Letter to the Make Poverty History campaign
4 February 2005
Thank you for taking the trouble to write to me about the Make Poverty History campaign. I know this is a cause of great importance to many people and I can promise that the Government understands why.
I very much share your view that 2005 is a year of real opportunity for tackling global poverty. Through our Presidencies of the G8 and the European Union, the UK has the chance to give fresh impetus to the global push to tackle extreme poverty by increasing aid, more debt relief, fairer trade and action to reduce conflict and improve governance. I don't intend to waste this opportunity.
In the G8, I have said that our priorities will be Africa and Climate Change. Last year, I set up the Commission for Africa to take a fresh look at Africa's development. I believe we need a partnership between African governments and those of the developed world. The Commission will report in March, and its recommendations will inform the G8 discussions at Gleneagles in July. I want us to agree a comprehensive set of concrete actions on Africa to which G8 countries can be held to account. I also want to see tangible progress at the Millennium Review Summit in September, at which the UK will represent the EU. We intend to use this summit to press the international community to make a renewed commitment to meet the MDGs.
I fully recognise that this means more resources. You may know that Britain has already dramatically increased bilateral aid to Africa to £1 billion. It will increase further. On present plans, the UK will meet by 2013 the UN 0.7% target for aid and we are encouraging others to do the same. As a first step, we want the G8 to support a doubling of aid. Gordon Brown and I are proposing that this should be funded partly through an International Finance Facility (IFF) which could provide US$50 billion a year for development assistance between now and 2015, thus doubling the resources presently available to the poorest countries.
Of course money alone is not the answer. It has to be part of a package, including action to improve governance, reduce conflict and build the capacity of African countries. We will be proposing measures to further strengthen African peacekeeping and initiatives to tackle corruption and increase transparency. But extra resources are essential for real progress.
That's why further reducing the debt burden on the poorest countries must also be a priority for this year. Already, through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, over US$70 billion in debt relief has been agreed for countries that have demonstrated their commitment to poverty reduction. Together with our G7 colleagues, we are going beyond the requirements of the HIPC Initiative, by writing off 100 per cent of all bilateral debts for HIPC countries. But Britain is going further by taking a lead role on 100% multilateral debt relief and a firm pledge to pay our share of the debt service owed by low-income countries to the World Bank and the African Development Bank. We will again through the G8 be pressing others to follow our lead.
On trade, our priority will be ensuring that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial in Hong Kong in December agrees measures that will benefit the poorest countries. We will be pressing for agreement to increase access to our markets for poor countries, real cuts in OECD agricultural subsidies and recognition that trade liberalisation in poorer countries must be managed so it helps and not hinders their progress towards tackling poverty. But Britain will also press for concrete action to build the economic capacity of poor countries.
This is a very ambitious agenda -and I don't, for a moment, believe it will be easy to achieve. But I know, from letters like yours, how much it matters to the people of this country - and also how vital it is that we succeed for millions of people across the world still living in abject poverty. So I can promise that the UK will seize every opportunity throughout this year to push the plight of the poorest countries on earth to the top of the international agenda and, through our example and influence, make 2005 a year in which we begin to make poverty history.