Monday, 2 November 2009

Putting the poor first in 2010

2010 is set to be a pivotal year in fight against poverty and climate change. And Canada, as hosts of both the G8 and G20, are set to be at the centre. And so I've spent the week in Ottawa with campaigners from all around the world planning the corresponding strategy for civil society action.

2010 is not only the year when Africa hosts the World Cup for the first time, it's also when the landmark 2005 G8 commitments to the continent - such as providing $ 50bn of additional aid - can truly be judged. And it will be done with a backdrop of crisis that is creating a real shift in global power.

The rising cost of food has pushed the number of hungry back above 1 billion, the financial crisis and recession has plunged millions into poverty, and a deal to protect the world's climate seems stuck in committee. These crises were caused by rich countries, yet most of their victims count amongst the poor.

In 2010 the answer to the question "Who rules?" will change - the global economy is seeing a radical shift. The G8 will be eclipsed by a new grouping - the G20 - which includes emerging power houses like China, Brazil and India.



So more voices from countries where many of the poor live, yet ultimately still a system where the poorest countries do not have a seat at the table to demand their rights or steer the global economy to meet their needs. And the G20 may prove to be as self-serving as the G8.

But we do know that, as power shifts, a time has appeared to bring the voices of the poor to the fore, and to make sure that their human rights - such as accessing clean water and safe sanitation - are on the table and at the heart of global debate.

For us, obviously there are huge opportunities in 2010 to push up the water and sanitation agenda - not least the global campaign to form the World's Longest Toilet Queue (20-22 March) and to influence the High-Level Meeting on Water and Sanitation (22 April) - but also a need to work together to push on all issues relating to global poverty.

Global campaign plans are crystallising and emerging soon, so more on that to come, but its worth noting that just a few weeks ago 173 million people stood up around the world to call for an end to poverty.

That's the biggest mass movement the world has ever seen, so using it to get food, water and a seat at the table for the world's poor should be well within our grasp.

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