Friday's Comic Relief festivities struck me as a bit anachronistic.
Just two years ago 250,000 marched in Edinburgh to Make Poverty History. Many thousands of others across the world made the sacrifice of attending concerts performed at by the globe's leading music acts. The rallying cry was:
- Drop the Debt
- Trade Justice
- More and better aid
Gone was the "Give us you money" attitude. Not a penny was raised. It had taken two decades, but Sir Bob and Sir Bono had realised that political change was necessary to move people out of poverty in this world. The MPH campaign appeared to mark a shift in people's attitudes. It was no longer about charity. Political change was needed on crippling debts and ridiculous trade rules. Even on aid, governments had to start meeting the decades old UN target of 0.7% of GDP - it wasn't not up to ordinary people to do it through Live Aid events any more.
But watching Ant and Dec from Africa on their Comic Relief
broadcasts on Friday seemed to throw all that out of the window. It
seemed like we'd gone back to the 1980s. "Here are starving children,
phone the number and give us your money". No analysis of the causes of
poverty. Don't get me wrong, Comic Relief is a laudable project, and
does fantastic work (it also has to be noted it funds a lot of good
work in this country as well as places like Africa).
However, they have a responsibility to go deeper than just the narrow fundraising agenda. If we're to eradicate poverty, then we need to defeat the causes of it. Every charity has this role, and events like Friday let the government off the hook. Debt and trade justice need to be brought up at every and every opportunity, and only then will it stay to the top of the political agenda. Otherwise, the drive to make poverty history is itself history.