Fight against world poverty fails

London, January 11:

Britain’s chancellor (finance minister) Gordon Brown admitted today that Britain has failed to complete its ambitious development agenda in 2005 and proposes a five-point plan to make good the omissions from a year in which Tony Blair pledged to use his presidency of both t-he G8 and the EU to champion the fight against poverty.

Writing in the London-based Guardian newspaper, the chancellor said last year should be seen as the ‘start of something - not the end’ and confesses that the deadlock in the global trade talks was ‘depressing’.

Brown highlighted five areas in which ‘urgent’ action is required in 2006 — debt relief, trade, the environment, disaster relief and ensuring poor countries meet the United Nations millennium development goals (MDG) for poverty reduction by 2015. “Having taken the first steps to make poverty history, we must ensure that 2005 is remembered as the start of something — not the end. We must learn from our achievements and our failures, not least the depressing lack of final agreements on trade,” he said.

Britain hoped that 2005 would see 38 of the poorest countries given debt relief, aid doubled to $50 billion a year and a comprehensive deal to remove barriers to trade at the meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Hong Kong last month. The chancellor said he agrees with debt campaigners that more countries need debt relief and calls for 67 to be made eligible. So far, only 19 of the 38 countries identified as in need of help have been granted clemency.

The UK is concerned that the international focus will move on from development now Russia has assumed the presidency of the G8, and Brown supported the prime minister’s desire for an emergency G8 summit on trade with a call for a “January push by world leaders to restart and complete the trade talks”.

In the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan, Brown says he will be pressing at next month’s meeting of G8 finance ministers in Moscow for a new $4-5 billion UN disaster relief and reconstruction fund, in part bankrolled by oil producers that have benefited from rising energy prices.