16 March 2004

'International Finance Facility an exciting and pragmatic initiative’, says Methodist Church

Aid agencies and faith organisations met last week to discuss the International Finance Facility (IFF). The programme, a brainchild of Gordon Brown's Treasury, seeks to reinvigorate the Millennium Development Goals.

The internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals - to have every child in education, to reduce infant mortality by two thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters, and to half poverty by 2015 - have floundered due to the failure of the big governmental donors to produce the promised increase in aid money. But if enough donor countries adopt the IFF it will double the amount of development aid from just over $50 billion a year today to $100 billion per year in the years to 2015.

The IFF would release new private sector money on the strength of guarantees from rich country Governments. The more Governments are persuaded to join the scheme, the greater the potential benefit. The IFF would provide, for the first time, a predictable and stable flow of aid to help finance investment to meet the Millennium Goals. Further, grants would be directed towards countries where poverty is greatest. These countries would therefore see aid resources increase to at least three times current levels between now and 2015.

The Chancellor has specifically asked for the support of the Churches in winning international support for his initiative. In October 2003 the President of the Methodist Conference co-chaired a seminar on the IFF for various Church leaders to explore the proposals in detail with the Treasury and other interested parties.

Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs, participated in that seminar and represented the Methodist Church at the most recent meeting. He said: "The gathering of aid agencies and faith organisations concluded that the International Finance Facility was an exciting and pragmatic initiative that provides the G8 leaders an opportunity to make significant difference to poverty."

However, he stressed that the IFF needs to be promoted alongside demands for economic justice. In many instances, debt relief might be more efficient and effective than aid money in achieving long-term relief from poverty. He added: "The G8 need not just a new project but also a new resolve to tackle aid, trade justice and debt. Only then can we hope to release developing economies from a dependant relationship on the West."

The Methodist Church, MAYC World Action and MRDF will work alongside aid agencies leading up to UK's hosting of the G8 in June 2005. Building on the Chancellor's appeal for more serious commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, we will encourage Gordon Brown and G8 leaders to achieve comprehensive economic justice for those in developing countries.

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