G8 summit,Absolute poverty,Actor,Advertising,Africa" name="keywords" /> Make Poverty History

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Make Poverty History

Related subjects Animal & Human Rights; Recent History

An estimated 225,000 (BBC News) campaigners marched in Edinburgh on 2 July
An estimated 225,000 (BBC News) campaigners marched in Edinburgh on 2 July

The Make Poverty History campaign (which is written as MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY) is a British and Irish coalition of charities, religious groups, trade unions, campaigning groups and celebrities who mobilise around the UK's prominence in world politics, as of 2005, to increase awareness and pressure governments into taking actions towards relieving absolute poverty. The symbol of the campaign is a white " awareness bracelet" made of cotton or silicone. Usually on the band the words would be written in black, with the 'Poverty' word a lighter shade. A 'virtual' white band was also available to be displayed on websites.

TV ads ran for many months, urging people to speak to their representatives about stopping poverty. However, the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) banned the ads, deciding that the ads were "wholly or mainly political" in nature, since they aimed to "achieve important changes". The campaign said it was "disappointed" in the decision.

The three demands of the campaign were:

  • " Trade justice"
  • Drop the debt
  • More and "better" aid

It should be noted that none of these aims were new (there have been many attempts over the last few decades to promote them), but the scale of the 2005 campaign dwarfed previous efforts.

On January 31, 2006, the majority of the members of the campaign passed a resolution to disband the organisation, arguing that the UK coalition had only agreed to come together formally for a limited lifespan, to correspond with the UK holding the presidency of the EU and G8. Around forty groups had argued against the dissolution. Some have been critical of the ending of the coalition; the Left-wing activist Alex Callinicos wrote that "disbanding of mph has a lot to do with the interests of the big NGOs that dominated it" and that "scrapping mph was an utterly shameful decision. It can only promote the belief that those who currently dominate the world are benevolent figures who will, with a few pushes from below, continue to take "small steady steps forwards".


Make Poverty History set out a timescale revolving around the 31st G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland on July 6, 2005.

Plastic version of the "white band"
Plastic version of the "white band"

The campaign was given a high profile launch on British television on New Year's Day 2005 in a special edition of The Vicar of Dibley, written by Richard Curtis, who pledged support for the campaign during 2005. The same issues were highlighted in Curtis' television drama The Girl in the Café, in an episode broadcast on June 25 on the BBC One channel in the UK on the HBO channel in the U.S. and on ABC TV in Australia.

  • The UK assumed presidency of the G8 on January 1, 2005 and hosted the summit with poverty in Africa being, at least nominally, a major topic for discussion.
  • The Commission for Africa, launched by Tony Blair in February 2004, aimed to help create a strong and prosperous Africa. Their report, published in March 2005, was a focal point for the UK presidency of the G8.
  • In the second half of 2005, the UK held the EU presidency.
  • July 1, 2005 was the first international "White Band Day", a worldwide day of action.
  • July 2 - Over 225,000 protesters demonstrated in Edinburgh to promote the campaign's demands. On the same day, the Live 8 concerts took place before the G8 summit to encourage activism and debate within the G8 member countries, with the aim of increasing political pressure on the leaders.
  • July 3 – boats set off to Cherbourg in France to pick up protesters as part of Sail 8
  • July 6 - The final Live 8 concert, named Edinburgh 50,000 - The Final Push rocks Edinburgh in the final strike to persuade G8 Leaders to double aid in Africa. Demonstrators walked overnight up to 20 miles to reach Gleneagles as the A8 had been closed. They were not convinced by the police who told them that they were not allowed to continue "for their own safety" as there had been "bomb threats" near Auchterarder. There had been an agreement with police that protesters would be allowed to walk past Gleneagles Hotel itself, within earshot of the G8, but police from all over the UK instead herded protesters onto a road bridge and violently suppressed the peaceful protest there.
  • The 20th anniversary of Live Aid was on July 13, 2005.
  • September 10 was the second international "White Band Day".
  • The United Nations General Assembly Special Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, September 2005. This summit reviewed the progress since 2000 of the Millennium Development Goals, including halving the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015.
  • December 10 was the third international "White Band Day".

Member organisations

The UK campaign had over 540 member organisations including many faith groups, trade unions and charities. See Member organisations of Make Poverty History (UK).

Whilst the anti-war group CND was a member, the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) requested to join but was refused. There was speculation that this was because the organisers wanted to minimise criticism of the Labour government over the Iraq war. The Make Poverty History's governing body, the coordination team, cited the substantial political party affiliations of the governing body of StWC as the primary reason. They also gave the grounds that the issues of economic justice are separate from those of war, and STWC participation in Edinburgh on 2 July would confuse the message. In a highly critical article in Red Pepper magazine, Stuart Hodkinson claimed that this was ironic since Oxfam a member of the coordination team "is currently leading a worldwide campaign for an international arms treaty on the basis that uncontrolled arms fuels poverty and suffering." Hodkinson, Stuart (July 2005). "Make the G8 history". Red Pepper. 

The Canadian campaign

The Canadian Make Poverty History campaign was launched in February 2005 by a coalition coordinated by Gerry Barr, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation. The campaign is supported by a coalition of charities, trade unions, faith groups, students, academics, literary, artistic and sports leaders such as actor Mary Walsh, musician Tom Cochrane, Olympian Anna van der Kamp, actors Roy Dupuis and Pascale Montpetit, and United Nations special envoy Stephen Lewis.

Make Poverty History has four main objectives in Canada:

  • More and better foreign aid
  • Trade justice
  • Cancellation of all debts owed by poor countries to developed countries like Canada
  • Elimination of child poverty in Canada

The French-language version of the Make Poverty History is "Abolissons La Pauvreté". It is important to note that, while this literally translates to "end poverty", neither the English- nor French-language versions of the Canadian campaign are to be confused with End Poverty Now. The former represents the Canadian Make Poverty History campaign; the latter is a stand-alone organization that, while remaining affiliated with the campaign, was created independently by a small grouping of MPH Canada's member base.

See related article, Poverty in Canada

The US "ONE" Campaign

In April 2005, a commercial began airing in the United States with several celebrities in black and white stating the pledge of the American ONE Campaign, their version of Make Poverty History. The commercial featured 33 celebrities and personalities; names as diverse as religious leaders Pat Robertson and Frank Griswold; singers including Bono, P. Diddy, Mos Def and Jewel; and various actors including Brad Pitt, Susan Sarandon, Al Pacino and Antonio Banderas. At the end, Tom Hanks states, "We're not asking for your money. We're asking for your voice."

The general goals of the ONE campaign in the United States are to end extreme poverty, hunger and AIDS.

The founding sponsors of ONE are Bread for the World, CARE, DATA, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Plan USA, Save the Children US, World Concern, and World Vision. They have strong ties with the NBA, MTV's Rock the Vote, and the Millennium Campaign.

The Norwegian campaign

The Norwegian campaign was started by Norwegian Church Aid on June 9. Haakon Magnus, Crown Prince of Norway and Kjell Magne Bondevik are some of the celebrities in Norway that wear a white Make Poverty History band.

The three demands of the Norwegian campaign are:

  • " Trade justice"
  • Drop the debt
  • More and "better" aid

The shops in Norway that sell Make Poverty history bands are Cubus and Dressman, two Norwegian clothing shops.

The Australian Campaign

The Australian campaign is coordinated by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID).

The Australian campaign remains popular with many national Non Government Organisations (NGO's) including World Vision, Oxfam, Oaktree and Engineers Without Borders promoting the campaign.

In November 2006, Melbourne hosted the Make Poverty History Concert to align with the G20 Summit.


These national campaign groups work under the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) coalition. GCAP is a worldwide alliance committed to making world leaders live up to their promises, and to making a breakthrough on poverty in 2005.

It is the largest anti-poverty campaign in the world and is made up of existing coalitions, community groups, trade unions, individuals, religious and faith groups, campaigners and more.

In early 2006, the global campaign's International Facilitation Group, almost unanimously, decided to extend the campaign up to December 31, 2007.

White Band Day 4 was held on October 17, 2006 and ended a month of mobilization commencing on September 16, 2006.

Country specific details for WB4 are available on the campaign's website - www.whiteband.org

White Band Day 5 will be held on October 17, 2007.


Some critics allege that debt relief and aid are used to fund lavish lifestyles for the ruling class (although efforts are made to exclude these countries from the G8 debt relief).

Aid may also be structured to help the first world governments giving the aid more than the countries in receipt of it, while the power to change things in these societies is given to western-educated people who may instigate ideas that increase rather than decrease levels of suffering. In Britain some critics, including those in the left of the Labour Party, have criticised the campaign for not being critical enough of the UK government, as they see Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's support for the campaign as a cynical ploy to move away from criticism of the Iraq war and its protectionist policies.

Some (minor) criticism also emerged from the campaign's wrist-bands, and how they had apparently become fashionable amongst people who cared little about the original message (see the MakePovertyFashionable parody ).

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