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Anti-Poverty Rallies Smash World Record

Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS - The worldwide anti-poverty mass
action that took place last weekend has broken all previous records for
coordinated public demonstrations on a single issue, says Guinness World Records, the ultimate authority on evaluating achievements.

Guinness said Wednesday more than 116 million people took part in
public gatherings and demonstrations organized by anti-poverty
activists in 131 countries across the world, making it "the biggest
mobilization ever on a single issue."

Organizers said the mass action on Oct. 17-19, which drew nearly 2 percent of the world's population, sent a clear message to world leaders that people will not stay seated while promises to end poverty remain unfulfilled.

"This is a wonderful statement of global determination and commitment to end the injustice of extreme poverty," said Desmond Tutu,
archbishop of Cape Town, adding: "116 million people have stood
together to say [that]. This message must be heard by leaders."

The worldwide actions, billed as "Stand Up and Take Action," were jointly organized by two international groups, the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) and the UN Millennium Campaign.

"The largest Stand Up is truly an
historical event and as keepers and adjudicators of world records we
are delighted to ratify such an important record and make this
official," said Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records.

In a statement, Glenday congratulated "every individual" for taking
part in the event and said he welcomed them to the "family of Guinness
World Records."

The UN Millennium Campaign's Eveline
Herkens said the event shows that, "business as usual cannot go on.
Leaders must take note and act now."

The UN Millennium Campaign was established by the former UN chief Kofi Annan in 2002, about two years after world leaders agreed to set the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- a series of measures to effectively reduce poverty, illiteracy, diseases, and environmental pollution by 2015.

Like his predecessor, the current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
is urging both the governments of rich and poor countries to do more to
achieve all the MDGs and to end extreme poverty by half in the next 7
years in accordance with their pledge.

The Millennium Campaign says it is the responsibility of developing countries
to work toward the Goals on reducing poverty and improving healthcare,
education, and the environment, especially by "[ensuring] greater
accountability to citizens and efficient use of resources."

For their part, adds the Campaign, the world's wealthier countries must
"deliver on their end of the bargain with more and more effective aid,
more sustainable debt relief, and fairer trade rules, well in advance
of 2015."

Asia Leads Way

Guinness said people in Asia came in
the largest numbers to participate in the "Stand Up and Take Action"
campaign against poverty. Its verified record shows 73,151,847 people
took part in the campaign in Asia, the largest continent on Earth.

The list shows 24,496,151 participants in Africa; 17,847,870 in Arab States; 951,788 in Europe; 211,250 in Latin America; 210,803 in Oceania; and 123,920 in North America.

The Guinness records
show that in the Philippines, more than 35 million people participated,
which is equivalent to one third of the country's population. The group
mentions Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Thailand, and Uganda as countries where people raised their concerns about poverty in massive numbers.

In the industrialized world, major events took place in Italy and
Germany where hundreds of thousands of people demanded more and better
aid to developing countries and the implementation of fair international trade rules.

Are World Leaders Listening?

"This is a new kind of action the world is seeing," said GCAP's
Sylvia Borren. "It's the local influencing the global. Women in
villages in Africa are connecting and joining millions of citizens and
other countries. The young people are taking ownership of the MDGs like
never before."

Inspired by the unprecedented turnout at the anti-poverty events, Martin Luther King III said it's now up to the leaders of the world
to match the passion and commitment of their people and deliver on
their commitments. "My father," he added in a statement, "proved that
when the voices of citizens become too loud to ignore, governments are
forced to do the right thing."

The son of America's great civil rights leader may be right.

According to the Mellenium Campaign's Salil Shetty, world leaders have already started to respond. "Mass mobilization
has the power to change the course of history," said Shetty, "and we
will not stop mobilizing and advocating for action until the MDGs are
achieved for the poorest people in the world." 

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