10 years on, poverty is still not history

Make poverty history cropped

​World Justice Festival in Edinburgh will look at the progress made since the Make Poverty History march a decade ago.

TFN Guest's photo

30th June 2015 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

In Scotland we are looking for more effective action by our politicians and global leaders as we celebrate the 10th anniversary, on 2 July, of the massive public demonstration that was the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh in 2005.

Ten years ago, 444,000 people emailed the Prime Minister and over 225,000 people took to the streets of the Scottish capital to call on world leaders to act at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, on trade justice, debt and aid.

The Edinburgh World Justice Festival is inviting people to join them at Augustine United Church in Edinburgh this Thursday, 2 July at 7pm, to hear from those at the march, reflect on what has been achieved since and to debate how we go forward in building a just and sustainable global economy and community.

Since the march in 2005 progress has been made on improving the lives of the poorest in the world - $1billion per year of debt was dropped for 18 of the most highly indebted poor countries.

Gillian Wilson, NIDOS

Gillian Wilson, NIDOS

There are though still huge inequalities and the world is facing serious environmental and climate challenges

All UK political parties committed to maintain the aid target of spending 0.7% of national income on aid (and in 2015 this was put into UK legislation and achieved in practice).

The government also committed to no longer making UK bilateral aid conditional on recipient governments making specific economic policy decisions.

2015 is the final year of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which have framed our approach to tackling poverty.  

Through concerted action globally on the MDGs, extreme poverty has been halved since 1990, primary school enrolment has reached 90% in some of the poorest countries, there is greater equality of access to education between girls and boys, and 17,000 fewer children die each day.

Gains have also been achieved in relation to health – 9.7 million people have received HIV treatment and 3.3 million malaria related deaths have been prevented and 2.3 billion people have gained access to clean drinking water since 1990.

There are though still huge inequalities as we come to the end of the 15 years of the MDGs this year and the world is facing serious environmental and climate challenges.

Still one in nine people are hungry, more than a billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day and the richest 80 individuals in the world have the same wealth as the poorest 50% (or 3.5 billion people). 

The wealth of these richest 80 people doubled in cash terms between 2009-14. Also, 2.5 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation, six million children still die before their fifth birthday each year and 58 million children are still not going to school, with many of those - who despite at last accessing school - still getting a very poor quality of education.

A radical shift in approach is needed for tackling poverty, inequality and for building a sustainable global economy.

Through the worldwide consultation carried out over the last two years, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have emerged as a new framework for action by a partnership of civil society, government, academics and business people.  

Citizen organisations and populist political parties over the last few years have been active in calling for an economic approach with people and planet at the heart, rather than only profits.

Mike Gonzalez, a retired professor of Latin American Studies at Glasgow University, will reflect on the Make Poverty History march and what it achieved, what has been achieved since.

I will look ahead to how the SDGs and the COP21 climate negotiations in December in Paris, might provide an impetus for real change.

There will also be opportunity for debate and discussion on how we in Scotland can contribute to ensuring we can contribute to building a more just and sustainable world.

We hope you will join them and contribute to the debate and action.

The World Justice Festival takes place on Thursday, 2 July, from 7pm at Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EL. It’s a free event, open to all. To book go to the Facebook page.

Gillian Wilson is chief executive of the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland (NIDOS).