WCC Hosts ''The Challenge of Poverty Eradication'' Seminar

( [email protected] ) Oct 19, 2004 02:41 PM EDT

The World Bank (WB) president and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) deputy managing director joined the World Council of Churches (WCC)’s general secretary and other representatives for a seminar on eradicating poverty, at the WCC’s headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 18, 2004. The half-day seminar, aptly entitled, “The challenge of poverty eradication,” focused on how governments and churches can work together to achieve the United Nations (UN)’s Millennium Development Goals to halve poverty.

"We do not lack the awareness, we do not lack the science, we do not lack the resources. We have the technology, the medicine, the expertise - and the costs are not prohibitive. What the developed word lacks is the will to make reality of our Millennium promise," said the UK government chief secretary to the Treasury Paul Boateng.

WCC’s general secretary Samuel Kobia agreed, saying that the goals were already in place; what is needed is the will to carry forth those goals.

Kobia pointed out that since the adoption of MDGs, "very little has been achieved in alleviating the plight of more than three billion poor people in the world who live on less than two dollars a day," and that poverty-related casualties "would outnumber deaths caused by the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the same period". "If destruction of life were the yardstick, then that challenges the powerful and rich nations to take poverty with even more seriousness than they take the WMD," Kobia reasoned.

Poverty, he continued, "can only be eradicated if inequality in sharing of the global resources is addressed". "It is now evident that economic growth alone does not eradicate poverty, particularly when such growth is based on a model of development that enhances inequity within and between nations," and when "unregulated financial markets transfer financial resources from poor countries to rich ones".

In Africa in particular, eradication of poverty would take "external support and solidarity (…) to accompany African initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)," and measures like "intensification of debt cancellation," "introduction of an international currency transaction tax," "to prevent capital flight to offshore tax havens," and "reforming financial and trade institutions to make them more transparent," among others, Kobia said.

Meanwhile, Boateng said such “external support and solidarity” should come from the world’s richest countries, such as his own.

The richest countries should "write off more debt," "dismantle our damaging trade barriers," and "commit more money towards international aid and development," said Boateng, on behalf of the UK.

Additionally, Boateng noted, “to urgently increase the overall level of resources going from rich to poor" by about "an additional $50 billion a year in aid" - the UK government proposes to create an International Finance Facility.

According to Boateng, the initiative has been already supported by the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and would represent a "faster", "stable and predictable financing vehicle" for making available the resources needed for education, health, economic development, debt relief and trade.

Boateng also said other religious groups should join the effort to better living conditions for the world’s impoverished.

The WCC president from Africa, Agnes Aboum, agreed with the call, saying: “The efforts of the poor and faith-based organizations who have worked on poverty for a very long time must be included in the MDG agenda for it to be successful.”

The seminar was attended by representatives of the permanent missions of Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Lesotho, Rwanda, Botswana, Cameroon, and the African Union, as well as the World Bank, the UN Millennium Campaign, the International Labour Organization, the Lutheran World Federation, the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Anglican Communion and the Church of North India. (858 words)

The MDG was launched in 2000 by the UN with eight specific millennium goals. Last Friday, while the UN celebrated the fourth year anniversary of the MDG launch, hundreds of Christian organizations joined hands to celebrate the launch of the Micah Challenge – a campaign to halve the world’s poverty levels by 2015 through the implementation of the MDG.

The Millennium Development Goals include eradicating hunger, reducing child mortality, providing universal primary education, empowering women, combating AIDS, improving maternal health, ensuring environmental sustainability, and lastly, developing a global partnership for development