Religious leaders from across the G8 countries have called on heads of government to follow the UK in fulfilling existing commitments to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on aid.
Over 70 religious leaders emphasised in a letter to the Financial Times that from April 5, only 1,000 days remain to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline.
With a focus on tax, trade and transparency, the religious leaders argue, the UK Presidency of the G8 has the potential to advance the MDG agenda in ways that will strike at the underlying causes of poverty, in particular by ensuring the wealth created by developing countries is not lost through unfair tax practices, a lack of transparency or a failure to secure the benefits of trade for developing countries.
Signatories of the letter include the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Catholic Archbishops of Westminster and Glasgow, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the General Secretary of the United Reformed Church, the President of the Methodist Conference and the Recording Clerk of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
"Meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible - but only if governments do not waver from the moral and political commitments made over a decade ago," the letter stresses.
The religious leaders argue for a G8 Convention on tax transparency, committing signatory countries to the task of preventing individuals and companies from hiding wealth so that it is untraceable. Furthermore, they call on the G8 to press for greater financial transparency from the governments of developing countries so that citizens can hold their governments to account for the money they spend.
"Development is working but challenges remain," the letter points out. "The number of people living in extreme poverty has been halved ahead of time and 14,000 fewer children die each day than in 1990. Yet one in eight people still go to bed hungry every night and more than 2 million die of malnutrition each year."
The financial crisis may be a reason but is not an excuse for hesitation or deferral, the letter states: "Reaching a purposeful consensus on these areas won't be easy. But, if the political will and moral leadership is forthcoming, this year's G8 could help to create an environment that encourages the conditions for inclusive, equitable and sustainable economic growth - conditions that are desperately needed if we are to realise the MDGs and even greater things beyond."
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