Gordon Brown’s moral universe

Ending global poverty: do we have a choice?

CAFOD: Pope Paul VI Memorial Lecture: 8th December,2004

Speaker: Gordon Brown: Chancellor of the Exchequer

“We live in an interdependent world and should frame our lives within a moral universe.” This was the constant refrain of Gordon Brown’s CAFOD lecture last night. “”If some are poor, then we are all impoverished,”” he said.

The Chancellor will draw on this philosophy in his personal drive for progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the “make-or-break year” of opportunity for the UK government in 2005. “”If we fail to achieve the 2015 goals,”” he said, “”political leaders will never be trusted again…..This would be the greatest betrayal of the poor by the rich of all time.””

Needing little encouragement from the brief to include a “faith perspective” in his analysis, the Chancellor returned again and again to his themes of interdependence and morality, invoking Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Gandhi, and Isaiah. On a day of disappointment in efforts to bridge the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland, he refused to countenance any cultural barriers to his vision of a better world through global understanding of our interdependence: “The fate of the richest people in the richest countries is bound up with the poorest in the poorest countries.” The task is to extend familiar ideas of helping others in our local communities to a global battle for the dignity of all people, even those whom we will never meet.

Gordon Brown clearly feels that the MDGs are already at risk for lack of funds. He outlined his mission to encourage more countries to commit to the target aid budget of 0.7% of GDP, to push for 100% debt relief for the poorest countries, and for a successful and fair Doha round for international trade. His innovative “International Finance Facility”, to accelerate the availability of aid funds, remains firmly on his agenda.

The Chancellor faces an early test of his missionary zeal. In preparation for 2005, this week he meets opposite numbers in the United States, themselves high on a successful election campaign rooted in values. Will the US be receptive to ideas of global values as distinct from American values?


this article was first published by OneWorld UK