include - APP/views/blogs/index.ctp, line 43
View::_render() - CORE/cake/libs/view/view.php, line 665
View::render() - CORE/cake/libs/view/view.php, line 375
Controller::render() - CORE/cake/libs/controller/controller.php, line 808
Dispatcher::_invoke() - CORE/cake/dispatcher.php, line 229
Dispatcher::dispatch() - CORE/cake/dispatcher.php, line 193
[main] - APP/webroot/index.php, line 88
Several days ahead of the G8 summit myself and friends gathered in Botanic Gardens, Belfast as part of theBig IF campaign. The campaign has been backed by many different NGO’s to give strength to the mass of voices who want to contribute to the betterment of our world. Focusing on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger is top of the agenda.
Bronagh and Soha deep in conversation discussing What IF?(no joke!)At Big If Belfast
It was inspiring to see that despite the pouring rain, enthusiastic individuals gathered together and enjoyed a day filled with spirit, enthusiasm and unity. Equally importantly it was a peaceful celebration of goodwill which couldn’t be turned into a negative news story. So in some ways although it was a quieter event than the BIG IF event London, the peaceful message sent from the BIGIF Belfast event speaks volumes.
Everyone here is talking about the G8 summit; from the contingency plans for getting to work on time to the content of President Obama’s speech. As an ambassador for the Global Poverty Project the hype surrounding the G8 summit has been something which I have been able to harness into meaningful conversations with many different people. I think this is what it’s really about. Even the title of the campaign lends itself very well to asking questions. What IF.. we ended world hunger? What can we achieve IF we make an effort? What can happen IF the world leaders listen?
People really want to talk about this. Some conclusions over the past week or so have been really insightful. Transformation has to happen on two levels ; one is changing the complex structures which perpetuate poverty, the other is at the level of the individual; thinking globally and acting locally. People are quick to ask what difference will the G8 summit make? The general consensus I have heard is that the G8 leaders aren’t necessarily the ones who can make the changes we need to see. But the fact that they draw the world’s attention to these issues is important . It’s then up to us how we contribute meaningfully to development and we have realised that our role is a very important one. We also realise that there is a lot of potential for good things to happen...
For the crafty amongst us there was even the opportunity to sew your own message onto the jigsaw. At Big If Belfast
It is a sorry state of affairs that even though there is enough food to feed everyone in the world, 1 in 8 continue to go to sleep hungry every night. It is equally heartbreaking that 3 million children are denied a future for this reason and die every year from hunger and malnutrition. Growth stunting is rife in infants; some 165 million infants in the developing world will grow up to lead lives which are permanently impeded by this ghoulish food deficit.
This is why on Saturday me and 45,000 of my fellow compatriots assembled in Hyde Park at the Big IF, to rally the G8 leaders meeting in Northern Ireland at the end of the week to think long and hard about issues such as these, and to come up with solutions to the problems posed by hunger.
The Big IF itself is made up of over 200 organisations, many of whom were exhibiting on the day, which lent the event a real festival-like atmosphere. As I walked around before the main event I was impressed by the range of organisations on show, from your typical development stalwarts such as Concern Worldwide, UNICEF and our own GPP, down to Fairtrade clothing brands and even the Vegan Society. What's more, everyone seemed empowered with the kind of vigour that manifests itself only at these sorts of events. You could smell passion in the air.
Once the main event started we were treated to a number of talks from Danny Boyle, Bill Gates, Natasha Kaplinsky, ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and many others. Danny Boyle commended us all in carrying on a proud national tradition of “people in parks” fighting for change, all the while confident that this is “a fight that will be won”.
Bill Gates was also full of praise, commenting that “The UK is keeping its promise to the world's poor, largely because all of you remind your leaders regularly, and loudly, that this stuff matters.”
Bill Gates was on the money. After a touching segment led by Daniel Roche and Charlie McDonnell (of Outnumbered and YouTube fame respectively) and two young Tanzanians who had encountered growing up the very hunger we are all vying to end, we were then led by musician Angélique Kidjo in a mass singalong featuring a message of love and compassion she hoped would reach the spires of the Houses of Parliament.
It seems like our calls were heard. During the day's events, it broke through that at the Hunger Summit that morning, David Cameron had pledged an additional £375 million of funding towards fighting hunger. Applause erupted from the crowd. This was the icing on the cake, which certainly left me feeling vindicated that we had each accomplished something bigger than ourselves. A fantastic result.
The hard work is not over, however. There's another Big IF in Belfast this coming weekend, ahead of the G8 summit, and if anything today's event has driven into the public consciousness that we should open up the discourse around hunger. Hunger is awful, even unnecessary, and there are real solutions out there. It's just up to us to come together and speak up, to send a message to the G8 that it is not only possible to defeat hunger, but we cannot and will not abide it.
Our Aid Uncut campaign set the Government 3 tests for this year’s federal budget. How have they fared?
1: Keep Australia on track to spend 0.5% of national income on foreign aid by 2016-17.
Wayne Swan’s budget did increase the overall aid budget on paper, increasing aid from 0.35% of national income to 0.37%. This is actually the amount of aid needed to reach in 2013-14 if the Government was to stay on track to reach 0.5% by 2016-17. But the increase was coupled with a decision to postpone (for the second time in 2 years) the deadline by a further year: the new target date is 2017-18.
This second broken promise means that while the aid budget will still increase, it will increase far more slowly than the Government promised when it made its original commitment in 2007 which was re-iterated in 2010.
2: Finish the job on polio eradication.
No announcement was made in the budget but there is every reason to believe that new money for polio will be announced soon.
3: Ensure aid money is spent to help end poverty overseas.
In December 2012 the Government announced that it was ‘reprioritising’ $375 million of the aid budget – moving money from overseas anti-poverty programs to pay for onshore asylum seeker costs. This has been repeated for the 2013-14 budget and looks set to become a regular feature of the Government’s aid spend.
The Government argues that this is allowed under OECD rules governing what counts as aid. Whilst this may be true (the rules are somewhat flexible) onshore asylum costs are NOT covered by the Australian Government’s own definition of aid which it set out just one year ago and which is supposed to apply until 2015-16.
This may sound like a technical issue but changing the definition of Australian aid means that more aid money is being spent here in Australia and less aid is helping to end global poverty.
Taking the postponement of the 0.5% target by a further year ($1.9 billion) and the new refugee spending (capped at $1 billion) together means that over the next 4 years there will be $2.9 billion less real aid for overseas anti-poverty programmes compared to what was promised last year.
So people living in extreme poverty have paid the price for the collapse in Australian Government revenue that preceded this budget. That is not an outcome in which anyone should take pride.
Today marks a watershed moment in the effort to eradicate extreme poverty. 43 years since the commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid was made at the 1970 UN General Assembly, the UK Government has kept its promise to the world’s poorest people. The first of the world’s richest countries to do so; the UK has set an outstanding example ahead of the G8 Summit in June.
Despite tough economic times, the UK recognises that aid works and that - both in financial and humanitarian terms - the cost of doing something is less than the cost of doing nothing. Take polio, for example. Thanks to the UK Government’s leadership in tackling this debilitating disease, millions of children have been vaccinated as a result of British aid, and only 0.1% of the disease survives, globally.
The significance of today’s announcement cannot be understated. It has signaled a seismic shift in the way the rich countries treat poorer countries. And finally we can focus not on how much money we spend but how effective the money spent can be.
But there is more to do. We need to ensure that multi-national corporations pay their fair share, so that the developing world doesn’t lose three times what it receives in aid to tax-dodging each year. In poorer countries we need to stop land the size of London being grabbed by foreign investors every six days. And we must protect farmers and give them the chance to live off the food they grow, rather than fueling cars in rich countries.
We must do all these things. But today, on this rare and historic occasion, we must make the time for something else. We must take the time to say ‘thank you’. Decisions like the one the UK took today are brave enough in buoyant financial times, so the fact that it was taken in relatively stormy waters makes it all the more worthy of recognition.
Today we recognise that millions of people across the world will have their lives changed by this decision. Today, we should take the time to thank the UK Government for this historic step and thank the millions of people and organisations who over the last 43 years tirelessly campaigned for this moment, because tomorrow, the work towards the next step forward begins anew.
Today George Osborne will rise and deliver one of the most anticipated Budgets in British history. It’s historic for a number of reasons, not least because of the economic challenges domestically, but he will also have the opportunity to fulfil a 43-year commitment – spending 0.7% of the UK’s income on international aid.
We’ve been arguing for this for so long that almost everyone assumes we already have it… we don’t. It’s taken hundreds of meetings, thousands of marchers, millions of petition signatures to carry through a 1970 UN resolution, and the UK will be the first G8 country to do so. Campaigning alongside the UK’s Enough Food for Everyone (IF) campaign and nearly 100 leading charities to demand an end to hunger– we know aid works.
As a result, we can now focus not on how much we spend but how the money is spent. At the Global Poverty Project, we want to use this opportunity as a springboard to eradicate one of the oldest and most tragic diseases – polio. We have a unique window of opportunity to end this disease, and alongside the UK, we’re asking countries globally to help fund a new plan that has been put together to ensure a polio-free world by 2018.
Increased aid has accelerated vaccination programmes and decreased the prevalence of polio. Polio has now been eradicated by 99.9% and remains endemic only in three countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), comprising of the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has long campaigned for funding that will see an end to polio – and they’ve almost succeeded. With the end of polio within reach, the GPEI has worked closely with the governments of polio-affected countries to put together the plan to finally wipe out this disease – the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018.
The UK has a lot to be proud of; we’ve been a global leader committing around £100m to polio eradication efforts over the past five years. But this funding ends next month. Recommit this funding and the legacy of 0.7% could be the eradication of the second-ever human disease in history.
April’s Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, hosted by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Bill Gates, is the chance for the British government to announce its new funding commitment. We’re campaigning for the Department for International Development to make another three-year commitment to help us rid the world of polio. The GPEI’s new Strategic Plan sets out a clear strategy to end this disease – secure the necessary support and say goodbye polio.
Today we hope George Osborne will confirm 0.7% of our income on international aid. This is our opportunity to prove what’s achievable through well-directed international aid. And by continuing to take the lead on this issue, we can help convince other countries to do the same. Together, we can end polio.