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Make Poverty History is a collection of nearly a hundred UK charities, celebrities, faith groups and trade unions who are united in an effort to end world poverty. The symbol of the campaign is a white armband which is available from several charities' websites and shops. The campaign officially began on New Year's Day, 2005 when it was discussed by the characters of the television sitcom The Vicar of Dibley. With the help of the nation it aims to convince the leaders of the world's richest countries to achieve three things:
- Trade Justice
- Drop the Debt
- More and Better Aid
One of Make Poverty History's aims is to make the rules governing international trade fairer for poorer countries. The trade rules are written in a joint effort between the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These three organisations are run predominantly by richer countries, and so they are in a position where they could bias the rules against poorer countries. Make Poverty History claims that this is exactly what the richer countries are doing, and demands that the rules be changed to help rid the poorer countries of poverty.
Drop the Debt
Many debts are still owed to the richer countries by poorer ones, and these must continually pay interest on their loans until they can afford to pay them off. Sometimes government aid sent to these countries is seen as little more than a drop in the interest rate, as they have debts that are far too large to pay off. In 2004, only 10% of unpayable debts had been cancelled, and Make Poverty History is calling for all governments to cancel all the unpayable loans owed to them.
More and Better Aid
The UK government are committed to increasing the aid sent to poorer countries to a total of 0.7% of the Gross National Income1 by 2013, and many other countries have agreed to do the same. Make Poverty History has called on the government to reach the target sooner, and to ensure other countries do the same. It also wants the aid to be available without strings attached (which means no conditions such as having to give a private UK company the right to take over a public service.)
The Make Poverty History campaign sees 2005 as an unprecedented opportunity to end world poverty, and says that it may be our last chance to put things right. The following events in 2005 are important in the fight against world poverty:
- The G8 summit in July 2005, hosted by the UK in Gleneagles, Scotland.
- The transfer of the EU Presidency to the UK in the second half of 2005.
- The 20th Anniversary of Live Aid on 13 July, 2005.
- The Commission for Africa report. Launched in 2004 by Tony Blair to promote action for a stronger and more prosperous Africa, the report is due to be released in April 2005.
- The UN General Assembly Special Summit on the Millennium Development Goals takes place in September, 2005 to review the success of the goals set in 2000 to reduce world poverty by 2015.
This makes it important for the campaign to convince the leaders of the richest countries to help the poorer ones, as they are the people who attend these events and make decisions. The campaign acts mainly through many thousands of people volunteering to help by sending a postcard or email to Tony Blair or one of the other leaders.
How to Get Involved
You can help the campaign by wearing the white armband associated with the campaign. It is available from Oxfam shops, and can be worn just about anywhere on the body. Alternatively, you can send a letter to the UK Prime Minister at:
- 10 Downing Street
- The Make Poverty History website contains various ways in which you can help persuade the politicians to help the poorer countries. You can also sign up to the campaign, and you will be emailed with details of what you can do to help.