Promises to shout about on World Poverty Day?

During today’s ‘World Poverty Day’ party leaders will be showcasing their plans on international development.

Our guest writer is Jenny Ricks, head of campaigns at ActionAid UK

During today’s ‘World Poverty Day’ party leaders will be showcasing their plans on international development. Whilst many countries have failed to live up to the promises they made on aid to the world’s poor at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in July 2005, the UK does not suffer the same shame; most recently demonstrated by the overwhelming response to the Haiti earthquake, the UK public has stood by poor countries in good and bad times.

So, the leadership of all the main parties have followed the public lead and committed to reaching our international aid obligations of 0.7% of Gross National Income by 2013 in their manifestos this week. This is very welcome, but, despite the headlines, development is not just about aid.

For the 160 organisations supporting to the BOND Vote Global manifesto, it is ultimately about removing the obstacles that keep poor people poor, so they can stand on their own two feet. To do that, bigger and more structural issues like climate change, debt, corporate power and women’s rights need tackling.

This requires leadership and vision from rich countries to help change the world for the benefit of those who are poorer. And this is not just about charity. It is also in our naked self interest to live in a world that is just, fair and free of conflict.

After the election we will have more new MPs than at any time since 1945. Top of the ‘to do’ list is steering the UK out of the toughest fiscal environment in a generation. There will be a ceaseless temptation to focus on ‘us’ first. This is where strong leadership will be needed.

To get that kind of leadership from politicians, campaigning pressure from the public is needed. So far this election, the Ask The Climate Question hustings in the key marginals and the Robin Hood Tax campaign’s innovative digital work are keeping the parties on their toes.

For ActionAid, tax is our focus this election. Why? Well, billions more needs to be found to protect public services in the UK, and to tackle poverty and climate change abroad. The impact of the financial crisis has been truly global and many governments in developing countries are facing the same fiscal squeeze as the UK. And while developing countries lose more to tax dodging by mulitnationals every year than they receive in aid, the need for tax justice could not be more urgent.

As the polls tighten, candidates are listening to their constituents like never before. That is why we want to put tax justice on the map at this election. We are calling on all candidates to pledge their support for tax justice. We want them to champion country by country financial reporting, as well as the Robin Hood Tax on the banks.

Fine words from leaders on development are always welcome, but true leadership is the courage to match fine words with strong actions. Whoever is at the helm, we need the post-election government to show its leadership on tax justice. That would be a promise worth shouting about this World Poverty Day.

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