8 January, 2005 at 22:28 Leave a comment

GUd Life 20 – New Year
gud-life-20 - new year
Well, what can I say of the new year? There are plans afoot to harness the “passion of compassion” generated by the Asian tsunami disaster to make 2005 a breakthrough year for greater debt relief, more generous aid and better trade access, and the global response to the tsunami disaster is an expression of the public’s demand for action to tackle poverty. While 2004 was a year which ended in the horror of a natural disaster, 2005 is a year that can start with the hope of human progress and a year of opportunity when – from the foundation of hope – we can, I believe, see real change with the realization of shared vulnerability and linked destinies of peoples throughout the world. Having been humbled first by the power of nature, we have since been humbled and inspired by the power of humanity and the extraordinary power of human compassion to build anew.
I think that the tsunami had emboldened global leaders and people to a wider mission to tackle global poverty. I do not think there is “compassion fatigue” on behalf of the British people; on the contrary as 2005 also marks the start of the UK’s year-long presidency of the G8 group of industrial states and, from July, of the EU, Britain is proposing that debts owed by the world’s poorest countries, to institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should be written off . Very generous indeed. And a doubling of aid to $100bn (£55bn) a year. Better trade terms to help poor countries to build up their export capacity while rich countries dismantle their protectionist barriers. Britain effectively has only until the G8 summit at Gleneagles in July to make progress on debt and aid. The chancellor’s ambitious plan for a $50bn international finance facility – a “live now, pay later” scheme for the poor – faces an uphill struggle for acceptance. Without immediate action, Mr Brown said, the world would renege on the pledges made at the UN to halve poverty, provide universal primary education and cut infant mortality by two-thirds, all by 2015. Almost every world leader, state and international body had signed up to the millennium development goals. “But already, so close to the start of our journey to 2015, it is clear that our destination risks becoming out of reach, receding into the distance.” However, I feel that the tsunami has created a once in a generation opportunity to deliver for our times a modern plan for the developing world – a new deal between the richest countries and the poorest countries. One in which the developing countries are not supplicants but partners in a war for peace and against poverty.
Escaping from the number mumbo-jumbo, all I have to say is that the worldwide demonstration of sympathy and support shows that even if people are divided by geography, race, wealth and ideology, we are not and we cannot be moral strangers. We are one moral universe. And the shared moral sense common to us all makes us recognise our duty to others. I hereby pay tribute to the work of hundreds of volunteers who have supported the tsunami relief effort. The generosity of the public and the dedication of charity workers is inspiring. It’s amazing work. People are volunteering and raising money for the tsunami appeal and other appeals.
The world is in good hands folks. Our hands! And I am confident that there is still hope for a world which reacts as sympathetically and reverently as ours has to the earthquake and tsunami disaster. I feel so light having got this off my chest and so,  junta, I will get back to my bitter sweet acerbic witty self.


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On Poor and Rich

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January 2005
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