Poverty hits the poor, but misses the headlines again

By Pascale Palmer
April 19, 2010

Was yesterday a good day to bury important global perspectives? Let's consider the evidence and then look at what you might have missed...

Well, Sunday is traditionally a quiet news day: the weekend papers are all a-bed, and most newsrooms are a few staff down. But yesterday, with volcanic plumes bringing a no-fly zone to 20 European countries, UK party leaders on walkabout, the Pope speaking from Malta, Jenson Button’s Chinese win and the state funeral of the Polish president, I imagine a number of on-call journalists reluctantly trudged in for a busy day.

And of course, on top of all these happenings, the sun was out. Important news indeed for a country that thought it might never emerge from this winter’s mini-ice age.

The Tory-Labour-Lib Dem regrouping started in earnest yesterday as polls showed Nick Clegg won the televised prime ministerial debate on Thursday. With online donations to the Liberal Democrats up seven-fold since the debate, and visits to the official website up eight-fold, it came as no surprise that Gordon Brown felt it time to compare style (Clegg’s) against Labour’s policy substance. And from the sunny campaign trail, Cameron and Clegg respectively pushed their manifesto for the elderly and encouraged young people to vote.

All incredibly fascinating stuff. But what the majority of viewers and readers might not have realised is that Sunday April 18 had been designated World Poverty Day (http://www.voteglobal.org.uk/news/election-2010-world-poverty-day-confir...). This was supposed to be the day that all major political parties highlighted their take on international development but with the Lib Dem coup still morphing into an analysable event, the news agenda didn't put aid in poll position.

Cameron started the day with a joint comment piece with economist Jeffrey Sachs in the Independent on Sunday, highlighting the role the education of women has in reducing poverty, before visiting Islamic Relief in Birmingham; while Brown, at a London chapel, outlined Labour’s promise to ensure access to healthcare and primary education to every child in the world by 2015 with the help of a $200bn global aid deal (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11883); and Nick Clegg spoke after a church service in Surrey about our moral duty to address world poverty and his party’s commitment to doing so.

Recent OECD figures show that Britain continues to lead the way on aid contribution, and all three major party manifestos committed to passing legislation that ring-fences 0.7 per cent of GNI for aid. This is a substantial step that aid agencies have been lobbying for for many years. But for the bill to have teeth, it needs tough accountability and transparency measures to ensure targets are reached and every pound counts towards improving lives and infrastructures in the poorest countries. Whoever wins the next election will prove their commitment to developing nations through the content and detail of the aid bill.

But what I had really wanted to see on World Poverty Day was a reiteration that climate change is one of the biggest hurdles to reducing poverty. Building on cross-party support for the Climate Act, the commitment to taking the agenda to an international level is vital if inroads into developing nation support are to be maintained. The next government has to see that climate change repeatedly hits the poorest first and worst and it hits at the most fundamental levels of food production, community displacement and infrastructure degradation. And as resources become increasingly scarce, CAFOD is hearing of new community conflict in areas of Africa as people move onto ever decreasing areas of productive land.

All parties, regardless of the election outcome, must ally themselves to a big picture strategy on international development by addressing climate change as their first priority. They must push for a unilateral reduction in carbon emissions of at least 30 per cent at EU level, while at least $195 billion new and secure climate finance, that is additional to aid commitments, must be assured annually from industrialised nations for developing countries.

Improving the lives of individuals through access to essential services must be underpinned by investment in climate security that allows the poorest countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change and develop along a cleaner, greener path.


Pascale Palmer is CAFOD's advocacy media officer.


See also on Ekklesia: Cameron challenged on global development image and substance - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11874

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