Ian attended a landmark address by Bill Gates* in The Houses of Parliament during which Mr. Gates praised the UK for its continued global leadership in the field of International Development.

Speaking to Ian and other new MPs just weeks after the election Mr. Gates commended the UK’s continued track record on delivering on the promises made in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

He stated: “I welcome the UK’s leadership on international development and its commitment to maintaining the nation’s promise to spend 0.7% of its Gross National Income on official development assistance, despite significant challenges to the British economy. I urge other donor nations, particularly those in the G8, to follow its lead.”

Ian said, “It was a great honour being able to discuss the UK’s fight against global poverty with Bill Gates, who has done such phenomenal work through the Bill and Melinda Foundation to combat this scourge on humanity.• We must do all we can to make the Millennium Development Goal Summit in September a renewal of all countries’ commitments to•the MDGs•a reality.”

Ian concluded: “Britain has lead the way -; and should be proud that it is the first and only country in the world to commit to spending 0.7% of its income on aid from 2013.• However I will be pressing the Tory/Lib Dem government to continue these commitments and progressive plans of the previous Labour government in tackling global poverty and not to put millions of lives around the world at risk”

With just 5-years to go until the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goal’s and a special Summit convened in September by the UN General Assembly to track progress Mr. Gates outlined why 2010 must be a year of decisive action in terms of International Development, commenting “In the face of such challenging economic times, we must be even smarter about how resources are used and maintain our commitments to the world’s poor.”

Indeed great progress has already been made in areas such as reducing the proportion of people in chronic poverty by half, which is within reach for the world as a whole and; increasing access to clean water, with one point six billion people having gained access to safe drinking water since 1990, other areas are significantly off-track.

Yet despite this with just 5 years until the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many MDGs are off track and some are even moving in the wrong direction.

More people suffer from chronic hunger today than at any other time in history. MDG 1, to reduce by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, is so far off track that it is now moving in the wrong direction. To achieve MDG 1 -; 115 million people must be lifted out of chronic hunger each and every year up until 2015 -; and this would still only be half of the global problem.

It is estimated that the cost of this under-nutrition to the developing world is estimated to be some $20 -; 30 billion per year.

It is in this context that Harriet Lamb, Executive Director of the Fairtrade Foundation called for a new partnership in International Development, stating: “Aid is important but there are also millions of entrepreneurs in developing countries looking for the opportunity to trade their way out of poverty. Instead of business as usual, Fairtrade has shown how business unusual can create a win-win -; strengthening producer organisations and sustainable supply chains so that these farmers and entrepreneurs can play a role in transforming their own communities. There is a real opportunity, as the Gates Foundation shows, for the private sector to step up to the plate, and build new kinds of partnership for development.”

Aaron Oxley, Executive Director for RESULTS-UK, echoed these sentiments calling on policy makers to act now and help the poorest people help themselves out of poverty. He commented: “Experience shows us the poor are often poor because they are excluded from opportunities and if we can help create the conditions for those opportunities suffering is averted and development ensues”

Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Rt. Hon Douglas Alexander noted: “It is a rare privilege to sit on a panel with somebody who has changed the world once, and I think we are in the presence today of somebody who has changed the world twice -; first with his work in Microsoft and now with the extraordinary work that he and Melinda are taking forward in the Gates Foundation”

While Bill Gates concluded: “Aid over the last 50 years has achieved some phenomenal things•We wouldn’t be spending the money if it wasn’t something that I didn’t think was catalytic. We get smarter all the time, but the aid we’re spending really makes a huge difference and so again thank you for your generosity and partnership”.

Ian joined others in expressing his support for Mr. Gates comments and for the vital Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit due to take place at the UN General Assembly in September this year at which recent progress towards the MDGs will be measured.

The aim of the meeting was to highlight the ‘living proof’ of International Development and the crucial difference that it makes to the lives of millions of people worldwide.

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