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Howard: Make poverty history

Speech at the Tabernacle Christian Centre in London

"I want to thank Pastor Derrick Wilson, and all of you, for giving me the opportunity this afternoon, in this marvellous church, to address global poverty.

And what a wonderful sunny afternoon it is.

It's the kind of day that inspires us all - gives us hope that together we can build a brighter, better future for our children.

Helping fight poverty is one of the great challenges of our generation.

Today is World Poverty Day.

But for far too many people, every day is world poverty day.

People in Britain are generous.

They care about the less fortunate.

After the Asian tsunami, I remember touring the TV studios, where I added my voice to those asking the public to give generously.

"Let's reach a hundred million pounds", I said.

I underestimated the British people.

In the end they gave more than three hundred million pounds.

What a fantastic result.

Doesn't that just show how much people care - how much people want to help?

We mustn't underestimate the challenge we face.

Every day tens of thousands of children die from diseases that are entirely preventable. And millions of kids don't get an education at all.

AIDS claims lives every minute of every day.

And hundreds of millions of people live on less than a dollar day.

It's hard to imagine - isn't it?

How do you live on less than a dollar day?

But never forget that we've made huge strides in the last two decades.

Look at countries like India and China - yes they still face enormous challenges, yes people still live in desperate poverty, yes they have a long way to go.

But they are lifting their people out of poverty.

So we know it can be done. Tackling global poverty is an issue that unites us all.

That is why the Conservatives - like Labour - are committed to increasing international development support by £800 million over the next three years and committed to working towards the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of Britain's national income by 2013.

But we must make sure that aid gets through to the right people - not into the bank accounts of the governing elite.

Bad government is the enemy of good aid.

So in badly governed countries we will distribute more British aid through non-governmental organisations.

We also need to target aid at the poorest countries. Half of all the European Union's aid still goes to middle or even high income countries.

That is why I believe national governments should have far greater control over their international development budgets - so Britain can target her support on the most deserving countries.

But aid on its own cannot solve the problems of global poverty.

Good governance, free enterprise, free markets and fairer trade - these offer an end to global poverty.

The growth of free markets will do more to lift people out of poverty than all the aid programmes in the world.

The failure of many politicians to grasp this fundamental truth has left millions of people stranded in poverty.

The richer countries must also act in accordance with what they know to be true: free trade spreads prosperity.

Protectionism does not.

Protection for developed countries at the expense of the developing world must come to an end.

It is both immoral and hypocritical.

Instead of putting up barriers, we need to open our markets to the developing countries.

I believe in making free trade fairer and fair trade freer.

Fairness matters.

It is quite wrong for the West to dump its own heavily subsidised goods on developing countries - ruining their fledgling markets.

So we will make free trade fairer by pressing the EU to allow poor countries tariff-free access to our markets - benefiting both British consumers and poorer producers.

At the same time, we recognise that less developed economies need a finite period of support before they will have the capacity to compete in open markets.

I also want to see an Advocacy Fund established, paid for by the developed countries, to help poor countries fight their corner in international trade disputes.

The richest countries shouldn't win because they have the best lawyers - might is not always right.

We also support the principle of 100 per cent cancellation of debts to multilateral institutions - but the money freed up must then go into helping poor people escape poverty.

Of course we've though a lot about Asia recently because of the tsunami, but we must never forget Africa.

It's a continent with such enormous potential - its people and its resources.

That's why I applaud the Africa Commission's work to help Africa tackle its many miseries.

But we now need action, not words.

There's a desperate need for good government in poor countries - above all the rule of law, free elections and a free press.

The objectives of the Africa Commission will only be met if all the recipient countries subscribe to a collective commitment to govern themselves wisely - and name and shame the sinners in their midst.

Good governance goes hand in hand with conflict resolution.

That's why we support the principle of the proposed International Arms Trade Treaty.

We must fight the war on poverty on all fronts.

It's a political challenge. It's an economic challenge. And, as we know, a medical challenge. For every minute I have been speaking, five more people have died from AIDS.

We'll help African countries tackle the epidemic by supporting new teaching hospitals to train the doctors and nurses so desperately needed.

Education is the key to opportunity.

I know - I come from an ordinary family.

My state school gave me the best start any child could have in life.

Today over one hundred million boys and girls don't get a basic education.

British aid has supported Kenya's efforts to introduce free primary school education - helping over one million kids get the schooling they had been denied.

Poverty isn't inevitable.

If we stand up for what we believe in, if we fight for what we know is right, if we have the courage of our convictions we can make a real difference.

That is why I am optimistic - hugely optimistic - about our ability to "Make Poverty History".

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