The three aims of Make Poverty History (MPH) 'trade justice', 'drop the debt' and 'more and better aid' sounds great. MPH has got to be a good thing - right?
Only thing is, if countries like ours are really going to adopt MPH it will not come cheap. Trade justice is at the heart of the MPH message, but it comes at a cost. I'm not talking about paying an extra 10% for fairly-traded coffee or bananas - hopefully we are doing that already. I mean, are we prepared to support the dropping of trade barriers to give poor countries genuine access to our markets? And, to go even further, to allow these countries to reverse the current situation by raising tariffs to protect their own fledgling industries? Because this is what MPH is calling for.
The MPH campaign want trade rules to be rewritten in favour of poor countries. Reversing the protectionism of the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU, for example, it wants poor countries to have access to rich western markets, and at the same time to allow them to protect their own fragile industries. So instead of propping up uneconomic French farms, MPH want trade rules to protect less productive farms in fledgling economies. MPH is anti-free market. This is controversial for two reasons. Firstly it will put rich economies like the UK and the rest of Europe at a disadvantage - this isn't an even playing field - it's going beyond that. Secondly, some supporters of the free market economy claim this strategy will end up failing to actually benefit poor countries. They point to Malaysia, South Korea and India as examples of economies that failed to come alive all the while they relied on tariffs to protect their weak and uneconomic businesses. Only when they cut bureaucracy and dropped trade barriers did they enjoyed their recent huge economic growth - or so the argument goes.
Trade justice comes with a price tag - this cost will include British jobs and industries. We can expect to lose jobs in agriculture, clothing, manufacturing, IT and a host of other sectors, if and when European tariffs and subsidies are dropped. If we are really committed to trade justice, we must be prepared to suffer a slow down and reversal in our own wealth.
Some argue that it is possible for the whole world to get richer at the same time. I think charities, politicians and business leaders who are supporting the MPH message are playing down the cost element because they think people in the rich countries, like the UK, will not support these policies if it they realise it will hit their pockets, at least in the short-term.
It's not enough to wear a white MPH wristband, and to pop a fiver into a Christian Aid envelope - we need to be prepared to be responsible, consistent, to count the cost and then to pay the price. Are you up for that?