Over half of UK believes recession must not hinder help for world’s poor

By agency reporter
July 13, 2009

Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of British men and women want to see poverty ended in their life time, says a poll commissioned by international development agency Christian Aid.

And more than half (55 per cent) believe the present economic climate must not be allowed to hinder efforts to help the world’s poor. A fifth (21 per cent) say that instead, even greater priority should be given to the fight against poverty.

Almost half (45 per cent) feel the UK government should be doing more to help, while around the same number (46 per cent) say a political party’s policies on ending poverty would influence their vote.

The YouGov poll marks the launch of a new Christian Aid report, Poverty Over, which says the financial and other crises offer an unprecedented opportunity for the final eradication of global poverty.

The report, which explores some of the measures that must be taken to achieve such a goal, is intended to inject new life and urgency into efforts to help the poor.

"The world is in crisis," said Christian Aid director Dr Daleep Mukarji today.

"It isn’t just financial. Climate change, the food security crisis and worsening levels of inequality are also undermining quality of life for many millions of people.

"Historically, crises have prompted massive social change. The fear, chaos and upheaval that accompany them can have a galvanising effect. Change can bring with it the opportunity to shape what is to come, giving birth to hope and a sense of purpose. Now is the time for new thinking and new ideas.

"Despite the large percentage of those polled wanting an end to poverty, only three per cent believed that goal would be achieved in their life time. If a determined effort is not made now to tackle poverty, they will be right."

The fight, the report warns, cannot be won unless the structural causes of poverty are first uprooted. These, it says, can be traced directly back to human and institutional indifference to people without power, and even, in some cases, policies intended to impoverish.

"Poverty is political," the report says. "Rather than being merely an unhappy fact of life, it is the result of structures and systems created by humans and of people being effectively excluded from decision-making. As such, the solutions must be political too."

Christian Aid has identified eight key areas where action is needed if poverty is to be ended, including taking urgent action to combat climate change and equip poor countries to deal with its impacts.

It also wants to the system of finance to be more transparent and supportive to people living in poverty and to real economic activity, rather than financial markets.

The report believes that a comprehensive list of what is required will only emerge from wide engagement and consultation with civil society organisations in developed and developing countries, the private sector, academics, activists, campaigners, supporters and policymakers.

"That poverty still exists in the world today is morally scandalous" said Dr Mukarji. "It’s not that we don’t know how to treat or cure many diseases, enable the hungry to be fed, educate children or create jobs.

"It is simply that all too often we look the other way from what needs to be done. There is enough in the world today for everyone’s need, if greed and indifference don’t stand in the way.

"Over the next year we plan to engage widely on this subject with partners, supporters, businesses and leading development thinkers to identify the new ways of thinking that can take us from global crisis to global solutions.

"We want to build both the technical detail of the approach, and also the support necessary to make poverty eradication a reality. The utmost urgency is needed if the world is to seize this opportunity for change."

Church reaction to Poverty Over has already been very positive. The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, said: "Poverty Over is a bold new vision of a global compact to end poverty by attacking its root structural causes. It’s a vibrant challenge that deserves the widest possible support from the churches. Christian Aid is setting an agenda we can gather around and giving a lead we can follow."

The Rev Graham Sparkes, a minister in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and head of their Faith and Unity department for ecumenical engagement, public issues and social justice work also endorsed the drive. "At this time of economic financial crisis it is tempting to focus on ourselves. ‘Poverty Over' challenges us to do the opposite, to look outwards and see this time of turbulence as an opportunity to change the systems that oppress people and create poverty."

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