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No excuses on poverty goals, religious leaders warn G8

05 April 2013

UNITED NATIONS

EIGHTY religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, have signed a letter warning the G8 group of world leaders not to use the financial crisis as an "excuse" to delay fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The letter was published in the Financial Times on Friday, 1000 days ahead of the deadline to meet the MDGs. The G8 leaders are scheduled to meet in the UK in June.

The letter states: "Thirteen years on from the start of the millennium, the values and principles that drive these goals are as imperative as ever. The financial crisis may be a reason but is not an excuse for hesitation or deferral. . .

"With a focus on tax, trade and transparency, the UK Presidency of the G8 this year has the potential to advance the MDG agenda in ways that strike at the underlying causes of poverty, in particular by ensuring the wealth created by developing countries is not lost through unfair tax practices, a lack of transparency or a failure to secure the benefits of trade for developing countries."

The letter goes on to recommend that the G8 leaders take three actions: fulfil their commitments to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on aid; launch a "G8 Convention on Tax Transparency", which would commit countries "to prevent individuals and companies from hiding wealth so that it's untraceable"; and "press for greater financial transparency from governments of developing countries".

As well as Archbishop Welby, signatories to the letter include the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth; the RC Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols; and the President of the Methodist Church in Britain, Dr Mark Wakelin. Leaders of other faiths also signed the letter.

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said on Friday: "With only 1000 days left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN, it is imperative that the G8 Heads of Government set the pace and do not allow this to fail. I shall be tweeting my support using #1000DaysToGo and hoping the flood of comments encourages governments not to waver."

Christian Aid's senior adviser on poverty and inequality, Helen Dennis, said on Friday that there was "nothing to replace" the MDGs once they expire.

"Without a new plan in place, political leaders could relegate tackling poverty to a 'nice to have' rather than a 'must do'," she said. "It is vital that David Cameron and the G8 make this a priority at their meeting in June. . .

"They need to focus on promoting financial transparency and tackling tax dodging in developing countries, which cost them $160 billion a year - much more than they receive in aid."

The full letter, including a complete list of signatories, can be read here. A video message from the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, can be watched here

Earlier this year, a coalition of charities and churches launched the "Enough Food for Everyone IF" campaign, which called on G8 leaders to combat world hunger ( News, 25 January).

Paul Vallely

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