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Make Poverty History

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Make Poverty History

2005 - The year trade unionists demanded Make Poverty History!

2005 was a year for trade unionists to remember. It was a year where we came together, in an unprecedented way, with 100s of other organisations, in what then became an extraordinary level of global campaigning on poverty.

It was a year that saw Nelson Mandela address over 20,000 people in Trafalgar Square, 25,000 people take part in the Trade Justice vigil and a phenomenal 250,000 people, including tens of thousands of trade unionists, take to the streets of Edinburgh and demand world leaders made poverty history.

Whether you wore a white band, took part through your union, emailed politicians, or took part in the Edinburgh rally, we want to say thank you. Together, we have been part of the biggest ever anti-poverty movement and whilst the TUC believes that the world's leaders should and could have gone a lot further, the successes we did win will make a difference to millions of lives.

To find out the Make Poverty History Coalition's 'verdict' of the campaign go to

Why Make Poverty History?

Today the gap between the worlds's rich and poor is wider than ever. Global injustices such as poverty, lack of decent work, AIDS, Malnutrition, conflict and illiteracy remain rife.

MakePovertyHistory was the UK mobilisation of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (, which in 2005 united groups, including the global trade union movement, all around the world lobbying their governments for the same goals. Together we called for:

· Trade Justice
· More and Better Aid
· Dropping the Debt

Make Poverty History policy and education resources

More TUC education resources on International Development,

The story so far

Make Poverty History was launched in the UK and around the world on 1st January 2005 with a special Vicar of Dibley New Year's Day programme introducing the idea of forthcoming July rally in Edinburgh and why people need to mobilise.

In February, Nelson Mandela addressed a 20,000 people in Trafalgar Square with a rallying cry that 'sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great' and that we should be that generation and Make Poverty History. The UK coalition rapidly grew, representing over 540 organisations, and the massive participation of the UK public exceeded all expectations. After just six months, 87% of the UK population had heard about the campaign.

The structures of the Make Poverty History coalition were very open with any member organisation having the right to join any of the 15 or so 'working groups' that together would make Make Poverty History happen. The TUC alongside Unison (who had been elected), were co-opted onto the Coordination Team and were also active to varying degrees in the Out Reach, Policy and Messages, Actions and Communications Working Groups.

In order to coordinate trade union activities and disseminate information, the TUC set about heavily publicising the campaign to its affiliates and set up a special 'Trade Union Working Group' which met and received email updates at least once a month. By the summer, over 30 unions had become MPH Coalition members.

In July, when the UK hosted the G8 summit, an astonishing 225,000 people rallied in Edinburgh to demand the G8 leaders Make Poverty History. The day before, millions around the world wore white bands and lobbied their own governments in solidarity with the global poor.
The G8 achieved a measure of success, particularly in the areas of aid and debt but these did not go far enough and there was no movement on trade justice, nor workers rights - the two most crucial areas for trade unionists.

View the TUC statement on the G8 summit

Download the MPH press release on the G8 summit

On 10 September, people from all over the world - Bangladesh to Spain, the Congo to New York and El Salvador to Japan gave their voices to ask world leaders to 'Wake Up to Poverty' on white band day II. View images from events around the world

However, despite including good references to the importance of decent work and workers rights, Make Poverty History was very disappointed in the outcome of the UN Summit for the world's poor.
Download Make Poverty History statement on UN World Summit

In early December, the future prospects of millions of people in the developing and developed world was in the hands of a gathering of trade ministers when the crucial World Trade Organisation Ministerial took place in Hong Kong. Trade unionists joined other campaigners in lobbying our Government to play their role in bringing an end to poverty through fairer trade rules and respecting workers' rights and the environment at the WTO. The WTO outcomes were less inspiring with multilateral negotiations just about kept going but no mention of issues of key concern to trade unionists such as the impact of trade agreements on employment and labour standards and some 'progress' that if left unchecked could have a devastating impact on industry in the global south. A summary of the global unions demands at the WTO

TUC report on the WTO
The response of the global unions to the actual outcomes in Hong Kong
The Make Poverty History verdict on the WTO outcomes

The Verdict

Make Poverty History's 2005 verdict
TUC's verdict

What's next

It had always been agreed amongst early Make Poverty History coalition members in the UK that MPH as a formally structured coalition would last just one year - 2005. . After this the focus would move back to the existing networks. In order not to lose the momentum and drive built up in 2005 a new 'Network of Networks' has been established including the networks and coalitions that are behind the main MPH demands. Alongside the TUC in this new structure are the Trade Justice Movement, Jubilee Debt Campaign and the UK Aid Network, British Overseas Network on Development and the Stop Aids Coalition These Networks will be meet regularly to assess the situation with regards to the progress being made by governments, international institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, World Bank and International Monetary Fund, in particular the commitments they made to poverty and development as a result of Make Poverty History in 2005. The Networks will work to keep up the pressure and if appropriate also coordinate joint campaigns especially if called upon by the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (the international campaign for all the Make Poverty History national platforms that are continuing into 2006 and beyond).

How you can get involved

Just because Make Poverty History as a coalition is over, it does not mean that we have stopped campaigning or struggling for global social and economic justice. In fact it is more necessary than ever to join the struggle.

The network of networks will run a series of economic justice forums throughout the year to bring together the organisations that formed part of MPH (and others) to look at what work is now being undertaken. There will also be a regular newsletter 'Global Call - action for organisations working to make poverty history' which will be distributed to all unions and organsiaitons who joined MPH.

To get updated information on trade union campaigns and news on trade union work in developing countries, sign up to the TUC's free monthly e-bulletin International Development Matters

In particular, the TUC would urge trade unionists to affiliate their union to the Trade Justice Movement To learn more about why trade justice matters read the TUC's development education fact file Trade and Trade Unions Other questions relating to trade justice can be answered here Trade Justice Movement Q&A Booklet (pdf file).

Through funding from DFID, the TUC in the past three years has had the resources to raise awareness and build capacity on international development issues within the UK trade union movement. In some way or another the 30 unions that signed up to the MPH campaign have benefited from this. The TUC is currently negotiating a new agreement with DFID for a further three years of funding which its affiliates will once again be able to benefit from. For more information about the agreement, including funding opportunities, visit

You can find out how to get involved in other campaigns on debt through the Jubilee Debt Campaign, and HIV/AIDS through the Stop Aids Coalition or visit the TUC's website

Other NGOs that the TUC works with on issues surrounding Make Poverty History are:
Action Aid
Action for Southern Africa
Ethical Trading Initiative
Labour Behind the Label
One World Action
War on Want

For general enquiries to the TUC European Union and International Relations Department please contact Pat Brown at

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