Brown calls on rich nations to double aid to Third World

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The Independent Online

Gordon Brown called on world leaders yesterday to double aid to developing countries to prevent the world from missing its millennium targets to reduce poverty and illness in the next 10 years.

Gordon Brown called on world leaders yesterday to double aid to developing countries to prevent the world from missing its millennium targets to reduce poverty and illness in the next 10 years.

At a conference of church and government leaders at the Vatican, the Chancellor indicated that he would use Monday's comprehensive spending review to pump an extra £600m of taxpayers' money into the fight against Aids over the next three years.

He compared the campaign against poverty and disease in the 21st century with the challenge of rebuilding Europe after the Second World War. Then, the US backed the Marshall Plan that saw billions of dollars used to reconstruct the British and Continental economies.

However, the US does not support Britain's proposed international finance facility (IFF) to alleviate world debt because it would commit the spending of future US governments.

"This time it is not war-ravaged Europe but the disease-ravaged countries of Africa," the Chancellor said. "With Britain holding a special responsibility through our presidency of the Group of Eight nations and the European Union we are determined to take advantage of this opportunity to make 2005 a development presidency designed to make real and irreversible progress in tackling poverty," Mr Brown said.

"It is our Christian teaching that when some are poor our whole society is impoverished, that when there is injustice anywhere it is a threat to justice everywhere and what selfish men tear down selfless men and women must build anew."

Mr Brown called on the International Monetary Fund to revalue its vast gold reserves to in an accounting device that would enable it to write off the multi-billion-dollar debts owed by some of the world's poorest countries.

In a separate move, he urged the European Commission to cut red tape preventing European drugs companies from providing generic versions of costly drugs to cure tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/Aids to poor, disease-ridden countries.

He called on the international community to double aid from $50bn (£27bn) to $100bn a year to get the world's giant investment banks to lend money against the commitments by wealthy nations to increase their aid budgets. He said this was the last hope of hitting the millennium development goals to halve poverty, reduce child mortality, supply clean water and provide primary education for all children by 2015.

The Chancellor said he would use Monday's spending plans to "move towards" the target of 0.7 per cent of GDP spent on development aid ­ equivalent to an increase from the current £3.8bn to £7bn ­ by the end of the spending period in 2008. Poverty action groups have challenged him to set a timescale for hitting 0.7 per cent.

On Monday the Chancellor is expected to say that he will ring-fence £500m a year towards tackling Aids ­ an increase from the current budget of £300m a year: "I will announce a substantial increase in the budget to tackle HIV/Aids on Monday." In a further boost to fighting disease the Chancellor yesterday fired off an angry letter to Pascal Lamy, the EU's trade commissioner, demanding the commission implement an agreement secured under the world trade talks to force multinational drugs companies to allow countries to make cheap copies of their drugs.

He accused the Commission of using the need to translate the document into the 20 European languages for the failure to implement the necessary regulations.

"Delays by the European Union are not acceptable and we cannot wait more months or more years before these drugs are made available to the poorest countries," Mr Brown said.

"When the need is urgent, the suffering is great and the reduction in costs is very, very substantial and there is no other barrier to it happening, we can't let administrative delays stand in the way of saving lives," he said at the conference.

The Pope offered his moral support to the IFF, saying: "Trusting that your important discussions will bear abundant fruit, I invoke the light of the Lord upon all who participate in this seminar and I cordially impart my apostolic blessing."

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