Sunday, April 24, 2005

[Global Poverty] U.K. Leaders in World Poverty Day pledge

24 April 2005

The three main party leaders have committed themselves to tackling the plight of the world's poorest countries in speeches to mark World Poverty Day.

In an emotional 25-minute unscripted speech, Mr Blair told a rally at the Old Vic Theatre in London: "We have to make 2005 the year of the new beginning for Africa."

It was time, he said, with the help of other leading wealthy nations, to end the "scandal" of death from Aids, malaria and other preventable diseases.

Mr Blair said Britain would use its presidency of the G8 leading industrialised nations to make assistance for Africa a key priority and end the "scandal" of thousands dying needlessly every day.

"If we are given the chance and are re-elected, I can make you this commitment. We will work night and day to end the scandal of poverty in Africa."

Tory leader Michael Howard sought to play down political differences on the issue, saying that all three main parties shared the goal of achieving the UN target for aid by 2013 while working to cancel debt.

"I'm particularly pleased that the cause of making poverty history is something that has united the parties in this country," he said on a visit to Tabernacle Christian Centre in west London. "If we can work together to achieve that we will all be performing a service to the rest of the people who share this planet with us.

However, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy insisted that his party would move faster than the others, reaching the UN aid target by 2011 at the latest.

In a speech to supporters in Barnes, south-west London, he called for 100% debt relief for the poorest countries as well as action to tackle the spread of Aids and HIV.

"Britain is a wealthy country, a prosperous country. It is the duty of countries such of ours, with the means to help, to take action to make poverty history," he said. "It is not only the right thing to do, it is in our national interest too.