Five years ago, millions of us took part in the Make Poverty History Campaign. Everyone from rock stars, to church leaders, to members of the public mobilised to make 2005 a turning point in the fight against global poverty.
Despite the horror of the 7/7 attacks on London, the G8 was determined not to allow terrorists to derail the talks. And under Britain’s Presidency, the G8 agreed the most significant outcome in its history, hammering out a 50 billion dollar aid package, with 25 billion dollars for the world’s poorest countries in Africa and debt relief for those countries most in need.
Of course, we knew this would never be enough to Make Poverty History. But we also knew that if implemented, it could become a turning point, perhaps even a tipping point in the fight against poverty.
Five years on, the figures are in and the reckoning is due.
First, we should acknowledge how much has been achieved.
On debt relief the progress has been immense with 45 billion dollars delivered to the world’s poorest countries freeing up resources for health and education. In Burundi for example, the government was able to build 1,000 extra classrooms and provide free health services for every child under five.
And on Aid too, the G8 has delivered real improvements. According to the OECD – the custodians of the figures – 2010 will see the total amount of aid given to poor countries reach a new record, this at a period that has seen an unprecedented global financial crisis.
Indeed since 2005 total aid has grown by almost 28 billon dollar and that aid has had tangible benefits on the ground. More than four million people now receive treatment for HIV and AIDS – a tenfold increase over five years – and deaths among the under fives has fallen below ten million for the first time since records began. Through the UK led immunisation initiative, 500 million children will be vaccinated and 10 million lives will be saved by 2015. And the aid increases and debt cancellation have helped to get 47 million more children into school over the last ten years. This is impressive progress.
The UK has delivered on our own target too. In 2005 we promised we would spend 0.56% of our national income on aid; the OECD confirmed today that the UK will honour that promise.
There is no way that all of this would have happened without the Make Poverty History campaign and the landmark Gleneagles summit. Those involved should rightly feel proud of their contribution and the real changes this has made possible.
But let us be equally clear that the 50 billion dollar agreement made at Gleneagles has not been met.
Some of the shortfall is due to reduced growth during the global recession. But I do not believe there can be any excuse for denying money promised to the poorest people on our planet.
So where next? Do we accept that the international community cannot keep its promises and give up? Or do we seize the progress that has been made and push for more in the future? We act.
For this government there will be no giving up. 2010 is going to be a watershed year for the Millennium Development Goals and the UK is pushing hard for a Global Poverty summit in New York this year, to set out an action plan for the next five years to get us into a position to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We will also work with the EU and the Canadian G8 Presidency to put in place a new system of accountability to make it much harder for countries to break their promises in the future. And we will work to find new innovative sources of sustainable finance for future development.
Internationally we will drive further progress on education, health and the economic growth that are essential for progress. We will support the efforts of President Zuma, FIFA and the 1Goal campaign to make the legacy of the first World Cup in Africa, education for every African child. We will support all countries trying to end the outrage of women and children dying because they can’t afford basic healthcare. And through the G20 we will make sure the poorest countries benefit from our efforts to boost global growth in the crisis.
In the UK too we will strengthen our own accountability. We have already kept our G8 promises but we will go further and enshrine our commitment in law.
We have sought all party agreement on this, but sadly the Conservatives say a law isn’t necessary and refuse to match our commitment to introduce a Bill on this issue. I ask them to reconsider their position today.
The world came together in 2005 to make poverty history. In 2010 I call on the international community and campaigners to reinvigorate this mission; to renew their commitment – not to turn away from it.