Monday, 10 May 2010

Don't Dream It's Over

On Saturday I embarked on the week long Make Poverty History Road Trip with about 300 other young people from my state (Victoria).

We're going around the state - there are three routes, ours is from Melbourne through Healesville (yesterday), Seymour (today), Wangaratta (tomorrow) to all converge on Canberra, all 1000 of us from around Australia, on Wednesday to Friday, for the Make Poverty History summit.

On the way, we're raising awareness about Australia's committments to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which they are not curretly meeting by half. We want to obligate the Government to meet these goals in terms of aid - to raise the percentage given from the current 0.34 (Labour has committed to 0.5 by 2015, an increase achieved by the previous roadtrip in '07) to 0.7 by 2015, which is what they agreed to in 2000.

To do this, we're collecting 40,000+ signatures from around the country, from every state in support of the Act to End Poverty, by Thursday, so that we can present it in Parliament with the support of some MPs, to show that the Australian people care about poverty, that they want to see change, that they demand more and better aid be given so that we can halve global poverty by 2015.

The Act to End Poverty has three ambitions: for Australia to give more aid (0.7%), to give better aid (ie make the aid process more effective) and to show greater leadership in the global arena in terms of giving aid and ending poverty.

What we're asking for is:
- for Ausaid to become a seperate department with its own cabinet minister, as it is currently being run as part of DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) which means diplomatic interests are comprmosing our ability to direct aid where it's needed
- better accountability and transparency, so that we know where our money is going, and what it's going towards
- more aid directed towards the poorest countries in our region
- climate change assistance is additional to 0.7% foreign aid  
- a Robin Hood tax, 0.05% levy on international currency transactions, which could generate up to $40 billion a year 
- for Kevin Rudd and/or TonyAbbott to commit to attending the UN High Level meeting on the MDGs later this year

In just three days of campaigning - of talking to people on the streets, of door knocks, of electoral forums and talking to schools, we've collected more than 30,000 signatures. How incredible is that?! It just goes to show - and this is our aim - that the Australian people really care about poverty, about how much aid Australia can and should give, and that we have an obligation not only to our promises but to others worse off. The response has been overwhelming, and so positive; sure there have been rejections, and people who don't agree with us, but mostly people have shown nothing but support. 

I'm not a Conservative in any way - we all know that! - but this is not a partisan issue. It's more important than politics. 

Did you know that Australia's aid effort has wiped out polio in the Pacific  region? It just goes to show that we really can make a difference. We are the first generation who have the capacity and the resources to END global poverty.  

But we've made progress. 20 years ago, 42% of the world lived in extreme poverty. Today that number is down to 20% - more than halved.How AMAZING is that? But that's still 1.4 BILLION people who live on less than $1.25 (US) a day, who don't have enough to eat, no access to clean drinking water or adequate health services, education, sanitation, clothing and shelter.

If we can halve it, we can eradicate it. 200 years ago, who could have imagined that we'd have eradicated slavery, flown planes or landed on the moon? We've come so far, and still have further to go.

Australia was recently ranked the 8th richest country out of the 33 developed nations. We've fared the best from the recent GFC. We have the lowest government debt of all the OECD donor nations. And yet our aid level ranks 16th out of 23 of the world's richest nations. Sweden, Norway and Luxemborg are all giving 1% (!!!) of their GNI, while Denmark and the Netherlands are giving more than 0.8%. The UK just committed in legislation to 0.7%.

If you care about poverty, equality, justice, education, empowerment, human rights and our moral obligation, or you just want the Australian government to live up to their promise, please sign the act and tell all your friends.


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