World has chance to end extreme poverty for good - Cameron

David Cameron, flanked by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Mr Cameron said all countries had an obligation to contribute to the global fight against poverty

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David Cameron has said there is a "real opportunity" to end extreme global poverty within the next few decades.

The prime minister said politicians had been talking about the goal for years but "this generation" had a chance of fulfilling the long-held ambition.

He was speaking after hosting a meeting of politicians from around the world to discuss anti-poverty strategies.

Mr Cameron has been asked by the UN to look into how poverty in developing countries should be tackled after 2015.

On Thursday, he co-chaired the first meeting of the United Nations panel, along with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

'Great progress'

After the meeting, attended by 26 countries, Mr Cameron said "great progress" had been made since the launch of the Millennium Development Goals in the late 1990s but the international community must aspire to do even more.

All countries had obligations to do their bit to help meet the anti-poverty targets, he added - citing the need for the UK and other wealthier countries to be transparent about how their aid budget are spent.

"The principle aim of the panel should be finishing the job of ending extreme poverty...That is something that politicians have been talking about for a while but for the first time I think this generation really has the opportunity to do it."


The process begun in London should be completed by May when the "High Level Panel" reports to the UN secretary-general.

The London meeting is the first of three to be held in the capital cities of the three co-chairs, representing a spread of countries in terms of wealth.

Between the meetings, a separate process will go on to put ideas on paper, which one seasoned observer described as a "massive fight" over what should be in the final plan, who pays and how independent the successors to the MDGs will be of the UN.

Progress on the Millennium Development Goals has been patchy.

The UN says that for the first time the number of people living in extreme poverty is falling in every region of the world but the first MDG, cutting in half the proportion of people living in poverty, has been reached mainly because of the economic growth of China.

The Millennium Development Goals, set to be completed by 2015, are pledges by UN member countries to increase living standards in poorer parts of the world.

The first of them - reducing poverty among some of the very poorest - has been achieved, due largely to big increases in income in recent years in China and India. But attempts to reach other goals have been less successful.

Mr Cameron said there needed to be a renewed focus on tackling the causes of poverty - highlighting the importance of reducing corruption, promoting the rights of women and minorities and backing freedom of expression and association.

The panel will meet again in Monrovia and Jakarta next year, before reporting to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

Most of the other attendees of the London gathering are ministers from foreign governments or heads of economic committees.

The Indonesian president, who is on a three-day state visit to Britain, said the UN panel had a "common vision" over how to respond to the challenges facing the developed and developing world.

"I believe that poverty eradication can only be achieved by raising the living standards of the poor around the world.

"This can be done by creating job opportunities and providing accessible and affordable health services, education facilities, housing, clean water and sanitation."

BBC international development correspondent David Loyn said that in finding a successor for the Millennium Development Goals, China and some African countries will want to stop what they see as further interference into governance.

But the big donor nations in the West will need guarantees of transparency and better accountability for governments who receive aid, if aid is to continue, our correspondent added.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    Having been homeless and survived on the streets for 15 years I think I have a unique perspective on poverty

    I managed to survive by the generosity of people not the rich or wealthy, they tended to make a wide circle around you but with the help of poorer people who were struggling themselves

    I truly believe that charity begins at home and once the home is sorted out one will look abroad to help

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    In fairness, virtually no one in the UK faces anything like 'poverty' in the sense that people here up to about the 1950s would understand it, or many people in the 'developing' world currently experience it.

    And much 'poverty' here is highly relative, and self-inflicted. Any family which chooses to have 8 kids can't blame or expect much from others, for example.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.

    I agree we need to make sure we eradicate child poverty in the UK. However this does not necessarily mean we have to abandon children in dire straights abroad. There is no real comparison between children in 3rd world countries & poor children in the UK. You have to put things in perspective and be objective. I for one would give up Trident to help as many children as possible UK and worldwide

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    Real poverty needs to be dealt with on a global basis if it is to be eradicated however, the aid given by the richer nations must be directed at right targets, not diverted into the bank accounts of pocket lining despots.
    Aid where possible should be given in kind not money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    I have close ties with Kenya and have personally paid to put several children through secondry school. It costs £300 per year for everything per child. I realise to some that may be a lot of money and I am not rich, but when you see a family of 4 living in one hut with one small room with an outside communal toilet, you realise how lucky we are here in the UK. We can't choose where we are born.


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