Make poverty history / Drop the debt
One of the feeder marches walks down Regent Street
'Click' another dies
The ring around the clock
Michael Wills, Swindon North MP
Gap between rich and poor is wider than ever
Aid must be made to work more effectively for poor people
Unpayable debts should be cancelled
We need trade justice not free trade
"One child dies every three seconds as a result of extreme poverty and and treatable illness. I think that's a shocking indictment of the world we live in today" said Mike Evemy. "Thirty thousand day, two hundred and ten thousand every week, nearly eleven million every year."
Michael Wills then took over the microphone, and pointed out that all the candidates in the coming election campaign agree on one thing - that this campaign is one of the most important things they can do in their lifetimes. They've all spotted a popular bandwaggon to jump on then, said the cynical voice in my head.
"When we look back, as politicians," he continued, "on what we managed or did not manage to do, we will say, What have we done to change the fact that in this world of unparalleled affluence, there are still over a billion people living on one dollar a day, over two thirds of the world's population living on two dollars a day."
"There are ten million children orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa today, but we know that we have the drugs that can keep their parents alive so that they can see their children grow up." he went on. Unfortunately the right of huge pharmacutical companies to make profits out of the "intellectual property" seems to be more important in international law than the right of a sick person to have access to the medicines they need at a price they can afford.
"You are doing your bit, we are all doing our bit to make sure that this situation stops. And we can do it, that is the most challenging thing of all, we can do it", he said. "The only way you get change in a democracy is if people act to show they want that change."
Moving on to his pet subject of trade tariffs and subsidies (which he doesn't like) and free trade (which he does like), he said "Ten billion pounds a year is what the Common Agricultural Policy costs developing countries. And it's not a policy which helps our own farmers, it helps big agro-businesses like Tate and Lyle. 120 million pounds of our taxes have been paid to Tate and Lyle over the past few years, that could have kept thousands of people alive in sub-Saharan Africa".
What Mr Wills neglected to mention is what he's actually doing about this situation, or what he's managed to do about it during his eight years as MP for Swindon North. The cynical voice in my head points out that maybe all he's done is researched the facts of the campaign well, put together a polished speech, and firmly identified himself with the campaign in people's minds just in time for the general election.
I wonder what he would do to Make Poverty History if re-elected. Would his ideas be the same as mine? Or even the same as any of those who gathered to form the ring around the clock? Would he support a shift in the balance of power in international trade towards developing world producers, even when it becomes clear that this will mean a higher retail price for the product, and lower returns for the shareholders of the companies which currently pocket most of the profit? In short, would he support a better standard of living in the developing world at the expense of a poorer standard of living for us in the rich countries?
That is the problem at the heart of the matter. We have become fat off the backs of entire countries enslaved by rules imposed by the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and in our selfishness, we want to continue to live in the manner to which we have become accustomed. Yes, cancel all those debits that can never be repaid, so that the world's poorest countries can start using their resources for the benefit of their own people, rather than spending most of it on interest payments. And yes, the rich countries need to give more of their wealth to help the poorer contries, and it needs to be BETTER aid, getting people in the developing world into a self-sufficient cycle where they are not dependent on handouts all the time. But it needs to go further than that.
We need an end to all those trade rules which skew the market in favour of big multinationals, which turn public services and utilities in poorer countries into devices for making profits for western companies.
We need a world in which all countries use their land predominantly to grow food for their own people, rather than growing cash crops for western markets.
We need an end to restrictions on the movements of workers, and freedom for everyone to move to where the standard of living is better.
Changes like these are needed to end injustice and poverty, which in turn would reduce the support base of terrorist organisations seeking to harm western interests, doing more to combat terrorism than any number of invasions, bombs, ID cards or draconian acts of parliament could acheive.
(Disclaimer) The opinions expressed in this report are mine, and are not necessarily those of any of the organisations or individuals who arranged or took part in this event. Although I'm sure that most of them would agree with most of what I say.