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Tony Blair: We Are Making Poverty History

By Tony Blair

From the Daily Mirror online, Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - I was pleased to see the Mirror yesterday hailing the Gleneagles agreements on Africa as historic.

It's an overused word, but in this case I believe it is justified. For the first time, the international community came together to agree a package of measures designed to end the scandal of global poverty.

It saw ambitious pledges on aid, on debt relief, on tackling disease and providing basic health care and education.

It was also a breakthrough which belonged to millions of people, including many Daily Mirror readers.

The extraordinary public support for Make Poverty History and Live8 ensured the world's leaders found the imagination and courage to go the extra mile at the G8 summit.

But words, no matter how genuine and well-intentioned, do not feed a starving child or get life-saving medicines to the sick.

The international community now has to deliver.

Global poverty, of course, could never be ended overnight.

It was always going to be a long haul and many of the Gleneagles commitments are long-term.

But I also understand the impatience for change - the sooner we get started, the quicker we will begin to lift people out of poverty.

Which is why I set out last night what has happened since Gleneagles, where we are on schedule and where we have fallen behind.

It's why, too, I announced the establishment of an Africa Progress Panel, to monitor how the international community is delivering on its commitments to Africa and to chase them up to ensure they do. It will be headed by Kofi Annan, number among its members Bob Geldof and be supported by Bill Gates.

So what's the score card like after 12 months?

We shouldn't hide the disappointments, but nor should we underestimate the progress and, perhaps even more importantly, the real change on the ground.

Global aid is already up by 25 per cent - an increase of $20billion towards the target of a $50bn rise by 2010.

The UK's aid budget alone is rising from £3.8bn in 2004/5 to £5.3bn by 2007/8 - a 140 per cent real-terms increase since 1997. Some of this global increase has already gone on cancelling the debt of over 20 of Africa's poorest countries - another move agreed at Gleneagles.

 know this is controversial. But it is one of the most effective ways of turning aid into concrete change.

It has already enabled Zambia this year to provide free health care by abolishing medical fees. Writing off Nigeria's debt will free at least $1bn a year to help employ 120,000 teachers and put 3.5 million children in school.

On health, we agreed to intensify the fight against the major diseases that help explain why Africa is the only continent where life expectancy is falling. International Development Secretary Hilary Benn has won agreement for an urgent $3.7bn injection into the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria.

The UK's contribution is £200million over two years. But there is still a big global short-fall and we are working hard to ensure the gap is closed.

We have seen innovative thinking, largely thanks to Gordon Brown, in the $4bn International Finance Facility for Immunisation. Launched in September by the UK, France, Italy and Sweden, the aim is to prevent five million deaths from diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough by 2015.

The world also has to deliver on its commitments in the long-term battle against HIV/AIDS.

Following Gleneagles, the international community accepted we should fund every country with a proper plan to prevent the spread of HIV, to treat those affected and support them and their families.

This is a hugely ambitious target. It won't be easy to meet. But it's another example of the impact Make Poverty History and the Gleneagles summit have made on international thinking.

The UK is leading, too, on helping provide basic education. Gordon Brown has committed at least £8.5bn over the next decade to provide schooling and encourage more girls into education.

Where there is reason for disappointment is on trade talks. And that's important. A just global deal is the best way to help people lift themselves out of poverty.

We have seen advances in ending agricultural subsidies but not nearly as much as we wanted.

We have to work much harder - as I promise to do - to overcome the obstacles. With good will on all sides, we can achieve it.

So I am not claiming we have achieved everything agreed at Gleneagles. I do, however, believe we have made real progress on delivering on these commitments - as we have on supporting African peace-keeping and in providing emergency aid.

I can promise as well that Gordon, Hilary and I - and the whole government - are determined to work flat out to ensure this progress is accelerated in the coming months.

But we also know it was thanks to the efforts of millions of people that the plight of Africa was catapulted to the top of the international agenda.

It is up to you to ensure it doesn't slip out of the headlines.

That's why it is important for you to keep up the pressure on me, on the government and the international community to continue the long drive to Make Poverty History.

 


 

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