MP hopefuls on the spot over world poverty

Eastbourne campaigners at the Hyde Park 'If ... Campaign' rally last year
Eastbourne campaigners at the Hyde Park 'If ... Campaign' rally last year

Community groups and charities in Eastbourne which fight to raise awareness and fundraise for the world’s poor, have come together to put on a hustings for local election candidates.

Topics on the agenda will include climate change, economic and social justice, as well as trade justice and aid.

And so far candidates for the Liberal Democrats, Labour, Conservatives, and The Green Party have signed up to the event, with UKIP also receiving an invitation.

The hustings will be one of several in the town ahead of May’s general election, but with a specific focus on world poverty.

Representatives from Eastbourne Fairtrade, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and Tearfund, also met with overseas minister Justine Greening last month.

The group met in Fairtrade coffee shop Beanzz, in Eastbourne, and spoke with Mrs Greening about the issues they care about most.

The meeting, set up by Conservative candidate for Eastbourne, Caroline Ansell, discussed various topics such as climate change, development of the third world, and business solutions to combat poverty worldwide.

Mrs Greening said, “It is fantastic that Caroline could organise such an excellent meeting and it is great to meet such outstanding local charities”.

And now these charities will put our local politicians to the test to find out their views on worldwide poverty issues.

The three topics which head up the hustings are climate change, economic and social justice and trade justice and aid.

And the five organising groups include Churches Together for Eastbourne, Christian Aid, Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Tearfund and Fairtrade Eastbourne.

One thing all the groups share, is a desire to make people aware of crippling poverty around the world, and to make a difference to people’s lives around the world.

Barry Mansergh of Tearfund, which is a Christian group which fights world poverty, said the hustings is ‘to raise the profile of these issues’.

“People think ‘what is in it for me?,” he said.

“They do not realise people are dropping like flies.”

He said every day around 17,000 children die from preventable causes, such as lack of food, contaminated water or diseases like malaria.

The charities not only aim to make people aware of facts like this, but urges the local community to care about them.

On why people should care about climate change, Mr Mansergh said, “With climate change there has been a one degree increase in global temperature and the sea level has increased by one foot in the last 50 years.

“We’ve seen an increase in untoward weather. It means the unpredictable weather we have been experiencing is going to get worse if we go on messing with the planet.

“It does not make a difference to us in Eastbourne, as we do not have to grow crops. There are people in the world who do need to. If the weather is messed up they won’t be able to eat, so they will start moving, and we will see the results of that in Calais.

“It is not something we can say ‘maybe we can do that next election’.

“By the next election we may have tipped the planet over. We cannot negotiate with the planet.”

Martin Brown, who runs CAFOD in the Arundel and Brighton diocese, agreed and said, “A big issue for us is climate change. It is the single biggest threat to development in the world at the moment and we need action. We need action yesterday really.

“People around the world are feeling the impact of changes in climate.

“Some families in Peru are losing crops as glaciers melt; others in Bangladesh are facing more extreme weather, such as flooding and cyclones.

“We have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with people around the world and to ensure that future generations here in the UK can enjoy the things we all love – by insulating our homes, switching to a green energy supplier, or by cutting down on our driving.

“The Eastbourne group is a great group of people – very active and involved.

“We are supported well by the local clergy and the local churches.”

Catholic charity CAFOD works with local communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America to tackle poverty and fight for justice.

It works wherever the need is greatest, regardless of faith, background or gender.

It has a very active group in Eastbourne, which fundraises for various campaigns.

Sophie Dodgeon, from the national office of CAFOD, said, “Climate change is the single biggest threat to reducing poverty.

“The people CAFOD works with are experiencing the effects of changes in climate right now, whether it’s typhoons or floods destroying entire communities, or unpredictable seasons for farmers leaving millions hungry.

“The changing climate is also affecting the things we love at home, such as the price of our favourite foods.

“It’s great to see people of Eastbourne demanding action and standing in solidarity with people who are being affected by the changing climate. CAFOD would like to thank them for their support.”

And local rep Clare Szanto, said the real battle is making people aware of what is going on.

Through the local churches, she said people are very generous when it comes to various appeals, when they make the community aware of poverty around the world.

“We have the most overwhelming response when they know the facts, she said, “I think the trouble is people do not know the facts.”

As well as climate change, local candidates will be also be asked about the global tax system, promoting gender equality, supporting human rights of the world’s poor, international aid and the importance of Fairtrade.

One of the organising groups, Fairtrade Eastbourne, is particularly concerned with the latter.

It is a local campaign group which aims to promote shopping ethically in the town.

It works to make consumers and businesses more aware of where products come from, whether it is coffee or clothes.

Stephen Brown from Fairtrade Eastbourne said, “We’re a campaign group trying to get people to think about how their shopping habits can help people overseas.

“As part of the local coalition of agencies putting on this hustings, Fairtrade Eastbourne is particularly wanting to challenge the candidates on issues of Fairtrade and trade justice in general.”

The group wants to make Eastbourne a fairtrade town and to ensure companies are more transparent about where their goods come from.

He cited the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, when a clothing factory in Bangladesh burnt down, killing 1,129 people, and said there were some shops in Eastbourne whose goods may have come from this factory, or others like it.

Making people aware of where goods come from and how the labourers are being treated is a key part in changing how the world works when it comes to issues like slavery, fair pay and human rights.

“When you buy a cup of tea how much of it goes to the tea growers?” asked Mr Mansergh. “About one per cent or less.

“We have got to give the people who do hard work a return on their labour.”

At the hustings, Fairtrade Eastbourne will ask candidates about transparency in supply chains, how more people can be encouraged to buy more Fairtrade goods, and how much the government spends on overseas trade and development.

Other topics likely to come up include food poverty, with the World Food Programme saying 805 million people in the world do not have enough food - that is 11 per cent of the world’s population.

The charities also said UN Water figures show 732 million people do not have access to clean water, and 2.5 billion people (34 per cent of the world’s population) do not have access to adequate sanitation.

The groups said they are likely to ask the Eastbourne candidates what can be done about these figures, as well as the fact 17,000 children die from preventable diseases around the world every day.

The public are also invited to submit written questions for the candidates relating to the topics before the event. Visit www.ctfe.org.uk to fill out a form and for more information.

A more general hustings putting Eastbourne parliamentary candidates on the spot will be held on Thursday April 30.

The general election will be held on Thursday May 7.