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Bishops back 'Make Poverty History' Campaign

Friday 14th January 2005

Church of England bishops have backed the call to Make Poverty History in 2005.

At a meeting of the House of Bishops in Leeds, Church of England bishops issued a statement backing the Make Poverty History campaign.

They commended the worldwide response to the plight of those suffering after the Asian Tsunami disaster. They called on governments and international institutions to honour their pledges and help bring about long term transformation for the area. But they noted that the outpouring of aid and goodwill in this case contrasted with the lack of political will to push back poverty elsewhere in the world: "With poverty claiming a child's life every three seconds, a man-made and preventable disaster on the scale of Tsunami happens every single week. World poverty is sustained not by chance or nature, but by our human failing."

They called on the UK Government to deliver on its Millennium promise to halve global poverty by 2015.

The bishops are committed to mobilising their parishes, deaneries and dioceses to help the cause this year, noting that "..our Christian calling demands us to speak out on behalf of those without a voice and to challenge unjust structures that keep people poor."

The Church of England's membership of the Trade Justice Movement means that in 2005 it is part of the Make Poverty History Coalition. This is an alliance of more than 150 charities, unions and faith groups who are calling for trade justice, debt cancellation and more and better aid for the world's poorest countries.

For further information, follow the following website links:

Make Poverty History, click here
Trade Justice Movement, click here
Millennium Development Goals, click here

The full text of the House of Bishops' statement follows:

"As followers of Jesus Christ we are united with countless others in a personal sense of loss and grief for the thousands of lives lost and the millions of livelihoods destroyed by the devastating disaster in Asia. The subsequent international response has highlighted both the fragility of human life and the generosity of the human spirit arising from our common humanity.

The subsequent pledges by governments and international institutions will be crucial for the region's long term reconstruction. These pledges are to be applauded, provided they are honoured and so long as they represent new money rather than the recycling of funds already allocated to existing aid efforts for the poorest parts of our planet. A welcome moratorium on debt repayments for those countries most affected by the tragedy can be no substitute for a comprehensive cancellation of the unpayable debts of all the world's poorest countries.

Emergency assistance to those in immediate need and debt relief for the poorest needs to be accompanied by a determination on the part of the international community to overcome the systemic barriers, such as the imbalance in international trade, that prevent many countries from realising their full economic potential. Ongoing trade negotiations and the implementation of new trade rules should not compromise the ability of countries affected by the Tsunami from rebuilding their livelihoods. As such aid and debt relief must not be conditional on economic policy reforms such as privatisation, fiscal austerity or trade liberalisation.

The impressive international response to the Tsunami disaster stands in marked contrast to the lack of political will that has so far frustrated the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Progress to date has been woefully inadequate. With poverty claiming a child's life every three seconds, a man-made and preventable disaster on the scale of Tsunami happens every single week. World poverty is sustained not by chance or nature, but by our human failing.

As a member of both the Make Poverty History Coalition and the Trade Justice Movement, we are committed, both as a Church and as individual Christians, to pressing the Government, and the wider international community, to deliver on the commitment made five years ago at the Millennium Development Summit. Increases in aid, whatever the mechanism, will prove insufficient in realising the MDGs, if steps are not also taken to develop an international trading system that allows developing countries to remove trade barriers at a pace and in a way that lies within their own development plans. We recognise that these steps will not always be free trade policies.

We therefore urge the British Government to use its chair of the G8 and its Presidency of the EU to support changes to trade rules that enshrine the right of developing countries to protect their domestic agricultural sectors on the grounds of food security, livelihood security and sustainable rural development. Similarly the Government should press for a phasing out of those EU export subsidies that damage the livelihoods of impoverished rural communities around the world. Developing countries must have the flexibility to put poverty reduction and development ahead of trade liberalisation. Global trade rules and practices must not undercut internationally agreed social and environmental standards, in particular core labour standards.

As with the Jubilee 2000 Campaign, we are committed to mobilising our parishes, deaneries and diocese around key opportunities in 2005, not least the Global Week of Action and the G8 Summit, so that the Government delivers a modern Marshall Plan that tackles the underlying causes of poverty and deprivation. In pressing for such changes we are reminded that our Christian calling demands us to speak out on behalf of those whose voice remains unheard and to challenge unjust structures that keep people poor."

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