Brown pledges an end to global education poverty
The UK Chancellor Gordon Brown, who has spoken of his church upbringing as a major influence on his anti-poverty zeal, has pledged £8.5 billion in aid for education in Africa and Asia.
This 10-year funding plan is part of the commitment of the world's richest nations to help every African child have access to a primary school by 2015.
Indeed Mr Brown, who numbers among his dialogue partners US Christian leader Jim Wallis ñ whose best seller Godís Politics (which argues that the right has it wrong and the left doesnít get it on religion) he wrote a preface for ñ is even more ambitious than this. He is talking of universal primary education within just over nine years.
During a visit to a school in Mozambique, Mr Brown declared: "In 2005, Make Poverty History forced governments to make promises on aid. Now, in 2006 it is time for us to keep our promises."
He was referring to the international campaign backed by anti-poverty activists, NGOs, churches, aid agencies and development groups.
Meanwhile the British governmentís International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, said: "Education is a basic human right, and to get every child into school we need more investment.î
Mr Benn added: "Working with developing countries, through increased commitment from the UK, will help train more teachers, build more classrooms and give more children the best start in life."
The Brown pledge is not new money, but a designation of funds already committed in general terms. The chancellor will therefore be accused of opportunism in some quarters.
The new-look Conservative opposition, which is seeking to blend liberal economics with a new emphasis on compassion, gave a cautious welcome for the pledge, but said that it was a ìscandalî that 100 million children went without basic education across the globe, and a condemnation of ineffective policies.
The Tories have traditionally said that big business is better than aid or trade and debt justice as a way of eliminating poverty.
Pro-Make Poverty History ëLive 8í concert organiser Bob Geldof told the BBC today: "Education for all in Africa is essential for the eventual eradication of poverty and was one of the historic promises made by the G8 at Gleneagles.î
He continued: "In the next few weeks and months, starting at the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, the leaders and finance ministers of the G8 must deliver as Gordon Brown has done so impressively today."
Mr Brown is being joined by the former South African president Nelson Mandela in challenging world leaders to honour the pledges made last year.
The international community agreed to provide an extra 50 billion US dollars a year in aid in 2005.
Church and development groups are sceptical about the true intentions of the worldís richest nations, and have themselves pledged to keep up the pressure on the pledge-makers.
Gordon Brown is the hot tip to take over from Labour PM Tony Blair when and if he steps down within the lifetime of this parliament. Both are associated with the Christian Socialist Movement, though Blair says he does not use the 'S' word these days.