08 December 2004
This is the text of a letter sent by the Rt Revd Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark to the Rt Hon Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer:
Further to your 2 December 2004 pre-budget report, I am writing to you, in my capacity as Vice Chairman for Community and Public Affairs of the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council, regarding the Government’s plans for the focus of the UK Presidency of the 2005 G8.
The Government’s decision to prioritise debt relief and international development will have given immense encouragement to a significant number of people within the Church who have campaigned tirelessly on these issues for many years. However, as both a member of the Make Poverty History Coalition and the Trade Justice Movement the Church will continue to press the Government, and the wider international community, to deliver on the commitment made five years ago at the Millennium Development Summit to cut by half those living in abject poverty by 2015.
Your proposals for an International Finance Facility (IFF) represents an innovative mechanism for near term increases in development finance. The Church will study this proposal carefully to see what steps it can take to encourage partner churches in Europe and the US to lobby their own governments to actively consider this proposal.
It is understandable that the UK Government’s short term imperative is to garner international support for this proposal. The Government will need to address outstanding questions as to whether the IFF financing will be fully untied, or made dependent on meeting specific economic conditions. To gain wider civil society support, both here and abroad, the Government needs to give assurances that the IFF will be financed through additional funds and that IFF repayments will not reduce the level of future aid budgets. In this respect the Church will continue to press the G8 to increase aid levels to a minimum of 0.7% and to set a clear timetable for achieving this target so that the MDGs can be met.
We remain convinced that increases in aid, whatever the mechanism, will prove insufficient in realising the UN Millennium Goals, if steps are not also taken to develop an international trading system that allows developing countries to remove trade barriers at a pace and in a way that lies within their own development plans. In a recent report, Trade Justice: A Christian Response to Global Poverty, commended by the Church of England’s General Synod it was recognised that these steps will not always be free trade policies.
Your pre-budget report that the Government intends to deliver the Doha development round is encouraging. We will however study with care how the Government responds to the findings of the Africa Commission. In this respect we hope that the Africa Commission Secretariat and the British Government will take seriously the recommendation made by the British Overseas Aid Group’s submission of 30 July 2004 that the G8 should “stop enforced trade and investment liberalisation in Africa countries through World Bank and IMF economic reform conditions and predatory WTO and EPA trade negotiations. African governments must have the flexibility to put poverty reduction and development ahead of liberalisation”.
The Millennium Development Review Summit in September 2005 will be an event of decisive importance in comprehensively reviewing the progress made towards achieving the MDGs. While we continue to believe and pray that these goals can still be met, we recognise that the international community’s efforts to date remain woefully inadequate.
The steps taken by the British Government at the G7 Finance meeting in February 2005 and the agreement reached at the G8 in July are of crucial importance. It is for this reason that the Church of England will mobilise its members around key opportunities in 2005 to encourage the Government to drive forward the struggle against poverty and injustice.
Please be assured of our thoughts and prayers throughout next year.
Rt Revd Tom Butler
Bishop of Southwark