Make Poverty History

Andrew Baker

This slogan hit the media and the churches at the beginning of 2005. What is it all about?
Should Christians play an active part in it?


As we look back over our history we discover that it has often been Christians who have played decisive roles in changing things for the better. Notably William Wilberforce campaigned for over 20 years to get a bill passed in Parliament that made history and led to the abolition of slavery. He was part of a group that prayed and worked for fellow human beings to be treated as people ‘made in the image of God.’


At the beginning of 2005 the state of some of the poorest in the world was highlighted following the Asian tsunami disaster. It is a sad fact of life that while people were wonderfully moved to give generously as a result of the tsunami, more people have died because of poverty every 10 days to 2 weeks since! Makepovertyhistory addresses that sad reality and seeks to influence the movers and shakers in the world to make decisions that will make a real difference this year. I believe that every Christian should be backing this campaign. Christian agencies like Tear Fund, Christian Aid, World Vision and CAFOD are in the lead. They ask all of us to support them.


What is it about? L~


Today the gap between the world’s rich and poor is wider than ever. Global injustices like poverty, AIDS, malnutrition, conflict and illiteracy remain rife. Despite the promises of world leaders, at our present sluggish rate of progress the world will fail dismally to reach internationally agreed targets to halve global poverty by 2015.


World poverty is sustained not by chance or nature, but by a combination of factors: injustice in global trade; the huge burden of debt; insufficient and ineffective aid. Each of these is exacerbated by inappropriate economic policies imposed by rich countries. But it doesn’t have to be this way. These factors are determined by human decisions.


2005 is a significant year for the UK government which wants to use its presidency of the G8 [the world's most powerful governments] and the EU to put global poverty on the international agenda. Government initiatives include:


~**Establishment of the Africa Commission to report in the spring on how poverty in Africa can be eradicated.*~ ~*Gordon Brown is seeking support for his International Financing Facility to increase levels of aid to the developing world.*~ ~*Gordon Brown has led the way in getting the suspension of debts owed by countries affected by the Asian Tsunami and has recently announced further debt cancellation.**~


The government wants greater commitment from other G8 countries and looks to voters to support and put pressure on them even if they do not fully agree with the aims of the Makepovertyhistory coalition. In 2005 the UK Government will be a particularly influential player on the world stage. By mobilising popular support we have the opportunity to press our own government to compel rich countries to fulfil their obligations and promises to help eradicate poverty, and to rethink some long-held assumptions.


Makepovertyhistory urges the government and international decision makers to rise to the challenge. We are calling for urgent and meaningful policy change on three critical and inextricably linked areas: trade, debt and aid.


1. Trade JusticeL~ ~**Fight for rules that ensure governments, particularly in poor countries, can choose the best solutions to end poverty and protect the environment. These will not always be free trade policies.*~ ~*End export subsidies that damage the livelihoods of poor rural communities around the world.*~ ~*Make laws that stop big business profiting at the expense of people and the environment. **~ 2. Drop the DebtL~ ~**The unpayable debts of the world’s poorest countries should be cancelled in full, by fair and transparent means. Christians were in the forefront of the Jubilee 2000 debt campaign and the key role of the biblical base was recognized by unbelievers.**~ 3. More and Better AidL~ ~**Donors must now deliver at least $50 billion more in aid and set a binding timetable for spending 0.7% of national income on aid. Aid must also be made to work more effectively for poor people.**~


Makepovertyhistory is a unique UK alliance of charities, trade unions, campaigning groups and celebrities mobilising around key opportunities in 2005 to drive forward the struggle against poverty and injustice. Some years ago Evangelical Christians were debating the sad reality that so many people were dying and going to a lost eternity. As they debated these words were said:


'The statistics on how many souls die without Christ every minute are irrelevant if they do not take into account how many of those who die, die victims of hunger'.


Our evangelical heritage is about mission to the whole person. As we pray for missionaries as they share the gospel let us also log on to the websites that will tell us more to see how we can be involved. July 2 in Edinburgh will see thousands campaigning to makepovertyhistory just before the G8 most powerful nations meet in Gleneagles. Will I see you there?

Useful websites:L~

Rev Andrew J.M. Baker has complied this article with help from makepovertyhistory and Christian Aid sources.  Andrew is a Methodist Minister working for Christian Aid in Nottingham.

Headline Spring 2005 pp 11-12.