better urban governance."

World leaders at the G8 Summit agreed in Cologne last weekend to relaunch the Highly Indebted Poor Countries initiative as a vehicle for faster, deeper and broader debt relief - the HIPC was set-up in 1996 to relieve up to $7.7 billion in debt owed by 20 of the world's poorest countries. According to the 1999 G8 Communique, the central objective of the 1999 Cologne Debt Initiative is "to provide a greater focus on poverty reduction by releasing resources for investment in health, education and social needs. In this context we also support good governance and sustainable development." It is expected that 36 countries now stand to receive debt write-offs totalling $70 billion.


For more information contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman
on tel: (254-2) 623292,
Robert Bisset,
UNEP Spokesman's Office
on tel: (254-2) 623084, fax: 623692,
Or, Sharad Shankardass,
Ag. Head,
Media Relations & Press Unit,
tel: (254-2) 623153, fax: 624060,

Joint UNEP/Habitat News Release 1999/73

Monday 21 Jun 1999
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