"2005 is our chance to go down in history for what we did do, rather than what we didn?t do" Bono
The devastation in Asia has highlighted the plight of poorer countries and with changes in the environment, equally terrible disasters caused by humans are predicted. South Swindon MP Julia Drown, a leading supporter of less advantaged nations, reflects on what should be learnt from the tragedy.
I The people of Swindon have responded magnificently to the challenge presented by the terrible natural disaster in Asia. I thank all the many thousands who have donated money or supplies, or given their time for the relief effort.
The British government has committed ?75 million to the immediate humanitarian response. And it is pressing for a moratorium on debt repayments for afflicted countries that request it.
Some people have raised concern that the sudden event will remove the spotlight from the disaster that happens in Africa each day. But I?m confident that we can ensure that the awareness raised through the tsunami can help spread awareness of the wider tragedies that happen every day because of poverty.
And poverty isn?t the only major worldwide concern. Global warming, if not tackled, is likely to cause not only destruction here in Britain and internationally but even more poverty, ill health and catastrophes. And, as so often is the case, it is the poorest who suffer most as a result. Yet not all world leaders have taken this looming disaster seriously.
2005 is a key year to make politicians internationally face up to these challenges. The Millennium Development Goals, adopted by world leaders just five years ago, included a halving of poverty by 2015. With the political will this is possible and affordable. Yet, still, 30,000 children die each day from easily avoidable diseases.
I?m proud that it is the British Government that is leading the way on tackling these issues. It is making climate change a central issue for 2005 as well as a massive extension of debt relief and a reorganisation of world trade to favour developing countries. The Government is also pressing for a new International Finance Facility that will dramatically increase the funds that are immediately available to developing countries for long term investment.
Britain is chairing the G8 group of countries and in July will host the annual meeting of the world?s most powerful leaders, as well as take over the Presidency of the European Union. We can use these positions to press the international community for an all-out assault on poverty.
The Make Poverty History campaign is doing just that. The campaign is backed by the British Government as well as by celebrities such as Sir Bob Geldof and Bono. Many people in Swindon have already pledged their support for it.
This needs to be ? and I?m glad to say is likely to be – the biggest campaign the world has ever seen. In my role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Heavily Indebted Poor Countries I am working with the campaign to ensure Parliament plays its part.
A House of Commons reception in November to launch the campaign was packed and I?ve raised the issue at Prime Minister?s Question Time.
Nowhere is more action needed than in Africa, the only continent to have got poorer in the last 25 years. In sub-Saharan Africa, with the present rate of progress, the goal of halving poverty will not be achieved until 2150.
We must therefore create a new political climate where it will be impossible for world leaders to let this situation continue. By establishing the Commission for Africa, which is due to report in April, Britain has prepared the way for action.
But as Bono has said: "2005 is our chance to go down in history for what we did do, rather than what we didn?t do."
I?d urge readers to get involved in what is a historic opportunity. You can find out more by going to the web site or by contacting my office on 615444. Together we can Make Poverty History.