Brown pledges billions to wipe out poverty

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The Chancellor Gordon Brown today unveiled an ambitious plan to lift the developing world out of poverty and improve the health and education of millions of children.

The Chancellor Gordon Brown today unveiled an ambitious plan to lift the developing world out of poverty and improve the health and education of millions of children.

He confirmed Britain would give £960 million over 15 years to help fund an international immunisation programme and £1.4 billion by 2008 to fund education programmes, with a focus on girls' schooling.

The immunisation cash will be channelled through the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi), which recently received a pledge of one billion dollars from the Bill Gates Foundation and the Norwegian government.

If other nations respond, five million lives could be saved between now and 2015, said the Chancellor.

Mr Brown, speaking at a United Nations development seminar in London, stresed Britain would use its presidency this year of the G8 group of industrialised democracies to help the developing world.

"I believe that this year is a year of great challenge but also a year of great opportunity and - potentially - of destiny," he said.

"I believe that in this year we, the international community, can agree a plan for a new deal between developed and developing countries as bold and as generous as the Marshall Plan of the 1940s."

He said the public response to the tsunami disaster "has demonstrated to us all the willingness of the British people and other peoples to come to the aid of fellow human beings who suffer".

Mr Brown went on: "Far from there being compassion fatigue, perhaps for the first time millions more people are understanding just how closely and irrevocably bound together are the fortunes of the richest persons in the richest country to the fate of the poorest persons in the poorest country of the world."

The new deal for developing countries "will address the underlying causes of their poverty, their illiteracy and their disease".

The Chancellor, recently returned from a trip to Africa, said: "No statistics, however depressing, can prepare you for the hopelessness and human loss that lies behind the numbers but I saw too - amidst terrible suffering - hope, optimism and a determination, especially among mothers, to see things change.

"From the suffering in Africa I witnessed and the potential in Africa I could glimpse, it is our duty to act and to act urgently."

He added: "Surely it is our belief that every child is precious, every child is unique, every child is very special, every child deserves our support, no child should be left out. Every child matters. Every child counts."

Mr Brown warned that the UN millenium goals of halving poverty, primary education for all and the elimination of avoidable infant deaths would not be achieved for decades beyond their targets.

He urged action to "take the final historic step in delivering full debt relief for the debt-burdened countries with a new agreement on multilateral debt relief that will enable billions to be reallocated to education and health in the poorest countries".

The Chancellor urged a five-point plan:

  • On debt, matching 100% bilateral debt relief with financing 100% relief of the debt owed by the poorest countries to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank;

  • Setting up an International Finance Facility (IFF) to raise the additional 50 billion dollars a year needed for development, using donor countries' long-term funding commitments as collateral against which to borrow money in the international capital markets, then using that money to double development aid now;

  • On health, in addition to the Gavi support, a comprehensive plan to tackle HIV/Aids, including a global advance purchasing scheme for vaccines, treatment for all those who need it and the development of essential healthcare systems;

  • A new plan for schooling by 2015 for the 110 million children worldwide currently denied education;

  • Drawing up plans to help poorer countries improve their capacity to trade, while ensuring the Doha trade round is the first in history to favour developing countries.

The Chancellor said at Downing Street today: "What we are announcing today is the first stage of the new deal between developed and developing countries where we are prepared to provide debt relief and help for trade and at the same time funding for health and education.

"Hilary Benn is announcing today 1.8 billion dollars, matching - indeed more than - the Bill Gates donation of yesterday, so that we can fund vaccinations for every child.

"We believe that under our proposals five million lives can be saved between now and 2015 and five million lives after 2015.

"And to be able to save lives in this way by vaccinations and immunisations, particularly eradicating some of the worst diseases, is perhaps the most cost-effective use of money and to the benefit of everybody in the world."