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Open Letter to Heads of State Calls on Governments Not to Shirk from Challenge of Meeting Development Needs of Billions of People Living in Poverty

News Release

For Immediate Release: February 8, 2002

As Ottawa prepares to host the G-7 Finance meeting this weekend, letters have been sent to six heads of state (Canada, United Kingdom, France, Finland, Australia and New Zealand) urging them not to ignore the needs of billions of people living in poverty. The letter, jointly signed by six networks representing approximately 800 voluntary organizations, is being sent in the wake of the virtual collapse of the United Nations Finance for Development (FfD) meeting held in New York two weeks ago. The signing organizations are distressed by the weak commitments coming out of the FfD negotiations and by the US administration’s attempts to undermine the negotiations.

At the FfD meeting the US lobbied hard to delete a call to increase Official Development Assistance (ODA) and to delete any references to the United Nations campaign for the Millennium Development Goals. This is clearly not the way forward. As the letter states "governments must agree to a clear timetable for implementing the 0.7% of GNP for aid target … and Millennium Development Goals, in fields such as health and education will not be met by fine words alone."

Just this past weekend, again in New York, at the World Economic Forum we heard many "fine" words. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in his address to the Forum, said that "all nations have a moral obligation" to address poverty and that there is now a "profound opportunity to turn a page in human history." As Gerry Barr, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation notes, "What a difference a week makes. One week after we barely maintain the status quo at the Finance for Development meeting we have the Prime Minister talking about ‘profound opportunities’. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the resources that the international community are prepared to put up match these opportunities."

This weekend, finance ministers in Ottawa must send a clear signal, either collectively or individually, to go beyond the tepid wording of the FfD Monterrey Consensus and commit to five basic points raised in our letter to the Heads of State.

A copy of the letter is attached to the news release. The letter was sent to Prime Minister’s Jean Chrétien, Tony Blair, John Howard, Lionel Jospin, Helen Clark, and President Tarja Halonen.

For more information contact:

Katia Gianneschi
Canadian Council for International Co-operation
(613)241-7007 ext. 311


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