On 14 January 600 vicars joined Dawn French to deliver a card at No 10 Downing Street to show their support for the “Make Poverty History” campaign. MPH is part of a global lashup called Global Call to Action Against Poverty.
A white wrist-band has been chosen as a symbol for MPH. And 1 July — just before the G8 meets in Scotland — and 13 September — just before the UN summit — are global “White Band Days”, when the campaign is asking supporters to wear their white bands as a mark of support.
MPH is made up of charities, trade unions, churches and “high profile individuals” . Oxfam and others are attempting to re-create the type of movement which existed around the Jubilee 2000 campaign for debt cancellation.
The coalition is calling for three things: trade justice; debt cancellation; more and better aid.
Fair enough, as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go very far: the demands have been deliberately constructed to allow Tony Blair to say he — more or less — agrees with them.
The initiative probably does Blair and New Labour no harm at all in election year.
But such activity does create the possibility of raising issues such as workers’ rights, sweatshop conditions, struggles for democracy in Africa, within the general mobilisations and meetings. The first step will be during Fairtrade fortnight, which takes place in the first two weeks in March. During these two weeks hundreds of activities and meetings will take place.
* Fairtrade Fortnight: www.fairtrade.org.uk
* Make Poverty History: www.makepovertyhistory.org