The debt crisis

Debt can be useful. It can help us to spread out the cost of useful investments. But it is also a tool by which the rich can exploit the poor. We have seen a pattern recur throughout history to the present day. Lenders and borrowers should have shared responsibility to ensure that debts are contracted and spent fairly and responsibly. But all too often, lenders shirk their responsibilities and exploit those who need to borrow.

We aim to tackle unjust debt, to stop the boom-bust cycle of debt crises, and to build a finance system that works for everyone, not just the banks, speculators and the super rich. We see unjust debt as debt which has been contracted unfairly or undemocratically, or which is being used to fund war and human rights abuses, or which, because of its sheer size, is undermining basic human rights, like the right to good quality healthcare and education, and to nutritious food and clean water.

This problem of debt as a tool of exploitation is connected to the wider problem of inequality. Steep and rising inequalities in wealth and income across the world mean that more people and countries are reliant on debt to fund basic needs. And with this inequality of wealth comes inequality of power. Banks, hedge funds and the super rich are lending money irresponsibly, exploiting those in need, and getting bailed out by governments and global financial institutions when their greed comes back to bite.

This process locks people and countries in a debt trap – meaning they have to borrow more money just to service growing debt burdens, at the expense of lives, livelihoods and wellbeing.

People shouldn’t be the lenders of last resort for a broken economic system. Debt justice means tackling irresponsible, exploitative lending and corrupt borrowing, and cancelling unjust debts. We believe this is a necessary step towards a world in which there is equality, justice and dignity for all.

Read more about the countries in debt crisis.

Scroll through a timeline of major global debt events, from colonialism to World War One, the Third World Debt Crisis of the 1980s and 1990s to the global financial crisis of 2008.

Read up on people and countries who have resisted the rule of debt.

Look through the Jubilee Debt Campaign’s detailed reports and briefings.

Find out statistics on debt for all countries across the world.

Unsure what a word means? Look at our debt glossary.

Or check out our Frequently Asked Questions for the answers you are seeking.

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