Chancellor tells churches 2005 is 'make or break' for world poverty
Chancellor Gordon Brown declared 2005 a "make or break year for development" at a catholic aid agency's annual Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture.
Chris Bain, the Director of CAFOD , said: "We are pleased that Mr Brown has recognised that 2005 is a make or break year for development and applaud his commitment to make the G8 Summit in Edinburgh next year a Summit for development.
"But he must make sure that his words become actions if 2005 is to be a make and not break year. He must keep up the pressure on finance ministers globally, particularly in the United States, to put global poverty at the top of their agendas. Only this will provide the resources that are so desperately needed if we are to reach the Millennium Development Goals."
"Itís now five years since the worldís leaders signed off the Goals. 2015 is the target date and all but a handful of countries are woefully off-track. If rich countries do not come up with the resources needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals, they will not just be an empty promise, because the goals are the most important promise that rich countries have ever made, failure to provide the resources will fatally undermine their credibility."
"Mr Brown is right in saying that the Government will be judged by what they achieve. Hundreds of thousands of people are watching them and are demanding that the UK Government find solutions to world poverty in 2005."
A global campaign by churches to mobilise millions of Christians  in 100 countries to press their governments to halve poverty by 2015, has already been launched by the Archbishop of Cape Town, The Most Reverend Njongonkulu Ndungane.
Churches are being urdge to take a lead in putting pressure on governments to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals.
A coalition launched to fight climate change, which included several Christian agencies, has however warned  that unless action is taken immediately, development gains will go ëup in smokeí.
Introducing the Chancellor's lecture, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor pointed out that there was a time when the presence of a Chancellor of the Exchequer at such a meeting, organised by an NGO, would have been a bit like a "visitation from the fox to the hen house."
"Development was relatively low on the priority list of successive governments" the Cardinal said.
"That was partly a reflection of the state of our own economy. Partly a reflection of the relatively low priority which the public attached to overseas development. Development was a minority cause, not a popular one. And the job of the Treasury was to ensure that the taxpayersí money went to the principal domestic priorities. Not to overseas ones."
"How times have changed" the cardinal continued. "The visible face of hunger and poverty and disease has stirred the conscience of the developed world.
"There is a groundswell of popular sentiment for sustained action to alleviate the plight of the worldís poor", he continued.
The Cardinal praised the Chancellor as "a powerful advocate and author of the changing priorities of government."
"He has increased the UKís aid budget so that we have, for the first time, a clear date for meeting the UNís development target" the Cardinal said.
"He has led from the front in the European Union, the Commonwealth and the G8 in the quest for a radical programme of debt relief. And he has teamed up with the Catholic Church to get some momentum behind the Millennium Development goals. He has been imaginative, persistent and persuasive."
"Next month, we shall launch in this country the campaign to ìMake Poverty Historyî. And we are internationalising this campaign against poverty: ìThe Global Call to Actionî. The churches and the NGOs, with CAFOD prominent among them, will be pressing governments to do more, faster. But I know that, for Gordon Brown, this is already a priority. It could and should be a momentous year. The Commission on Africa will report in March. A UN summit will review the Millennium Development goals in September. The crucial ministerial meeting of the WTO trade and development negotiations will take place in Hong Kong next December. We are confident that the government will push the poverty agenda during our presidencies of the G8 and the European Union next year."