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Standing UP against Poverty, even when the stocks are down

October 19, 2008

By former Canada’s World blogger Alexander Nataros

Over the past three days, over 1% of the global population has ‘Stood Up’ against poverty marking the UN International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Coordinated by the UN Millennium campaign, the estimated 67 million shattered last year’s Guinness Record of 43 million. Of the nearly 7000 events, over 5000 took place across Africa and Asia.

Thousands of People in Bangkok Stand UP Against Poverty to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Yet, except for the keen eye, one would easily miss this unprecedented show of solidarity. Sure there’ve been articles around the world and yet it has gone mostly unnoticed in the North American mainstream press. Economic woes, as always it seems, trump the plight of the poor.

But shouldn’t this be a time to prioritize the people most affected by global economic decline, nationally and worldwide? The Bush bailout plan, as noted in the Huffington Post, leaves little money for aid. Yet, if several trillion can be mobilized worldwide in a fit of panic, where is the urgency to end extreme poverty?

Prior to the market crisis, the NYTimes wrote a series of editorials chastising the G8 for failing to make their 2005 commitments. For all its good intentions, Live8 failed to produce the results it demanded. Now we’re behind the ball, with nearly half the world living on less than $2 per day, and the Millennium Development Goals— despite great progress on some fronts– are falling out of reach.

The Canadian Election, despite the admirable efforts of the Make Poverty History campaign and mentions by Elizabeth May and Jack Layton during the debate, failed to focus on addressing poverty in Canada and in the world.

A group of McGill Med students stands UP on October 18, 2008, calling for the Canadian government to increase its foreign aid to 0.7% of national income

McGill Med students Stand UP on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty last Friday, calling for the Canadian government to increase its foreign aid from 0.28% to 0.7% of national income

In calling for a new world financial order, let’s hope that Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy ensure that trade and aid are put front and centre in discussions. Stephen Harper, for his part, should set a timeline to increase Canada’s foreign aid to 0.7% and build off the progress made by untying Canada’s aid.

Let’s not get our hopes up, but we must keep our politicians’ feet to the fire and not let them use the excuse of economic downturn to turn away from the poor.

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