|Volume 42 Number 11||Edmonton, Canada||February 4, 2005|
Prince urges youth to fight world poverty
Mandela's grandson speaks at International Week
by Geoff McMaster
Canada is not doing enough to help eradicate poverty in the developing world, says Prince Cedza Dlamini, grandson of Nelson Mandela.
Speaking at Myer Horowitz Theatre Jan. 31 as part of U of A's International Week, the Prince of Swaziland and UN Youth Ambassador on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), said Canada's contribution in the fight against world poverty has dropped markedly since 1994, despite promising to do more at a UN Summit in 2000.
"I give Canada credit for the millions it has given to victims of the tsunami - it's very impressive," he conceded, adding that the Canadian International Development Agency has pledged increased support for education, health and drugs for HIV/AIDS in the developing world.
"However generous, it is not enough," he said, pointing out that 210,000 children die every week in the world's poorest countries and one billion people do not have access to clean water. In South Africa alone, he said, 60 million people live on less than $1 a day.
Since 1994, Canada's contribution to world poverty has fallen to 0.27 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product from 0.46 per cent, said Dlamini. Canada needs to increase that amount to at least 0.7 per cent of the GDP in order to reach the MDGs by 2015. Of those contributing to the MDG agenda, Canada now sits at second last, followed only by the United States.
Danish assistance, on the other hand, has reached 0.9 per cent, he said, which is well above the target. "I urge that Canada follow that example."
The eight MDGs, agreed upon by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000, address a range of problems in the developing world, including gender inequality, poor health, inadequate education, high child mortality, the scourge of HIV/AIDS and environmental destruction, in addition to the general underlying burden of poverty.
Dlamini urged young people in the audience to take a greater role in the political process by lobbying both the media and politicians to push for more foreign aid. "We have the energy, drive and passion to hold governments accountable.
"As young people, the political process seems distant to us. We think, 'I'm young and busy and would rather be doing other things, like dancing.' But this is our future . . . if there is hope, it lies mainly with young people."
He said politicians will not act unless they feel foreign aid is important to their constituents. "A lack of political will signifies there is no demand for leaders to fulfill promises," he said.
"Last year Canada's government had a surplus of $1.9 billion. For them to reach the 0.7 mark is definitely realistic . . . my personal request is that you urge the foreign minister and prime minister to announce a firm timetable of aid increases, so it reaches 0.7 per cent by 2015 at the very latest."
Dlamini listed four key initiatives that need the support of Canada, including the removal of trade barriers for goods produced in developing countries, increased access to digital technology, increased access to cheaper pharmaceuticals for preventable diseases and, perhaps most importantly, debt relief.
"This really gives us a fresh start," he said, pointing out that since Tanzania has received debt relief, which amounted to yearly payments of $2.17 million on a $7.3 billion debt, the country has been able to abolish school fees and send 1.6 million children to school for the first time. Mozambique has been able to immunize half a million children against disease after it received debt relief.
Dlamini also invited members of the audience to get involved in the North American Youth Summit to be held next September in New York at the same time the UN meets to review its millennium agenda. He called the summit an opportunity to join a global network and "together make our world a much better place."