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Secretary of State welcomes new Christian Aid ‘Poverty Over’ drive

Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, today welcomed the launch of Christian Aid’s ‘Poverty Over’ drive which says that poverty can be ended in the foreseeable future if its structural causes are addressed.

‘I welcome this latest campaign by Christian Aid which stands in a fine tradition of activism and campaigning from an organisation for which I have the highest respect,’ he said.

‘The message is very simple – that we can defeat poverty but only if we work together. It is important to get that message across to the British public.’

Mr Alexander made his comments while looking at 3D pavement artist Max Lowry’s vision of ‘Poverty Over’, commissioned by Christian Aid, at Waterloo Station. The painting played on the fact that the word ‘Poverty’ includes the word ‘Over’.

Also in attendance were Bishop Joe Aldred, from the Church of God and Prophecy, one of Britain’s largest Pentecostal churches, and Christian Aid trustee Kumar Jacob.

’This time of economic crisis represents both a challenge and an opportunity for all of us,’ said Bishop Aldred, who is also Chair of the Council of Black-led Churches, and Secretary for Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs with Churches Together in England.

‘The temptation is to retrench and focus on ourselves. Christian Aid's vision of ‘Poverty Over’ offers a different way forward, highlighting this time of turbulence as a time of opportunity when we can seize the initiative and break the systems and structures that cause poverty. I am proud to commit to the cause of eradicating world poverty. Urgent action is required now.’

Mr Jacob, who is a member of the Ethics of Investment Committee of the Methodist Church, said: 'At this time of economic financial crisis it is tempting to hunker down and focus on ourselves. 

‘Poverty Over challenges us to do the opposite, to look outwards and see this time of turbulence as an opportunity to change the systems that oppress people and create poverty. I'm here today, because I want to take up the ‘Poverty Over’ challenge that is represented by Christian Aid's work and its climate change, and tax campaigns '

Christian Aid launched ‘Poverty Over’ with a report which says the fight against poverty cannot be won unless its structural causes are first uprooted. These, it says, can be traced directly back to human and institutional indifference to people without power by those that have it to wield, and even, in some cases, policies intended to impoverish.

‘Poverty is political,‘ the report says. ‘Rather than being merely an unhappy fact of life, it is the result of structures and systems created by humans, and of people being effectively excluded from decision-making. As such, the solutions must be political too.’

The report explores some of the measures that must be taken to end poverty. They include a tough new international climate change agreement, greater transparency in finance systems, and an end to tax dodging by multinational companies and corporations.

‘The world is in crisis,’ said Christian Aid director Dr Daleep Mukarji.  ‘It isn’t just financial. Climate change, the food security crisis and worsening levels of inequality are also undermining quality of life for many millions of people.

‘Historically, crises have prompted massive social change. The fear, chaos and upheaval that accompany them can have a galvanising effect. Change can bring with it the opportunity to shape what is to come, giving birth to hope and a sense of purpose. Now is the time for new thinking and new ideas.

‘That poverty still exists in the world today is morally scandalous. It’s not that we don’t know how to treat or cure many diseases, enable the hungry to be fed, educate children or create jobs.

‘It is simply that all too often we look the other way from what needs to be done. There is enough in the world today for everyone’s need, if greed and indifference don’t stand in the way.

‘Over the next year we plan to engage widely on this subject with partners, supporters, businesses and leading development thinkers to identify the new ways of thinking that can take us from global crisis to global solutions.

‘We want to build both the technical detail of the approach, and also the support necessary to make poverty eradication a reality. The utmost urgency is needed if the world is to seize this opportunity for change.’

The result of a You Gov poll released today by Christian Aid show that almost three quarters (72 per cent) of British men and women want to see poverty ended in their life time.

And more than half (55 per cent) believe the present economic climate must not be allowed to hinder efforts to help the world’s poor. A fifth (21 per cent) say that instead, even greater priority should be given to the fight against poverty.

Almost half (45 per cent) feel the UK government should be doing more to help, while around the same number (46 per cent) say a political party’s policies on ending poverty would influence their vote.

For more press information, please contact Andrew Hogg on 0207 523 2058/ 07872 350534.

Notes to Editors:

1) Mobilising the public against poverty has been done before. But the Make Poverty History campaign was limited, set up to focus attention on poverty for just one year. Poverty Over sets a long-term goal of poverty eradication.

2) Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to tackle global poverty were agreed in 2000 during a UN Millennium Summit. The first seven include halving by 2015 the number of people living on less than one dollar a day, and the number suffering from hunger, promoting gender equality, achieving ‘full and productive’ employment for all, making primary education universal, and obtaining dramatic cuts in child and maternal mortality rates. An eighth MDG called for ‘a global partnership for development’ that would address the needs of least developed countries and include an ‘open, rule-based, and predictable non-discriminatory trading and financial system’. Christian Aid says that the failure by the international community to implement MDG8 is partly responsible for the lack of progress towards the other seven MDGs.

3) A new Christian Aid advertising campaign, Poverty Over, will appear first on static and digital bill boards in commuting and other high impact sites. Visually the campaign makes use of the fact that the word Poverty contains the word Over. The advertising will direct people to the Christian Aid website where they can add their voice to the drive to end poverty once and for all.

4) All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1981 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st - 3rd July 2009.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). All figures are given to 2 decimal places. Certain figures, when combined, may change due to rounding.