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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.
This didn’t happen by magic. But nor is there a single explanation for it. To borrow from The Global Poverty Project language archive – there are 200 million reasons.
One of these is foreign aid. Aid is not perfect - no government spending or private investment ever is. But good aid, spent well, has made a difference.
Polio is one example. Without vaccination programs paid for by foreign aid, including money provided by the Australian Government, we would not be close to eradicating only the second disease in human history. 25 years ago there were 350,000 cases of polio; last year there were just 223.
But you do see long-time aid champions like Norway making the case for anti-poverty action on a range of issues.
So the choice for Australia and Australians is clear: do we want to champion aid as part of our efforts to help end extreme poverty? Or will it be death by a thousand cuts as we abandon the people who need our help the most?
Kristen Ball and Stefan Borowski's 5th grade classroom at New Canaan Country School in Connecticut have worked together to develop menus for the Live Below the Line challenge.
Kristen Ball and Stefan Borowski taught their students about issues of extreme poverty and explained what the Live Below the Line challenge is about. Kristen and Stefan's students were surprised to learn that 1.2 billion people around the world are currently living in extreme poverty.
Kirsten Ball will participate in the Live Below the Line challenge this year and will live on less than $1.50 a day for 5 days to help raise awarness about extreme poverty.
Students used the worksheet pictured above to research foods that were nutritious and would fit within the budget of $1.50 a day. The worksheet gave students practice researching, adding, subtracting, multiplying with deciminals and looking at quantities over time.
As they prepared their teacher for the challenge, the students realized how little they could purchase for $1.50 a day. They became more aware of everyday spending and realized that, thought living Below the Line will be challenging, it does not compare to the issues faced by people living in extreme poverty every day.
The team here at the Global Poverty Project are thrilled to announce that the World Bank has just released an update to their figures on the numbers of extreme poor in the world.
As of 2010, the world had 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, or 20.63% of the world's population.
That's a roughly 200 million person fall since 2005 - driven by effective aid, increased trade from the world's poorest countries, and improvements in governance and transparency.
This means that the world has definitely succeeded on the headline goal in the Millennium Development Goals of halving extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015, as back in 1990, 41% of the world lived in extreme poverty. This success sets us - as global citizens - to contribute towards ending extreme poverty in the next 20 to 30 years. With the Sustainable Development Goals - the successors to the Millennium Development Goals - under consideration at the moment, this news gives credibilty to their efforts to develop a framework that will help us get to the end of extreme poverty forever.
The figures though, aren't all rosy. Although there's been a reduction in the percentage of the population in extreme poverty in all areas, Sub-Saharan Africa still lags far behind - with 48.47% of citizens living in extreme poverty. This is a big fall from high the 58.78% recorded back in 1996, but it indicated that there's much work still to be done, especially when we factor in population growth. According to the data released today, there are now 413.73 million sub-Saharan Africans in extreme poverty - up from the 388.38 million reported as of 2005.
It's going to take a generation's work from all of us as global citizens to create this world without extreme poverty, and as the figures above attest, it's going to be a long and tough journey. The boom in world trade and the growth of China and India have done much to lift hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty in the last twenty years, but their successes aren't enough to lift everyone out of extreme poverty. As we look to the next 20 years, the big gains are only going to be made when we ensure that our aid is targeted and effective, when citizens all over the world can hold their governments and businesses to account for how money is spent, taxes are paid, and policies are made for the good of the poor, not to their detriment.
This is the story we tell in our 1.4 Billion Reasons live presentation, which after the release of today's figures, we'll be needing to give an update to, including the name - something that our team have already excitedly begun work on, and which we look forward to sharing with you in the coming weeks. For once, we're thrilled that a brand name - 1.4 Billion Reasons - is outdated and irrelevant. For the 165,000 people who've seen the presentation in the last few years, we've got a great story to tell about how some of what we said is now wrong, even down the title.
In the meantime, we hope you join us in celebrating this day, and that you continue to be committed to the long journey to the end of extreme poverty.