International alert series: The BIG Issues - Make Poverty History

A public forum for dialogue, discussion and questions

Make Poverty History

Presented by World Vision Australia and AusAID

and supported by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, UniSA

A series of bi-monthly forums on key international development issues involving and affecting the Australian community: July 2005 - October 2006

Tuesday 6 September 2005

How Australians can help to halve global poverty by 2015 in support of the Millennium Development Goals

Every single day, 30,000 children are dying as a result of extreme poverty. This year, 2005, we finally have the resources, knowledge and opportunity to end this desperate situation.  Hear from speakers who can tell us first hand what's going on, what is being done and what we can do to make a difference.


Panel members

  • Mr Grant Hill, Advocacy Advisor, World Vision Australia
  • Ms Sally McHenry, Campaign Coordinator, Oxfam Australia (SA) [summary]
  • Mr Tony Roach, SA Director, Caritas Australia [summary]

Summary from Professor Stuart Rees

The maintenance of massive social and economic inequalities is a manifestation and a cause of persistent poverty. The world's poor remain poor because a privileged minority of countries and individuals are not only very rich but getting richer. As of August 25th 2005, the United Nations reported on growing inequalities in terms of income, access to basic social services and to decision making. The poor, in particular vulnerable women and indigenous people, are condemned to a limited life span in part because they are excluded from participation in public affairs.

We need to identify the obstacles which hinder poor people's participation and thereby maintain their poverty. Those obstacles include the violence inherent in the salaries and the greed of chief executives; the violence associated with policies which reduce taxes for the rich, privatize utilities and pay little respect to international treaties aimed at protecting the environment and promoting human rights; the violence of diseases such as Aids, malaria and discriminatory attitudes to women and children.

A more just distribution of resources and use of them would be an overall strategy for any poverty eradication programme. It continues to be obscene to limit overseas aid, erode basic public services yet reward the 'haves', as in paying chief executives money which they neither deserve nor need. There needs to be a basic income guarantee not only in the developed world but also in developing countries. A programme of social and economic development would have to cease the current fascination with violence, as in fighting in unnecessary wars, investing in military hardware and other means of destruction. Security for everyone depends on people's enjoyment of universal human rights. It does not depend on having more spies, more prisons and detention centres and other means of glorifying violence. The struggle for universal human rights is a life enhancing expression of non violence and the best means of making poverty history.

Dr Stuart Rees AM, Professor Emeritus and Director Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies, University of Sydney and Director, Sydney Peace Foundation

Summary from Caritas Australia

For the first time in the history of human civilisation the world leaders came together to draw up a comprehensive plan halve world poverty by 2015.

A key area in the fight to reduce poverty is more effective aid. The Kompong Cham Community Development Program in Cambodia is one example. Before Caritas began working with the people in the village of Toul Kompong Cham, three years ago families had no access to safe drinking water and suffered regularly from water borne diseases such as diarrhoea. Malnutrition was common in the community. Families could not afford to buy vegetables nor did they have the capacity to grow their own.

For the cost of $8 per family the development program: has enabled:

  • Families to take part in agricultural training
  • The building of rice seed storage units
  • More productive gardens
  • Water pumps to be installed- providing access to safe and clean drinking water
  • Micro Savings programs to be developed
  • A school to be built for village children to attend

Through this development program Caritas has helped families to work towards achieving universal primary education and Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering woman.

As one of the villagers Na Rin said “I now feel that men and women have equal rights. Now I have a say in making decisions about which crops to grow.

Make Poverty History is achievable through more and better aid.

Summary from Oxfam Australia

There are 2 ideas that I would like to leave you with tonight with regard to the MPH campaign.

  • The first is that we all have the power to initiate change
  • And the second is that the Australian Government is letting us down in terms of it’s commitment to the MDGs

History is littered with examples of how seemingly insurmountable injustices perpetrated by powerful regimes have been overthrown by the actions of ordinary people working together, speaking out and demanding change.

Arundhati Roy has said recently that “ to stay quiet is as political an act as speaking out

The Make Poverty History campaign has been extremely successful in putting the issue of global poverty back on the political agenda and perhaps more importantly it has inspired millions of citizens around the globe to hold their governments accountable for the promises that they make on our behalf at international meetings.
In this case the promises that 190 world leaders made in 2000 known as the millennium development goals 8 goals that would ½ world poverty by 2015.

Oxfam Australia has been campaigning hard since 2001 on the issue of Trade Justice. Our Make Trade Fair campaign highlights the blatent rigging of the rules that govern global trade in favour of rich economies and trading blocks to the detriment of the world’s poorest people.
We have been calling for major reform of the World Trade Organisation so that poor countries can benefit from the potential that a fair trade system could bring.

Put simply the MDGs cannot be achieved if trade rules do not change radically.

Oxfam believes that fair trade, really fair trade, has the potential to lift millions of poor people out of poverty, but they need our support to make this happen, not only in terms of changing the rigged rules, but also in terms of providing financial support to poor countries to enable them to participate equally in international trade negotiations, and this means providing more and better aid to enable them to develop the human skills and physical infrastructure necessary for participation in the global trade system.

As you have heard the MPH campaign is calling for Rich Governments to increase and better target Aid, to drop the debt of the world’s poorest countries and to commit to a fairer system of trade, so the messaging of the Make Poverty History ties in beautifully with our previous campaign work around making trade fair.

The second point I would like to make is that our Government is letting us down in terms of what Australia should, and could be doing, to really be working to Make Poverty History.

Oxfam together with the MPH coalition acknowledges Australia’s leadership in encouraging more open and fairer trade, it’s support for debt relief, it’s initiative on HIV/aids and its substantial assistance to PNG and Timor Leste, as well as its large reconstruction partnership with Indonesia after the Tsunami.

BUT we are disappointed that Prime Minister Howard is yet to announce substantial increases to our aid commitment following the recent commitments made by world leaders at the G8 summit in early July. There has also been a report in the age newspaper last week that forcasts a disappointing outcome for the Millennium Development Goal;s summit scheduled for next week . The draft document in which Australia has had a hand seems to indicate that the Government is less than committed to remaining firm in our commitment to the MDGs.

Of the 21 OECD countries Australia ranks very poorly when it comes to our aid commitment as a proportion of our income. Currently we give just 0.28 per cent of gross national income. The target promised at the 2000 Millennium Goals summit was 0.7 per cent of gross national income.

If Australia increased its levels of aid funding from the current 0.28% to 0.5 % of GNI we would see In the Asia Pacific region alone.

  • On average 40,000 less child deaths per year
  • 9000 less AIDS deaths each year
  • 11 million more people with access to safe drinking water
  • around 60,000 more children receiving basic education.

So it’s up to us all - as “The people of Australia” as our prime minister loves to call us, to let Mr Howard know that we want Australia to do it’s fair share to Make Poverty History.

We want him to make a commitment at the MDG summit in New York next week that Australia will increase it’s aid budget to 0.5% by 2009 and to 0.7% by 2015.

The Make Poverty History campaign gives us the solidarity, the information and the resources to become a part of the larger global movement calling for change. Our leaders, together with leaders from around the world, have the opportunity to determine the direction that the world will take moving into the 21st century.
Its up to us all to ensure that we influence that direction and make it one that embraces our common humanity and not one that widens the gap that already exists between those of us in the rich world and most of our brothers and sisters in the poor world.

So before you leave this hall tonight do something to Make Poverty History.

  • Sign the MPH petition
  • Go to Oxfam Australia’s webpage and send Prime Minister Howard an email
  • Buy a white wrist band and come to one of the Make Poverty History events happening in Adelaide over the next week
  • Promote the campaign amongst your friends and work colleagues

We are all interconnected in this modern age, We are all individually and globally responsible to make the world a fairer and more just place for all of humanity

Lets make 2005 the year that future generations will look back on and say

  • that was when the greed of the rich world began to wane,
  • that was when rich countries really began to listen and respond to the needs of the majority world,
  • that was when we really did begin to Make Poverty History.

Background on the Make Poverty History Campaign

A child dies as a result of extreme poverty every three seconds.

Please help us make this statistic history

The MakePovertyHistory campaign is calling for urgent and meaningful policy change on the three critical and linked areas of trade, debt and aid. Specifically, the campaign aims to assist individuals and communities to voice their support for the Millennium Development Goals. Five years ago, all member states of the United Nations signed up to a global plan and pledged to halve poverty by 2015.

The plan focused around these eight Millennium Development Goals:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Secure primary education for all children
  3. Promote gender equality
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

The Make Poverty campaign aims to put pressure on global leaders to ensure these goals are achieved by 2015.Millions of people from countries around the world have joined the global call to action against poverty. These include the UK, Canada, America (where the campaign is called One) and France (where the campaign is called Plus d’excuses – no more excuses). More than 50 aid agencies, community groups and faith organisations have joined a coalition supporting Make Poverty History in Australia.

The causes of poverty are global, and so are its solutions. We are living in exciting times when humankind has not only the opportunity, but the ability, to end the suffering of more than one billion people. The Australian Government has signed up to the Millennium Development Goals. It should be held accountable to its pledge.

Why 2005?

This year poverty has truly been placed on the international political agenda. We can show our support for the Make Poverty History by wearing white arm bands and influencing high-level international political discussions on three key dates.

  • July 1: We can influence the leaders of the some of the world’s richest nations as they meet for the G8 Summit in Scotland
  • September 10: We can influence world leaders gathering at the UN Millennium Summit in New York, discussing progress of the Millennium Development Goals, and place pressure on John Howard to attend
  • December 10: We can influence the World Trade Organisation meeting to ensure fair trade policies.

Speaker details

Professor Stuart Rees AM

Emeritus Professor Stuart Rees AM, BA (Hons). Dip Soc Stud. Cert. Social Casework., PhD. Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation at the University of Sydney.

Stuart Rees was previously Professor of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. He has worked in community development, probation services and social work in Britain, in Canada, in the War on Poverty programs in the USA and with Save the Children in India and Sri Lanka. He has taught at leading universities in the UK, Canada and the US.
His publications include over one hundred articles in professional journals and the author of ten books, including Human Rights, Corporate Responsibility (2000), Passion for Peace (2003), and the poetry anthology Tell Me The Truth About War (2004).

Professor Rees' awards include a Simon Fellowship at the University of Manchester, a Humanities Fellowship at the City University of Hong Kong, the Award of Highest Honour for 'Contributions to World Peace' conferred in 1998 by Soka University, Japan, an honorary doctorate from Soka University and the Order of Australia (AM) for services to international relations.

For six years he was a member of the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council of New South Wales and is currently a council member of the Toda Research Institute into Global Governance and Human Security. He chairs the Energy Council of the State of New South Wales.
Stuart is a regular broadcaster on ABC radio about the effects of poverty in all its forms and the means and meaning of peace with justice. He contributes regularly to national newspapers and to online journals.

Other International Alert Series forums

All events will be held at the Adelaide Town Hall from 5.30pm - 7.00pm

Women's Rights in Development

Building women's rights to achieve sustainable economics and livelihoods
Tuesday 7 February 2006

Fighting HIV AIDS

What's required to achieve an HIV/AIDS free world
Tuesday 4 April 2006

Free and Fairer Trade

Can trade be both free and equitable in a global economy?
Tuesday 6 June 2006

Water Lessons

Defending ecosystems and resurrecting community rights
Tuesday 1 August 2006

Keeping the peace

Avoiding the cost of conflict in humanitarian aid
Tuesday 3 October 2006

While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.