Next week, leaders of the G20 meet to talk about the global financial crisis. The G20 is a grouping of the world's rich nations, as well as emerging economic powers, such as China and India. The summit is scheduled for April 2nd in London.
The leader of a humanitarian organization is calling on G20 to keep its commitments to poor nations, despite the economic turmoil. Tom Arnold is chief executive of Concern Worldwide and wrote about his concerns at irshtimes.com. From Dublin, Ireland, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that "any credible program aimed at restoring global economic growth must protect the very poorest for reasons of justice and solidarity."
"He says, "I mean at a very basic level, if the very poorest people in this world are put into desperate circumstances, I think we're going to, not only offend the principles of justice, but we're also going to increase political instability."
Referring to last year's food riots in more than 30 countries, when food and energy prices soared and food supplies dropped, he says, "I think in the interests of overall political stability we want to make sure that very poor people…are not driven to rioting and so on. So, I think there's a justice issue here, but there's also a political stability issue."
Asked about persuading citizens in developed countries to help poor nations instead of just concentrating on the home front, Arnold says, "I think we justify it by certainly appealing to the long-standing generosity of the Irish public. But also to say that even if our economic circumstances have disimproved (sic), the aid that we're giving is going to people, who are immeasurably poorer than any Irish citizen living in Ireland. And so that is one dimension. The other thing is I would also appeal to peoples' and countries' long-term self-interests."
He says Ireland has a reputation of being generous and needs to maintain that reputation even during tough economic times. He says the G20 nations should be similarly concerned about their reputations. In his opinion article, Arnold writes, "Any vision for Ireland's future economic success must look to such factors as reputation and goodwill."
He tells VOA, "I think we all need goodwill. I mean when it comes down to decisions like economic investment or even some decisions that will be made on the part of governments which will influence trade or influence investment patterns, relationships between governments and between people are important." He says Ireland has benefitted from its good relationship with the United States, for example. "Ireland has also got very strong relationships with many of the African countries. And that's again a legacy of the contribution that Irish missionaries made over many years. And I suppose my basic point is that when you do have that goodwill, it is somewhere or other along the line going to translate into political and economic benefit for you," he says.
On a humanitarian level, the head of Concern Worldwide says, "We've got about a billion people in the world who are going to bed hungry tonight. That's a little short of one-seventh of the world population. That is wrong. And those of us who are fortunate enough never to get into that situation of being really hungry I think have a moral responsibility to help out. But equally, having a billion people in the world hungry is not conducive to stability. And I think the world's rich and poor nations must work together to change that situation."