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Stop Expecting Me to Do Your Job for You

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It's not just down to me to tackle poverty. It's not just down to me individually, to my organisation, or to the UK. The sooner we stop abdicating responsibility and expecting 'someone' to sort it all out, the better.

Because there is no 'they' in the fight against poverty.

Of course I have a role to play. And so do you, and every single person on this planet, one way or another.

That's what I'm hoping this week's High Level Meeting, co-chaired by David Cameron, will conclude.

The meeting is part of the ongoing UN summit for a new vision to end global poverty, focussing on actions we'll take after 2015. Each of the three national leader co-chairs - the UK, Liberia and Indonesia - will take a turn to host a meeting. This week, it's the turn of London.

The year 2015 is significant because it marks the year by which we're all hoping the Millennium Development Goals will be met. Some are on track or ahead of target, while others still have a long way to go, and 2015 marks the next moment when we, together as a global community, decide how we're going to advance in the fight against poverty.

So the discussions of this week, and the following summits, matter. They matter to the mothers who watch their children die from diarrhoea; an utterly preventable illness which we in rich countries would never expect to see kill our children. They matter to the food producers who are struggling to adapt to changing weather patterns because they can't afford the seeds, tools or technologies to change their farming or fishing practices and so they can't feed their children.

They matter to the millions of people who have had their land taken away so that rich mining companies can take the resources, while paying thousands of pounds every second in secret payments to local and national governments, which the people most affected by the presence of the mine will never see.

And, of course, they matter to us. However much we'd like to believe it, we are not innocent bystanders. Our ignorance and passivity about what is done in our name means we don't understand or take responsibility for the consequences. But we should.

If the debate about tackling poverty were to move away from 'them' and 'us' and more intelligently reflect the scale of the challenges Cameron, Sirleaf-Johnson (Liberia) and Yudhoyono (Indonesia) together face, we'd be much better able to have a sensible conversation about the future of development.

And we could together agree that something very significant needs to change.

Because, so far, we've found lots of little solutions and have developed some good ways to meet people's basic needs but we haven't yet really invested in the things that are going to work for the long-term.

And, whatever the future of development beyond 2015 looks like, it has to be something that works for the long-term.

It has to be sustainable, lasting, permanent. Take your pick of the words you choose but, one way or another, it's got to be something that works forever.

For example, we're kidding ourselves if we don't tackle head on the challenge of climate change. We urgently need an ambitious and fair global deal to tackle carbon emissions and to help poorer countries to adapt to the changes in weather in very practical ways.

In fact, a fair share all round is a good way forward. Targets for safe and equitable use of energy, water and food must be fully integrated into the post-2015 framework, to make sure those in need get enough and those who are consuming too much reduce their consumption. Because there is enough food in the world for everyone and yet one in eight people will go to bed hungry tonight. That's the equivalent of the whole of the populations of Europe, the US, Australia and Canada put together.

It's not just about finding more resources for those who don't have enough. It's about examining my, your and our levels of consumption of food, fuel, carbon, and acknowledging that if we continue at the rate we're going, we'll outgrow the planet and there will be nothing left for anyone.

We can't just hope that interventions 'over there' will do the trick. We must take responsibility for changing our own behaviour.

And change our ways of thinking, budgeting, planning and doing politics. Clearly, the only kind of growth that our planet can now sustain is green growth, which means that economic growth and the environment must be linked from now on if we're going to make sure that any post-2015 framework makes sense.

It will take a huge amount of effort and not a small amount of money.

The good news is that there is money we could tap into, without affecting existing or promised aid budgets.

The world is a very different place to when the MDGs were conceived more than a decade ago, so we need intelligent new ways of financing our new vision for development.

A levy on shipping aid fuel, channelled through the Green Climate Fund, would make billions of pounds of difference to the farmers and food producers who are struggling to adapt to changing climates. Or assisting countries to raise revenues from multinationals through fairer taxation helping countries would help them become less dependent on aid.

And we all have a part to play, whether it's lobbying our leaders, holding businesses and governments to account or reducing our own over-consumption.

So, it isn't just my job. And it isn't just Tearfund's. Or the UK Government. And neither is it something we can leave to 'them' to sort out themselves. Today's levels of global poverty are something we've all caused, albeit unintentionally, and can all be part of solving. There's a cost, but it's worth paying.