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Thousands pack Trafalgar Square to Make Poverty History
Around 22,000 people packed into Trafalgar Square yesterday to hear Nelson Mandela issue a challenge to world leaders to act to make poverty history in 2005.
His challenge comes as finance ministers from the worldís richest countries arrive in London for the G7 meeting where they will discuss cutting poor countriesí 39 billion dollar debt burden.
Mr Mandela said: "Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. I say to all those leaders, do not look the other way; do not hesitate. Recognise that the world is hungry for action, not words."
Mandela's speech comes after around 600 vicars from across the country recently joined Dawn French as a white band was tied around Nelsonís Column in Trafalgar Square and a white band card was delivered at No 10 Downing Street, demonstrating support for the Make Poverty History campaign.
They reiterated the challenges on debt, trade and aid laid down last year as the Make Poverty History campaign was announced. With Gordon Brown in Africa addressing the same issues of poverty, the campaign hopes the UK government will use their influence internationally to make important changes at critical meetings throughout the year, including the G8 in July.
The former South African president had been invited to London by the Make Poverty History coalition, which includes 220 organisations across the UK, including the thinktank and newsagency Ekklesia. He is also scheduled to meet the G7 finance ministers.
The hour-long rally included a song from Jamelia and speeches from Sir Bob Geldof and others.
Make Poverty History is the UK arm a global coalition representing 150 million people from 60 countries.
"It was a great honour today to have Nelson Mandela address a huge crowd in Trafalgar Square on behalf of the Make Poverty History campaign", said Martin Drewery, Christian Aidís campaigns manager.
"As Mr Mandela said poverty is man-made and much of it is a result of unfair trade rules which prevent millions of people around the world from making a decent living.
"The G7 finance ministers have the opportunity to really get the ball rolling and make good on the Governments promises to tackle the issues of trade, aid and debt."