by Joel Edwards
With less than 100 days to go, the race to the London Olympics is entering the home straight. But at the same time, with less glamour and glitz, a far more challenging set of races are on in nations across the globe. The world is now on the final lap of a 15-year relay race to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals - promises made to the poor by world leaders in 2000 – ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/Aids by 2015. It is quite simply a race of life and death to help millions of innocent men, women and children.
And perhaps surprisingly, it is London-based UK Prime Minister David Cameron who is helping to set the pace. Cameron has stuck to his government's commitment to increase overseas aid to 0.7% of UK GDP, despite the recession and savage cuts for the Brits.
He recently raised the UK's commitment to vaccinate 80 million children and save 1.4m lives by 2015, adding: "I don't believe it would be right to ignore the difference we can make, turn inwards solely to our own problems and effectively balance our books while breaking our promises to the world's poorest." This is real commitment to keep promises made by the UK in 2000, and it is being noticed by others. UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon has now just asked Cameron to chair a new UN committee tasked with establishing a new set of MDGs to follow the present goals from 2015.
Bill Gates seems inspired by the British Prime Minister, praising him for his "absolutely fantastic" decision to embrace the UN target on overseas aid, and he contrasted Mr Cameron's efforts with other EU countries. And he is right. Many world leaders are failing to keep their promises to the world’s poorest. Some have even dropped the baton. I wonder if some have even left the blocks. They are neglecting their duty to those who are suffering and dying.
We at Micah Challenge have a mission on to ensure these MDGs are hit. We aim to mobilize millions of Christians the world over to remind politicians about their promises. The global church, with more than 2 billion people, is a massive force when it unites to advocate what is on God’s heart – the suffering of the poor. So we will offer praise where it is due, and challenge when the situation demands.
In this respect, Norway, Sweden and Australia are other countries that are attempting a sprint to the 2015 finish line and they also deserve a pat on the back. But some 'big hitters' like France and Germany need to step up to the mark – and soon. This is not an Olympics race. It really is a race of life and death, and a race they promised to run and win.
Joel Edwards (Twitter @nigpat) is the Director for Micah Challenge International www.micahchallenge.org which is an initiative of the WEA, and a regular broadcaster with the BBC. He is also a former commissioner with the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the UK.