Together, we can Make Poverty History!
At the start of the 21st century, 1.2 billion people live in abject poverty, most of them women. More than 800 million people go to bed hungry and 50,000 people die every day from poverty-related causes. It doesn't have to be this way. If we choose if we have the will to act we can make poverty history.
Poverty is a violation of human rights on a massive scale. Nearly five years ago, all members of the United Nations committed to "spare no effort" in tackling poverty by adopting the Millennium Declaration. Governments also launched the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to meet minimum targets to reduce poverty, hunger, illiteracy, discrimination against women, and environmental degradation by 2015.
But the pace of action is too slow. If we hold the present course, we will fail to meet these targets. And the poor will pay the price.
The Asian tsunami showed that Canadians, including the Canadian government, care deeply and react generously when the world is faced with humanitarian disasters. But short-term relief is not enough. We need a shift in national and international policies to eliminate poverty.
It's time for real action. In 2005, anti-poverty campaigns have been launched worldwide. If everyone who wants to end poverty speaks at the same time, world leaders will be forced to listen.
Canada's campaign to end poverty, Make Poverty History, calls for urgent and meaningful policy change. Here's what we want in 14 words: More and Better Aid. Trade Justice. Debt Cancellation. End Child Poverty in Canada.
1 MORE AND BETTER AID
Aid is a resource held in trust for people living in poverty. We must not break this trust. But we must do more than simply maintain or even increase our aid-we must also make aid more effective.
More and better aid is needed to help end extreme poverty and hunger... to enable every child to attend elementary school... to reduce child mortality rates... to improve maternal health... to create decent jobs... and to begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Canada can take action:
- Reach the UN target of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) in aid by 2015.
- Enact legislation to make ending poverty the exclusive goal of Canadian foreign aid in a way consistent with our human rights obligations.
2 TRADE JUSTICE
Currently, international trade is neither free nor fair. Trade rules allow rich countries to pay large subsidies to a small number of companies to export food. These policies encourage over-production, destroy the livelihoods of millions of poor farmers in developing countries and hurt the environment.
We need trade justice so poor countries can protect small farmers and staple crops... so governments can access affordable medicine and maintain public services... and so trade rules support, rather than undermine, human rights and environmental protection.
Canada can take action:
- Press for trade and investment rules that ensure governments and their citizens can choose the best solutions to end poverty and protect the environment.
- Support measures that boost farmers' power in the marketplace and that bring an end to the dumping of goods, which damages the livelihoods of poor rural communities.
3 DEBT CANCELLATION
High interest rates and penalties mean that the poorest countries spend more on repaying debts to the richest countries than they receive in aid. Between 1970 and 2002, for example, the poorest African countries received $294 billion in loans, paid back $298 billion in interest and principal, but still owed more than $200 billion.
We must cancel all debts to the poorest countries to stop this treadmill. When poor governments no longer need to repay debt, they can spend more on what really matters: food, clean water, housing, health care, jobs, education, and building their economies.
Canada can take action at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund:
- Promote the immediate and unconditional cancellation of 100% of the multilateral and bilateral debt owed by the poorest countries.
- Ensure that debt cancellation has no strings attached, enabling developing countries to implement their own national plans to end poverty.
4 END TO CHILD POVERTY IN CANADA
In 1989, the House of Commons unanimously resolved to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. At the start of 2005, one million Canadian children, or nearly one in six, are still poor. Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected.
We must end child poverty in Canada. We must make key investments in social development that will make a difference: More money for low-income families. Affordable housing and the creation of decent jobs, with a higher minimum wage. And universal, affordable early learning and child care.
Canada can take action:
- Raise the annual Canada Child Tax Benefit (or equivalent benefit) to $4,900 per child and ensure all low-income children receive full benefit of this program.
- Involve groups where poverty is predominant, such as Aboriginal People, women, minorities and youth in the design and implementation of a domestic poverty reduction strategy.
We need your voice to add to our worldwide chorus. Find out how you can support our global campaign at www.makepovertyhistory.ca. Together, we can make poverty history.
"...We ask you to provide leadership in global poverty eradication, especially in areas of debt cancellation and increased development assistance. It would be the right thing to do, and the right moment to act."
Letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin, from Bishop Blaise Morand, Chairman of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Social Affairs Commission June 27, 2005.
What are the Millennium Development Goals?
The United Nations' eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 - form a blueprint agreed to by all the world's countries and all the world's leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world's poorest.
- Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
- Achieve universal primary education
- Promote gender equality and empower women
- Reduce child mortality
- Improve maternal health
- Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- Ensure environmental sustainability
- Develop a global partnership for development