Tributes paid to dedicated campaigner Bill Peters

William (Bill) Peters, who dedicated his life to campaigning against debts faced by poorest nations, died peacefully in early hours of Saturday

Bill Peters with Dr David Golding of the Jubilee Debt Campaign
Bill Peters with Dr David Golding of the Jubilee Debt Campaign

Tributes have been paid to a dedicated campaigner who has died at the age of 90.

William (Bill) Peters CMG CVO MBE, died peacefully in the early hours of Saturday, March 19, and was buried on Friday, April 11.

He dedicated his life to campaigning against the debts faced by the poorest nations, helping found the international movement Jubilee 2000.

Mr Peters was born in 1923 in Morpeth, Northumberland, the son of a cabinet maker and a light opera singer. He attended King Edward IV Grammar School, before going to Oxford at the age of 17.

The war intervened and he saw active service in Burma with the Gurkhas.

With the end of the war, Bill completed his studies and entered the Diplomatic Service. His postings included one in Ghana, where he once spoke to school children and encouraged them to aim high in their lives. Among them was a young Kofi Annan who later, as Secretary General of the UN, told Bill he still remembered hearing him.

Mr Peters eventually became Ambassador to Uruguay and High Commissioner to Malawi. He retired in 1983 but continued to campaign for debt remission among poorer nations.

During the early 1990s, Mr Peters linked up with Martin Dent OBE, who was to become his close friend and colleague.

Their association with Isobel Carter of Tearfund, Ann Pettifor, the coordinator of the Debt Crisis Network, and others led to the launch of Jubilee 2000 in 1996. In October 1997, it blossomed into the Jubilee Debt Coalition, with members which included churches and faith groups, aid agencies and unions.

The international coalition movement worked in over 40 countries and called for cancellation of third world debt by the year 2000.

Dr David Golding CBE and Roger Chisnall, founding board members and co-chairs of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, a linked organisation which launched in 2001 with Mr Peters’ support, said: “We all shared Bill’s conviction that, ‘It is intolerable that we should go into the next millennium in a situation where the poorest quarter of the human family owes totally unpayable debt to creditors in the richest quarter’.”

He added: “Grassroots activists were committed to the continuation of the debt campaign after 2000, fearing that the promises made by politicians and creditors would be forgotten or diluted, without a vociferous body of campaigners.

“We believed that the actual delivery of debt relief would bring manifest benefits to the poor and that these would provide valuable ammunition with which to ‘ask for more’, including the fulfilment of the Jubilee 2000 petition demand that Governments take effective steps to prevent such high levels of debt building up again.”

In 2001 Mr Peters and other co-founders of Jubilee 2000 were awarded Lambeth Degrees by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Mr Peters also received the Gandhi International Peace Award for his contribution to the campaign, which “made possible the provision of basic education and health-care to thousands of people”.

Moving a motion at the Annual Assembly of the university lecturers’ union in 1999, David Golding described Jubilee as “one of the noblest concepts ever to grace the mind of man”.

Mr Peters married Catherine in 1944, who died in 1998.

In 2004, he married again and is survived by Gill and her two daughters, as well as by his nieces and nephews.

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