NGOs on poverty crusade in 2005

Dozens of UK NGOs are banding together to conduct one of the biggest ever mobilisations of civil society next year in a bid to propel the abolition of global poverty to the top of the political agenda.

The provisionally titled 'Make Poverty History' campaign will press the UK Government to wipe out debt and boost aid.

Agencies such as Oxfam, Tearfund, Save the Children and Christian Aid are signed up, along with charities not associated with the issue of global poverty, such as the Scouts. Churches and unions will also take part, as they did for the Jubilee 2000 campaign.

It is thought that members of the public will be encouraged to show solidarity with the campaign by wearing white armbands.

The year 2005 has been chosen for the campaign because of the convergence of key political events highlighting the role of the UK in tackling world poverty. Next year, Britain will assume the EU Presidency, host the G8 meeting, and also part of a UN summit on progress in implementing the Millennium Development Goals. It is also likely to be the year the general election is held.

Pressuring the Government to meet its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals will form the crux of the campaign. These include halving the proportion of people living on less than $1 a day, cutting the under-fives' mortality rate by two thirds, and halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water by 2015.

Simon Carter, head of PR at the Scout Association, said: "The Make Poverty History campaign is the first time such a broad grouping of aid, youth and religious charities has worked in such a positive way to achieve such an important outcome."

The Government is understood to be sympathetic to the campaign. "We have picked up some excitement in government circles about this, the Prime Minister included," said Matt Phillips, head of public affairs at Save the Children.

Daleep Mukarji, director of Christian Aid, said 2005 was "a wonderful opportunity for getting media attention, building the movement and influencing decision-makers".

"It's a bit like Venus crossing the sun - it doesn't happen often. 2005 will be a historic year and this is about making history," he said.

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, the agency behind the Walkers Crisps ads, will design the creative.

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