Armed with a typically sobering report on the dimensions of global poverty, world leaders will meet this week at the United Nations on the problem one that never seems to get much better of how to help the world's impoverished, dying millions, many of whom are children.
Solutions will not come in one, overpowering wave. They will come in parts and debt forgiveness is a part whose time has come.
A concern, of course, is that developed nations will once again talk a better game than they deliver.
For its part, the Bush administration has been better at promising than providing, though the post-Katrina revelations about poverty in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast may help close that gap.
The leaders should echo what the G-8 nations the top developed countries, including the United States have pledged: $50 billion by 2010 to combat global poverty.
A good down payment on that commitment could come from the International Monetary Fund. It should follow through on the G-8's promise to forgive the international debt of the poorest 18 countries, 14 of which are in Africa.
Returning those funds to debtor countries won't cure the world, or even one country, of poverty.
About $2 billion annually is at issue, and that's not enough to greatly improve the lives of millions of Africans who subsist on $2 a day. But forgiving the debt has both material and symbolic value. It replaces the hand outstretched for money with simple human compassion. It affirms, in a way, that life is more important than money.
The Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.
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