Promises, Promises - Gordon Brown and World Poverty

No doubt aware that the myriad promises made at World Summits and UN conferences - called to address the pressing problem of global poverty - amount to zilch, Chancellor Gordon Brown conceded in mid February that the world is still 150 years off set targets for tackling world poverty.

Brown, addressing a conference of diplomats and aid organisations in London, warned that immediate action was needed to have any chance of hitting the millennium goals for halving poverty, cutting child deaths and improving education in the Third World by 2015.

Mr Brown said that steps towards key millennium development targets for 2015 were so slow that in some parts of the world they would take more than a century to attain at existing rates. He said: "On current forecasts, sub-Saharan Africa will achieve our target for reducing child mortality not by 2015 but by 2165. This is not good enough. The promise we made was for 2015, not 2165."

He continued: "If we let things slip, the millennium goals will become just another dream we once had, and we will indeed be sitting back on our sofas and switching on our TVs and, I am afraid, watching people die on our screens for the rest of our lives. We will be the generation that betrayed its own heart." And further observed that the first target of the millennium development goals - to ensure by 2005 that girls are given the same opportunities in education as boys - would be missed, while aims to establish universal primary education by 2015 would not be met until 2129 at present rates.

As someone chosen to defend the interests of the British capitalist class and to ensure the cogs of profit machine remain well lubricated, Brown was no about to advocate class war and the abolition of the profit system. Instead, he called on the international community to support British plans for a new international finance facility (IFF), to double aid from $50bn (£26bn) to $100bn a year, and urged developed nations to take action on international trade. $100 billion?.

Although Mr Brown’s speech was welcomed by campaigners, opposition MPs and aid groups warned that Britain must do more to increase aid spending and open world markets to developing countries.

Irish rock star Bono called on delegates, inclusive of the Live Aid founder Bob Geldof, to "dramatise" the cause of world poverty just as Geldof had alerted the world to the plight of Africa in the mind 1980s. "We need to get people on to the streets asking why we are breaking these promises," he said.To Chancellor Brown, Bono said, "At a moment like this we need some very big ideas. You and Tony need to be the Lennon and McCartney of progressive geopolitics. What we need here is not love. All we need here is cash."

John Bercow, the shadow International Development Secretary, commented : "While the developed world practises protectionism on a grotesque scale it is hardly surprising that the poorest countries in the world cannot compete. It is time for the OECD to slash distorting subsidies, cut trade barriers and offer the poorest people on the planet a decent deal."

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who hosted the event at the Treasury, contrasted the £2.3bn spent in England on pet food and pet care merchandise in 2002 and the $700bn spent by Americans on beverages with the money set aside for poverty reduction programmes. Fair point. Is Brown really asking that much? An astronomical amount? Perhaps not where governments are concerned. The US military budget for 2004 alone is $400.1 billion, or to put it another way, the US spends $1,093,169,398 on the military every single day, or if you like figures, $759,145 every minute. Indeed, the figure considered, shared out amongst the world, what Brown is really asking the global executive of capitalism for its loose change. In truth, all Brown wants to save millions of people is the figure the US would otherwise spend in three months killing them.

While it is something of an upturn to see politicians admitting that promises to help the world’s poor are utter bollocks, it comes as no surprise to note that they still fail to address the real root of the problem – the way the world is organised for production. Their answer is always to throw money at the problem, like some modern-day shaman trying to exercise a demon. Whilst they promote ideas of fair trade, allowing less wealthy countries access to overseas markets, they know full well that as servants of capital it would be more than their lives were worth to promote polices that effected British exports, profits and jobs, and just how do they plan to get such an idea past the US corporate elite , who would mobilise a rapid deployment force if a barrel of oil was threatened?

In truth their charitable solution - using capitalist remedies to address a problem inherent to the capitalist system - amounts to little more than placing a sticking plaster over a gun shot wound. The system they defend is decrepit, anarchic and outdated. In a world of abundance, with so much science, technology and an advanced means of communication at our disposal, what is needed is the total abolition of the money system, the freeing of production from the artificial constraints of profit, and the establishment of a system in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation.

UN goals for 2015 and the progress so far:

To halve the number living on $1 a day or starving. Verdict: A little progress.
To ensure all children finish primary schooling. Verdict: failing
To end disparity in education between boys and girls. Verdict: failing
To cut death rate in under 5s by two-thirds. Verdict: failing
To reduce maternal mortality by three-quarters. Verdict: failing
To halt the spread of Aids and other diseases. Verdict: failing
To halve the number with no access to clean drinking water. Verdict: failing
To develop global partnership fordevelopment. Verdict: failing

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