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Overview

2005 is already an extraordinary year. The tsunami in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 caused widespread devastation, killed hundreds of thousands of people, left millions homeless, and plunged already poor countries into even deeper poverty. While the disaster has caused great devastation, the global wave of solidarity and public generosity that followed it offers grounds for hope. The outpouring of aid to those affected showed just what the international community is capable of when it acts in unison. The destruction caused by the tsunami was more than a ‘natural disaster’: the impact was made far worse by the prevalence of extreme poverty and marginalisation in the region, and it is generally recognised that the affected countries will need significant support for many years if they are to recover. But it should also be recognised that the lack of international action to reform debt, aid, and trade policies has a similarly devastating impact on poor countries and requires the same level of solidarity and determination by the world community. Every week, poverty kills more people than the Asian tsunami. The question is: was the reaction to the tsunami a one-off event, or will the concerns of the poor be a continuing priority for the rich world? In this paper we consider the heroes and villains in the EU’s 25-member bloc. We ask: are they collectively doing enough to make sure that the EU seizes the opportunity to make poverty history?

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