As the British Prime Minister's Africa Commission prepares to meet in Ethiopia this week, church leaders running development programs in 18 African countries are appealing to the Commission for tougher action on a range of issues, from corruption, to the sale of arms in conflict zones, and the need to invest in disaster prevention in vulnerable countries.
A declaration to the Africa Commission from the church leaders involved in relief and development across Africa, also urges action on the ‘immoral double standards’ in the world trade system that ‘trap the poor’, and for a greater voice for ordinary Africans as they seek to hold their governments to account.
The church leaders behind the declaration are part of a new alliance known as the Micah Network, 150 church development agencies spanning 72 countries.
“We recognize that Africa’s destiny lies in African hands,” says the declaration which has been presented to the Africa Commission ahead of its meeting in Addis Ababa this week. “Nevertheless we recognize that African problems are global problems and that action by other continents is necessary.”
Among 26 recommendations for international action to the Africa Commission from the Micah Network are calls for:
- A ‘bribery index’ of western countries caught offering bribes to African governments.
- Urgent discussions about land tenure reforms to benefit poor people.
- Incentives for companies to develop technologies to benefit for Africans.
- Special action in response to the disproportionate number of ‘women enslaved in poverty’.
One of the leaders of the Micah Network, Zemdkun Baykeda from Meserete Kristos Church, Ethiopia, said he hoped the Commission would fulfill African aspirations for the future by listening to Africans. And he declared that the Church in Africa – ‘the most effective structure for reaching poor communities’ - had a significant role to play in working with governments, the African Union, and NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development).
Explaining the motivation behind the formation of the Micah Network, the declaration asserts, “Christians everywhere are called to be agents of hope for and with the poor and to work with others to hold national and global leaders accountable to securing a more just and merciful world.”
Next week in New York the Micah Network will be part of the launch of a campaign to encourage millions of churchgoers around the world to press their governments to achieve the halving of poverty by 2015, as promised in the Millennium Development Goals.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Rev Njongonkulu Ndungane will mark the beginning of the Micah Challenge at the UN in New York on Friday October 15th, in conjunction with the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.