Global Policy Forum

More than 1,000 NGOs Launch

Agence France Presse
January 27, 2005

More than 1,000 NGOs, backed by Brazil's president, launched a global campaign to press world leaders to halve poverty within 10 years. The non-governmental organizations issued their ambitious appeal for worldwide mobilization against poverty on the sidelines of the World Social Forum in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. The groups urged people around the world to press for adherence to the UN Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut poverty by half by 2015.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a left-leaning former trade union leader, hailed the new campaign. "The global campaign has a vision and a profile to which we can adhere as president of Brazil and as leader of an emerging nation that has been able to put in the forefront of international concern something other than war and fighting terrorism," he said. "For the first time, the Forum takes upon itself the task of making a priority of an issue such as poverty," Lula told some 15,000 people, many of them from his Workers Party.

But about 100 people jeered Lula, who has faced mounting criticism from his erstwhile staunch supporters who claim he has strayed from his leftist past to maintain the South American country on a pro free-market track. Following his appearance at the event, Lula headed to Switzerland to attend the Davos summit of the world's political, financial and business heavyweights. Many participants at the WSF see the gathering in the Swiss Alps as a celebration of the crass capitalism they oppose.

In Porto Alegre, the NGOs urged "world citizens" to wear white ribbons around their wrists to show their support for the anti-poverty campaign, which they said would be backed by publicity spots featuring personalities such as former US President Bill Clinton, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and rockers Bono and Lenny Kravitz. "We citizens must press governments, multilateral organizations and companies to assume their responsibilities to eradicate the shameful scourge of poverty," said Candido Grzybowski, one of the organizers of the forum.

John Samuel, of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest -- a consortium of 28 private and public donor agencies -- likened the ravages of poverty to those wrought by the December 26 tidal waves that killed 280,000 people in south Asia. Samuel, who recently surveyed the devastation in India, decried what he called "a silent tsunami in Africa, in Congo, in Rwanda" and in Asia, where "millions of children die of hunger."

In their appeal, the NGOs called for "justice in trade relations, debt eradication, a real increase of official development aid, and national public policies to eliminate poverty that must be democratic, transparent and controled by citizens."

Development aid organizations, including Oxfam and Caritas, as well as trade unions were key in launching the "white ribbon campaign." Guy Ryder, of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, said the campaign was crucial at a time when one out of six children works instead of going to school and a record 185 million people worldwide have no job. "This appeal should reach all the way to Davos," said Ryder.

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