• Loading

Letter from America

Have you ever tried to eat asparagus with a fork, while lobbying one of the world’s most respected human rights activists? I didn’t realise how tricky it might be until this lunchtime.

Christian Aid’s partner, the Centre for Economic and Social Rights hosted a conference with Mary Robinson’s organisation, Realising Rights. The aim of the day, which was chaired by the former Irish President was to take stock of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) summit from a human rights perspective.

It was a wonderful discussion. If Christian Aid was to hold a conference on our Poverty Over approach (something I think we should do), it would do well to echo this discussion.

Most of the participants were lawyers from a human rights background. There was a strong debate regarding the extent to which groups should engage with the MDGs, given that these goals don’t address the fundamental ways in which human rights are undermined.

The idea of talking about poverty reduction rather than poverty eradication was something people felt very uncomfortable about. Would William Wilberforce have been happy with slavery reduction?

‘Would William Wilberforce have been happy with slavery reduction?’

When I mentioned Christian Aid’s analysis of poverty as a lack of power, many around the table agreed. Of course they use different language, but we are essentially talking about the same things.

The fact that our economic frameworks, our governments, our international institutions don’t deliver economic and social rights but undermine them needs to be challenged. The groups represented were prepared to challenge themselves: if human rights groups only deal with human rights violations and don’t articulate what a vision of a world where human rights are respected, they are doing themselves, and the world, a disservice.

It made me think. We should really think carefully about involving human rights groups in our discussions about ending poverty. Many of them are very much on the same page. And if someone like Mary Robinson got on board, she could take that message to the highest levels.

I did try to convince Mary Robinson to work with us, but looking dignified while trying to eat asparagus with a fork is not as easy as you think.

Reverend Jesse Jackson holding a Christian Aid 'Power to the poor' placard

Video from our supporter day

Relive it now!

 About the author

David McNair

David McNair is our senior economic justice adviser