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A world in which everyone benefits

WHATEVER the outcome of the G8 meeting today, we know that the struggle against the effects of poverty must continue for many years to come. This was at the heart of the campaigners' message: that global justice needs to be built into the way the world does business. As the organisers of Live 8 said repeatedly, aid is not enough. And, as the 225,000 demonstrators in Edinburgh on Saturday showed, people in this country are prepared to go further than simply filling a Christian Aid envelope once a year. Perhaps this will prove to have been the week when politicians got the message and started acting on it. the task, though, will be a long one.

In the mean time, President Bush's statement last weekend that he would not take any action that was to the detriment of his country was commendably honest and profoundly depressing. He is, of course, the President of the United States, and not, say, of Ghana, Angola, or Mozambique. Nevertheless, he seemed to take no account of the widespread damage caused by recent US administrations in those and other countries overseas, where often democratically elected governments were overthrown with US assistance. Nor, indeed, did he take account of the millions of dollars that the United States gives in aid, derived both from government funds and charitable donations. Neither fits the isolationist, self-preserving image that Mr Bush projected.

It is clear that the notion has yet to take hold that creating a juster, fairer, cleaner world benefits everyone, including Americans. Some seem to look no further than the fact that there will be an inevitable financial cost to people in the richer nations. Giving money away means that they have less to spend on themselves; Western politicians become nervous when they think their electorates might catch on to this. But, in the first place, it isn't all their money: developed nations are wealthy, in part, because they set a low price for raw materials bought from poorer nations, and accept a low price for manufactured goods made in countries with cheap labour.

In the second place, riches cannot be measured merely in monetary terms. Dr Williams spoke at the weekend about the way the world is shrinking through faster communication and travel. "This is a world where, literally and metaphorically, infection travels faster than ever. Pandemics, poverty, ecological degradation are everyone's business, and there is no escape pod reserved for those who are comfortable and prosperous just at the moment. Suddenly the question 'Who is my neighbour?' has a very clear answer: my neighbour is the suffering stranger in Africa or South-East Asia. My life is as much bound up with theirs as with the lives of people who happen to be more like me." The riches of living at peace with our neighbours are of infinitely more value than anything material that we have gathered and stored in our locked barns.

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