Mr. Blair was recognised for his work in leading G8 nations at Gleneagles in 2005 to pledge to double aid to Africa and provide 100 per cent debt relief to eligible countries, as well as his work in partnership with African governments through the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI).
Speaking at the gala Mr. Blair said:
“From the beginning of humankind there has been brutality, conflict, intrigue, the destructive obsession with a narrow self-interest.
“But throughout all human history, never has been extinguished that relentless, unquenchable desire to do good. To act not only in self-interest and sometimes to even to act in defiance of it.
“So this engine of progress, yes, it can be broken temporarily.
“Yes, it can be marginalised in this crisis or that moment of time.
“But somehow, what’s amazing, is that it always starts up again, it pushes forward, and it somehow finds those willing to jump in to the seat and drive it.”
The historic pledge of G8 nations at Gleneagles to Make Poverty History has resulted in a more than 46 per cent increase in aid to Africa since 2004, while relief for debt was valued at $100 billion in 2010. As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Blair also committed the UK to the 0.7 per cent of GDP target for aid and setup the Department for International Development (DFID).
Since leaving office, Mr. Blair has continued his work in helping the world’s poorest people through the AGI, the charity he founded in 2008. They are today working in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Guinea, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Some of their achievements include:
• Powering Rwanda: AGI worked with the Rwandan government to get big power projects off the ground. The country has now secured deals that will add 230MW to the grid – enough to power tens of thousands of households and small businesses.
• Supporting Sierra Leone’s farmers: AGI helped to secure funding for an agriculture programme that resulted in 900km of new roads being built, rice crops doubling in parts of the country and harvest times being halved.
• Delivering Nigeria’s economic plan: AGI assisted the delivery of an economic plan which led to a new railway connecting two of Nigeria’s biggest cities – Kanos and Lagos.
Mr. Blair also visited AGI teams working in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea last week. The AGI have been working in these countries for a number of years, but this year began working on the Ebola response at the request of the affected governments. Alongside the government and international partners, they are helping to coordinate the response to Ebola, including supporting the running of the Western Area District Command Centre in Sierra Leone as well as the Emergency Operations Centre in Liberia.
Thank you, so so much.
It’s amazing how nice people are to you when you stop being Prime Minister.
Ladies and gentleman,
Look, I’ve addressed conferences, gala dinners, assemblies, parliaments, United Nations…
I’ve never actually done a reception with a dog before. But I feel like I’m finally finding my level.
I would like to thank Raj too, he was talking about leadership. This guy is actually doing the most wonderful and brilliant job of leadership for USAID.
So last week, at this time, I was in the Ebola countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
And I saw at work the aid agencies, like USAID and the British Department for International Development, which I created when in Government.
And alongside them the magnificent American and British Military.
And alongside them Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontières, scores of other NGOs busy setting up treatment centres, tirelessly providing shelter, hygiene and education.
And my own foundation, which has been working in these countries for several years, and whose staff absolutely refused to leave when the Ebola outbreak occurred. Working with the governments and UN agencies to co-ordinate the effort.
And of course the local volunteers, the people of the countries affected, trained to go out and risk their lives every day to protect their nation.
Everyone everywhere working every hour God sends.
Not by necessity; no one had to be there. They did it because they chose to do it. And we should be so proud of what they’re doing.
I reflected amidst all the anguish and anxiety of the Ebola epidemic, what a thing of beauty and inspiration it is to see human compassion in action.
This is what we honour tonight.
This is the engine which powers human progress, which insists that suffering should be alleviated and injustice overcome. And it’s made up of many parts that’s true. Compassion and service obviously. But also the rougher qualities of striving and ambition, not for self-aggrandisement but in the service of others.
So next year, it will be 10 years since the Gleneagles G8 summit of 2005 and 15 years since the Millennium Development Goals were initiated.
At that G8 summit, the leaders of the world agreed to increase aid, to cancel debt and work in partnership with African Governments to effect lasting change.
Since then, billions, probably today $100bn of debt was cancelled, aid rose 50%. The UK and US governments doubled, even tripled the amounts of aid. And Governments in Africa used that aid to educate, to promote health care and build their economies so that in the last decade six out of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world have been in Africa.
As we see from Sudan and Central African Republic, so much remains to be done. But I want to say to you tonight: there is also so much that has been achieved:
Millions of lives saved through reductions in death from HIV/AIDs, Malaria, Measles and Polio.
Millions more children in education.
Millions lifted from extreme poverty.
Not of all these MDGs are going to be met. But in all of them, progress.
But when as Raj was explaining to you, I left office and started this Governance Initiative, where we work alongside Presidents and Prime Ministers on the challenge of good government, not just honest Government but effective government, robust institutions, the hard slog of getting things done.
And in all the countries where we have teams of people on the ground, all of them, even the Ebola-stricken countries, there are signs of hope and proof of change.
So what I want to say to you tonight is don’t let the cynics and the pessimists tell you that your efforts and ours have been wasted.
Don’t let them say that nothing has changed because of this great global effort; things have changed. Progress has happened. Actually as a result of Save the Children and organisations like it, the world has got better.
And there’s a lesson in that. Change does happen. But it only happens through change makers.
From the beginning of humankind there has been brutality, conflict, intrigue, the destructive obsession with a narrow self-interest.
But throughout all of human history, but the cynics have never extinguished that relentless, unquenchable desire to do good. To act not only in self-interest and sometimes to even to act in defiance of it.
So this engine of progress, yes, it can be broken temporarily.
Yes, it can be marginalised in this crisis or that moment of time.
But somehow, what’s amazing, is that it always starts up again, it pushes forward, and it somehow finds those willing to jump in to the seat and drive it.
And this is what we celebrate tonight.
We celebrate the work of Save the Children that does it in a large and immense way.
And then we celebrate it through organisations like my own and other here tonight in a smaller way.
And we celebrate too, occasionally, action by governments in the way only governments can do, when politics becomes a mission to serve not to master.
But my sense is that amidst all the challenges, and all the misery and deprivation that we seek to conquer and vanquish, there is something hopeful. There is something to be thankful for.
And that’s what we celebrate tonight.
What we celebrate is the opposite of cynicism and the reason for optimism. And that’s why personally I feel proud and am immensely honoured to be with you tonight and to accept the award.