Exactly five years ago today (3rd February), former South African president, Nelson Mandela, issued a rallying cry to make poverty history in front of over 22,000 people in Trafalgar Square. His speech encouraged hundreds of thousands to come together during that spring of 2005, and demand trade justice, debt cancellation and better deals for the world’s millions of poor. Mandela’s address and countless other events such as Live 8, resulted in setting poverty eradication at the top of the agenda at the G8-Gleneagles summit that followed that summer. While many activists expressed disappointment that the agreements reached at the summit fell far short of their expectations, others noted that the 2005 summit was perhaps the most productive in the 30 year history of the G8. On the anniversary of Mandela’s landmark address, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) released a briefing reviewing the UK’s progress in meeting the Gleneagles commitments.
The International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, hailed the achievements of the past five years with the UK firmly on track to fulfil the promises made at the Gleneagles summit. Yet he warned that the effects of the financial crisis, and the slow progress in meeting the MDGs could undermine the successes made since 2005. Key achievements highlighted by Mr Alexander include:
- UK aid to Africa is on track to increase from £1.3 billion in 2004 to £3.4 billion in 2010;
- 28 countries – 22 of which are African – have received 100% debt cancellation including Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia, Cameroon and Sierra Leone;
- 4 million people now receive AIDS treatment – a tenfold increase over five years; and
- Helping to ensure training of 100,000 teachers and building of 12,000 classrooms in developing countries 2007/08.
“We are on track to meet the commitments we made at Gleneagles and we can be proud of the start we have made. But there is much more work to be done if the world is going to meet the Millennium Development Goals and time is running out. The UK is meeting its promises – now others is the international community must do the same” he said.
The MDGs review summit in New York this upcoming September will certainly be a great opportunity for world leaders to re-examine their commitments and take the necessary actions to ensure the objectives are met in the next five years.