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Jonathan Dimbleby
Jonathan Dimbleby [all pictures by Tim Gander]
Dr Allister McGregor, Director of the ESRC Wellbeing in Developing Countries Research Group
Dr Allister McGregor, Director of the ESRC Wellbeing in Developing Countries Research Group
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Director of Justice Africa
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Director of Justice Africa
Duncan Green, Head of Research at Oxfam
Duncan Green, Head of Research at Oxfam
Joe Hanlon, Jubilee 2000
Joe Hanlon, Jubilee 2000

Press Release - 22 June 2005

Don’t forget world’s poor after Live8, warn experts

Experts on aid and world poverty who met in Bath earlier this week called on members of the public to join the campaign to bring world poverty to an end.

But they warned that people’s interest must continue beyond Live 8, the Edinburgh rally and the G8 summit if heightened public awareness of global development issues is to bring real benefits to the world’s poor.

The meeting, chaired by TV and radio broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby, was organised by the Wellbeing in Developing Countries (WeD) Research Group at the University of Bath as part of the ESRC Social Science Week.

More than 250 people heard opinions from a panel of experts on some of the key issues faced by those working to help bring relief to the world’s poor.

“My fear for this year is that even after the politicians have met at the G8 summit and the heightened public awareness of global poverty, it will all come to nought and we will see no difference for the poor people living in developing countries around the world,” said Dr Allister McGregor, Director of the WeD group and one of the panellists.

“The Make Poverty History Campaign is an important way of showing politicians that this is an issue that people in this country care about. There is a huge amount of public awareness in Britain, but are we actually going to see a difference?"

“What happens after Edinburgh is very important,” said Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Director of Justice Africa and General Secretary of the Pan African Movement.

“Bob Geldof has shown us how the debate has moved on from providing aid through the Live Aid concerts in the 1980s, and is now focussed on the structural issues that keep people in poverty which is where the real change can come.”

Changing the trade agreements which control how countries do business with each other so that the poorest countries can develop their own industries is key to helping them move away from poverty, said Duncan Green, Head of Research at Oxfam.

“Countries need to be able to trade their way out of debt, but they can only do that if they are not tied into unfair agreements and are protected from products which are subsidised by the governments of wealthy European and North American countries,” said Mr Green.

“We need more fair trade where African nations can determine for themselves the price of the products they are producing,” agreed Mr Abdul-Raheem who is from Nigeria.

“We need to be able to put our own house in order but we can’t do that without the cancellation of debt and allowing Africa to trade itself.

“There is no point whacking us with one hand and then handing us a handkerchief to wipe our tears with the other. We do not know whether to whack you back, or say thank you for your handkerchief.”

Joe Hanlon, a former journalist in Africa and adviser to Jubilee 2000, agreed, saying that even positive moves like debt cancellation were often subject to unfair restrictions.

“Debt cancellation programmes are frequently tied to conditions such as forced privatisation of public utilities and agreements to open industry to foreign companies which make it harder for that country to escape poverty,” he said.

“The system is clearly out of kilter,” said Dr McGregor. “The International Monetary Fund is one of the most opaque and difficult organisations to work with. It needs to become more democratised in order to give developing country a serious role in helping alleviate poverty.

“On a national level there also needs to be greater link-up between organisations such as the Department for Trade and Industry and the Department for International Development to make sure that policies are carried through for the benefit of the world’s poor.”

The Government's Department for International Development was invited to join the debate but failed to send anybody because the organisation was too busy with the G8 Summit.

"They were not able to come and I think that is unfortunate," said Dr McGregor. "It was an opportunity missed for them to engage in public discussion about how to make aid more effective."

Social Science Week is coordinated by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Other related events include a free exhibition on ‘Eradicating global poverty: challenges and prospects’, in Green Park Station, Bath, between 10am-4pm from Tuesday 21 -Thursday 23 June.

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