For the first time in history …

For the first time in history, global economic prosperity, brought on by continuing scientific and technological progress and the self-reinforcing accumulation of wealth, has placed the world within reach of eliminating extreme poverty altogether.

Jeff Sachs, Can Extreme Poverty Be Eliminated?, Scientific American September 2005

You are right. We do have an historic opportunity this year to Make Poverty History.

Tony Blair, 16 April 2005, Campaign Diary

It’s an amazing thing to think that ours is the first generation in history that really can end extreme poverty, the kind that means a child dies for lack of food in its belly. This should be seen as the most incredible, historic opportunity but instead it’s become a millstone around our necks. We let our own pathetic excuses about how it’s ‘difficult’ justify our own inaction. Let’s be honest. We have the science, the technology, and the wealth. What we don’t have is the will, and that’s not a reason that history will accept.

Bono in an interview to the World Association of Newspapers for World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2004.

For the first time in human history, society has the capacity, the knowledge and the resources to eradicate poverty

Thabo Mbeki, President South Africa opening World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, August 2002

in the new global economy we are, all of us, the richest countries and the poorest countries – inextricably bound to one another by common interests, shared needs and linked destinies; that what happens to the poorest citizen in the poorest country can directly affect the richest citizen in the richest country; and that not only do we have inescapable obligations beyond our front doors and garden gates, responsibilities beyond the city wall and duties beyond our national boundaries, but that this generation has it in our power – if it so chooses – to abolish all forms of human poverty.

Gordon Brown, speech to the Federal Reserve Bank, New York, 16 November 2001

The challenge is a huge one. But the prize is very great. We are the first generation in the whole of human history that has the chance to eradicate basic illiteracy from the human condition. And we can do this within fifteen years. Let’s resolve today – together – that we will do what needs to be done to make this happen.

Clare Short, UK Secretary of State for International Development, Speech to World Education Forum, Dakar, April 27, 2000

Hunger is man’s oldest enemy. There is now the scientific knowledge and the institutional arrangement that makes it possible to overcome hunger, not only within the United States but throughout the world. This can be done within the lifetime of people now living, if there is the political will to do so.

The Heritage Foundation, 1984

Mankind has never before had such ample technical and financial resources for coping with hunger and poverty. The immense task can be tackled once the necessary collective will is mobilized. What is necessary can be done, and must be done.

The Brandt Commission, North: South A Programme for Survival 1980

Because it is right, because it is wise, and because, for the first time in our history, it is possible to conquer poverty,

Lyndon B. Johnson’s Special Message to Congress, March 16, 1964

The world has been greatly changed, especially during the last century, by the discoveries of scientists. Our increased knowledge now provides the possibility of eliminating poverty and starvation, of decreasing significantly the suffering caused by disease, of using the resources of the world effectively for the benefit of humanity.

Linus Pauling – Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1963

Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world–or to make it the last.

President John F. Kennedy, Address Before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations, September 20, 1963

I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago. The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. … To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

President John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, Washington, D.C., January 20, 1961.

More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. …For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and the skill to relieve the suffering of these people.

Harry S Truman, Inaugural Address Given at Capitol Building, Washington, DC, Thursday, January 20, 1949

For the first time in history the counsels of mankind are to be drawn together and concerted for the purpose of defending the rights and improving the conditions of working people – men, women, and children – all over the world. Such a thing as that was never dreamed of before, and what you are asked to discuss in discussing the League of Nations is the matter of seeing that this thing is not interfered with.

Woodrow Wilson, League of Nations (8th September, 1919)

7 thoughts on “For the first time in history …”

  1. thats a great post.

    great timing as well since we are heading for another ridiculous spectacle of a non-agreed trade deal appearing… reduce all farm tarriffs? not in my lifetime

  2. When was the first First Time in History that such boasting could have made sense? Sometime between 1870 and 1914, perhaps? A little bit earlier?

  3. “The Doha development round of trade talks will be judged by one simple test: does it enable people in poor countries to sell more of their goods overseas, creating more jobs and lifting their incomes?

    If the answer is yes, the round will succeed in enabling tens of millions of people to lift themselves out of abject poverty over the next decade . . .”

    The writer wisely doesn’t make the extravagant claim that Doha will Make Poverty History but it shows his thoughts are in the right direction and the whole article shows how strongly he supports Doha. Who is the writer? Paul Wolfowitz.

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