The press briefing by the Ghana MDGs/GCAP Campaign Secretariat was to brief the media about the outcome of this year's Stand Up & Take Action campaign which took place on October 17 – 19 across the country. It was also used to offer the media an opportunity to ask any nagging questions about the campaign and to inform them about the way forward.
The briefing started at 2:40 pm with an opening prayer by Rev. S. T Doku, a member of the campaign. Rev. Dr. Fred Degbe, General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) was then introduced as the Chairman of the event by Miss Theodora Foli of the Youth Employment Synergy (YES Ghana).
In his address, he noted that POVERTY poses intractable challenges in addressing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to him, various Governments through the MDGs have tasked themselves to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 and that the Coalition seeks to hold government accountable in fulfilling the pledge. He continued that the Ghana Human Development Report (HDR) 2007 indicates that poverty level is increasing in the capital city.
The General Secretary revealed that more than 10 million people in Ghana live on less than 1 Ghana Cedi a day, emphasizing that the Stand Up & Take Action Against Poverty is about creating an opportunity for citizens to learn about poverty and the MDGs to enable them hold their government accountable to the goals. The Rev. Minister stated that although poverty level had reduced from 26.8% to 18 % in 2007, there is the need for government to scale up its efforts.
He intimated that the outcome of the Stand Up this year was overwhelming. Rev. Degbe recounted that citizens took actions in mosques, lorry stations, offices, funeral grounds, sport stadium and schools to challenge the Government of Ghana to keep to the promise.
On his part, Mr. W. B Nelson of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) in a solidarity message revealed that his outfit is responsible for advising the president on development issues and the MDGs. He added that the MDGs are target driven and there is the tendency that one can just focus on the target figures rather than the means to which the goals can be attained.
Mr. Nelson said the NDPC is doing a lot to facilitate the attainment process, stressing that MDGs needs to be localized to enable the poor to facilitate in the attainment process. According to him, 70 percent of the poor in Ghana live in rural areas hence the need to get structures in place to undertake an action at the local level to help attain the goals and this is not the responsibility of government alone but every Ghanaian and CSOs.
ILO- on his part =====, underscored that the poor is the most important people in the country. He contended that Stand Up should not be seen as an issue of a one day campaign but a process to ensure that poverty and hunger is eradicated.
According to him, poverty is linked to unemployment, revealing that lack of voice, resources and sustainable income are all spheres of poverty in a man's life. He said the ILO is committed to ensuring that men and women have the right to decent work. The issue of child labour is critical because if child labour is not dealt with there will be perpetual poverty. The effective way to deal with poverty is to abolish child labour. For him, children in child labour are excluded from quality education and this stops them from gaining quality employment and that leads to poverty. Over a million children are in child labour and two thousand are in worse forms of labour. He called on the members of the media to participate in the campaign to ensure that poverty becomes history.
Report on Activities
The Programs Officer of the Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC), Mr. Kofi Asare recalled that the coalition was active in organizing school pupils and teachers nationwide to take an action against poverty.
Over fifty thousand pupils/students and teachers across the nation took part in the action. Highest number of actions took place at the Garison School in Burma Camp, Accra where over one thousand five hundred (1500) children stood up. Government needs to make education entirely free. The issues raised during the actions should be used effectively in order for it to be constant reminder to government.
Mr. Kenneth Nana Amoateng of Abibimman Foundation: Banners Against Poverty were sent to every nook and cranny of the country for citizens to express their dissatisfaction against poverty through signatures and thumbprints.
Miss Kyerewa Asamaoh, a Research Assistance at the MDGs Secretariat: Members of the campaign led citizens to stand up against poverty through out the country. The actions sent clear signals that citizens will not stand watching while their livelihoods are not being improved. In Ghana alone 1,115,520 people were mobilized at events in rural, urban, cosmopolitan and cities in the 10 regions. She indicated that this years number represents 953.43 percent increase in the 2007 number of 1117,000, emphasizing that it is a clear signal to government and aspiring leaders that citizens will not remain seated while promises to end poverty are unfulfilled. Their actions will consistently hold the Government accountable to fulfilling the pledge by 2015. Some of the events which took place were Concert Against Poverty, Games Against Poverty, Social Forums and SMS.
She recalled how the youth demonstrated their will power to hold government accountable. The action this year is about the local influencing the national. It is the new dawn of consistent campaign. Over 111,016,000 people globally stood up against poverty. The campaign is an ongoing process and will intensify the engagement of citizens to be active in the coming days. Change comes when people share common values of development. The Secretariat will use the numbers as advocacy tool to engage government. “when the voice of the people become so loud the government has no alternative but to listen” Martin Luther King Jnr.
The open forum gave journalists present the opportunity to ask questions. The first to ask was Mr. Ayure Kapini, a correspondent for This Day Business in Nigeria. In his question, he recalled that Jesus Christ said in the Bible that the poor will always be with us, if so can poverty be eradicated. Rev. Degbe in answering that question explained that Jesus in making that statement did not end there but added that “we should take care of the poor”. This he said was the responsibility of Government and every individual to take care of the poor. The world has enough resources to deal with poverty but it is in the hands of some self interest people. It in the interest of all to ensure equitable distribution of resources and that is why we must take actions.
George Keelson of Business Week also asked what the secretariat will do after the briefing. In a quick response, Miss Asamoah stated the campaign is a process and the press briefing is just the beginning of the process that has begun, adding that the coalition will dialogue with Government to provide some alternative policies to make the goals a reality.
Mr. Leonard Ackon, a member of the Media Consortium for the MDGs Campaign in commenting on some of issues tasked journalists to develop interest in development issues such as the MDGs and do away with sensational journalism. He added that every journalist has a responsibility to give voice to the poor in order for their livelihoods to be improved.
The briefing ended at 3:59 with series of interviews, interaction and refreshment. Some journalists used the briefing to learn more about the MDGs and the campaign.