Martin Dent, 1925 - 2014 - co founder of Jubilee 2000
Dr Martin Dent was a co-founder, with Bill Peters, of the Jubilee 2000 movement, which campaigned throughout the 1990’s for a remission of unrepayable world debt. These two elderly gentlemen that nobody has ever heard of were more successful than anyone could have expected. Tens of billions of dollars, perhaps as much as $130 billion from 35 countries, of debts were written off. Their work continues today through groups such as Jubilee USA and the Jubilee Debt Campaign. Debt was one of the areas targeted by the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005.
It all began with a petition calling for a one off cancellation of debt which Debt drew up. At the time he was a politics lecturer at Keele University, and it was signed by his students. In 1993, he made common cause with Bill Peters, a former High Commissioner to Malawi. They began to write to influential figures in politics, finance and the church to put forward their arguments.
One of Dent’s ancestors was Thomas Fowell Buxton, who had taken forward William Wilberforce’s fight against slavery in the early 19 century. Dent was inspired by Buxton’s words, “With ordinary talents and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.” Dent and Peters modelled their campaign on the way the anti-slave trade movement had mobilised public opinion.
They gained the support of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair and the majority of British MPs, numerous notable people in show business and the sport and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Their Jubilee 2000 petition would eventually gain some 20 million signatures from 155 countries – both being recognised as world records.
Dent had pursued a career in the Colonial Service, where he is credited with single-handedly quelling a riot in Nigeria, a country to which he would often return. He became a lecturer in politics at Keele, Staffordshire in 1963, remaining there until he retired in 1990.
He was a man of deep Christian faith, which gave him the impetus to keep going, and that the campaign would work. He has been described as “one of those very rare, extremely inspirational and visionary individuals.” I was privileged to meet him once, in the early 2000’s, at a dinner party. His eccentricities were evident – we had to stop to point him in the right direction as he was setting out to drive home - but his conversation was enlightening.