Column: GPP - Australia
“Australians are generous people. They help out those in need.”
The truth of the Gillard Government’s statement is being proven by thousands of Australians this week; but Julia Gillard and the members of the Federal Government are not among them.
This week more than 7,000 Australians are choosing to feed themselves with just $2 a day. It’s a meagre amount; and one that has seen me wave goodbye to my daily coffee, condiments and sugar hit.
It’s all in the name of providing a window onto the daily challenges faced by some the 1.4 billion people who live on the equivalent of $2 or less a day.
It’s not an easy budget to stick to - even for just five days. And yet thousands are opting into this challenge; to stand in solidarity with over a billion of our global neighbours who have no choice, and to raise $1 million and counting for projects investing in change for our world’s poorest.
It’s just another chapter in the tale of the Australian public standing up for the world’s poorest, while the Government lag on the international stage.
It’s a public spirit that stands in stark contrast to Labor’s claims to generosity; when our Government - the best placed to deliver on its promise to increase in foreign aid - walks away from this promise, to instead deliver a billion dollar surplus.
Let me say that again: best placed in the world. Our high GDP and low national debt make us one of the wealthiest countries in the world; and we claim that we need to balance our books on the backs of the world’s poor.
It isn’t generous; and it isn’t smart.
Foreign aid saves lives. Globally; it has helped reduce polio by 99%, making the prospect of eradicating a human disease possible for only the second time in history. It is literally shaping our world’s future.
Even in the United Kingdom, where an agenda of austerity is seeing deep cuts across the budget; both sides of politics have agreed that the world’s poorest shouldn’t bear the brunt of budget cuts - with a bipartisan agreement maintain a commitment to investing 0.7% of GNI in foreign aid.
In a week where thousands of Aussies’ are making tough budget cuts with the poorest in mind; it’s a pity the Treasurer couldn’t do the same.
|This post was originally published by The Punch on 8 May, 2012.
Yesterday, along with thousands of other Australians, I began the Live Below the Line challenge. The idea is to live on just $10 worth of food from Monday to Friday.Meagre harvest… $8.61 worth of mind-numbingly bland food.
Why? To stand in solidarity with the 1.3 billion people who live in extreme poverty, which is calculated by the World Bank as living on what you can buy for two Australian dollars per day. Considering the average Australian household’s weekly spend for food is around $200, and a skim latte can set you back $3.50, you can see living on $10 for the week is quite an undertaking.
So, what did I do with my $10? Yesterday, I took myself off to the supermarket and bought the following:
- Rolled oats
- Two pears
- Two carrots
- Three brushed potatoes
- A soup pack on sale for $1 including celery, a turnip, a couple of potatoes, an onion and carrots
- Ten green tea bags
- And a packet of red lentils
My total came to $8.61.
I decided to buy oats as they are quite filling and low GI. Later, I plan to puree the pears, to add some sweetener to my porridge.
Next, I knew I was going to need some sort of hot beverage, so I bought green tea. For $1.89, you can get ten tea bags, which allows two per day, and I recycle the bags throughout the day.
On Monday morning, I made vegetable soup to last for the week. I “sweated” the onions in water, added the lentils – great for protein and bulking up the meal – and threw chopped veggies in. I have frozen half the soup and refrigerated the rest. I plan to eat soup for lunch and dinner each day.
Some people have asked if the $10 has to cover things like clean water or energy, and I’m grateful it doesn’t! I have access to water, a gas stove, and all of my cooking utensils. But for those who live in extreme poverty, this small amount of money is not just for food. It needs to stretch across shelter, health care, education, clean water and sanitation, so this experience doesn’t truly compare.
Still, so far, my take out is this: it doesn’t make sense for anyone to suffer from hunger in 2012, and to be lacking in the basic choices and opportunities we have. Taking the Live Below the Line challenge presents a great opportunity to build empathy for the world’s poorest.
When I saw extreme poverty first hand, I was impacted for life. It was difficult to express what it means to live in abject poverty to those who haven’t seen it.
Live Below the Line is also a good way to start a meaningful conversation about what can be done about the number of people who go to bed hungry each night. I, along with many, ask why is it still the case that a fifth of the world’s population live like “that”, when I live like “this”?
Haven’t enough children been sponsored and enough celebrities put on benefit concerts? It is easy to become jaded because the end of poverty isn’t just about encouraging more individuals to give more donations to more causes abroad.
Rather, making poverty history can only be realised if our focus is to change the global systems, policies and structures that keep the poor, poor. Things like trade rules, our food production system and considering how better to spend our foreign aid.
And that’s what I’ll be pondering as I eat my porridge without brown sugar and pine for cracked pepper on my soup.
You can sponsor Julie for Live Below the Line here.
Posted by Julie Ulbricht
in What Can I Do?
for column GPP - Australia
on May 8th 2012, 01:00
|It comes down to this. The movement to end extreme poverty has campaigned long and hard to ensure aid continues to save lives. Yet our sources tell us that the Government will decide whether to cut aid in a matter of days.
'We can't stop now' - this was the message that Independent MP Andrew Wilkie had for the Australian public earlier this week at a special press conference on foreign aid.
He was calling on the thousands of Australians who have sent messages to the Government opposing their plan to walk away from their foreign aid promise. He was defending a budget item that covers life saving initiatives - like polio eradication.
We can't stop now - because we know foreign aid works.
We can't stop now - because the end of polio is within reach.
We can't stop now - because decision makers are taking notice.
After this week's Press Conference I spoke to Mr Wilkie (who was headed to a meeting with the Prime Minister) about Government sentiment on this issue. He told me pressure is mounting, and Ministers are following this campaign - that's why, as the budget announcement rapidly approaches - I'm asking you to join me in keeping pressure on key Government decision makers.
Next Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan will announce the federal budget - with implications for hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. This time last year, Wayne Swan was completing our $2 a day Live Below the Line challenge. In this video message about his experience, he said 'extreme poverty in the world is simply intolerable'.
At this critical time, we want to remind him of the importance of Australia's investment in foreign aid, and of keeping Australia's promise to deliver 0.5% GNI by 2015.
That's why we're calling on our supporters to send the Federal Treasurer one final message:
This week more than 100 prominent Australians declared their support for foreign aid. But at the end of the day, the Government answers to the opinion of everyday voters. Let's make our voice heard.
If you’ve found your way to this blog, you probably already know that the world has the means to end extreme poverty and you’re fired up to do something about it. But maybe to your friends, family, colleagues or schoolmates, extreme poverty is something that happens far away, that they feel powerless to do anything about.
Being passionate about seeing an end to extreme poverty is a deeply personal thing, it can be hard sometimes to get people to care. But a lot of people are up for a challenge...
I’m going to be honest with you - when I signed up to do Live Below the Line in February this year, it wasn’t because I cared all that much about extreme poverty. Instead, my girlfriend talked me into joining her team.
I’m glad she did.
Don’t get me wrong, Live Below the Line was tough. I was tired, grumpy and bored of eating the same bland food. I found myself fantasising about all the things I would like to eat once the challenge was over.
But I realised that while I was finding it tough to live on $2 worth of food and drink for a week, the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty have to make their $2 cover all their expenses, not just food and drink. And while I could celebrate the end of the five day challenge with some chocolate and soft drink, I realised that those living in extreme poverty don’t get a break, they live like that every day.
Sometimes I think it’s easy for people to write off extreme poverty as something that happens “over there” in some far off place. It can feel like there’s nothing you can do to make a difference.
Live Below the Line changes that. That simple question - "will you take the challenge with me?" - can be the starting point on a journey to passionate advocacy.
Live Below the Line brought home the fact that the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty are people not that different from me; who have hopes and aspirations, but who struggle to make a better life for themselves because of things like unfair trade, corruption and preventable disease.
It inspired me to read further and to talk to people who knew more about the issue, and I soon found out that I can make a difference.
So I’ve sent Treasurer Wayne Swan an email and tweeted at him to let him know that I want the Government to keep its promise of increasing aid to 0.5% of Gross National Income by 2015.
And I’m looking forward to getting involved in more of the Global Poverty Project’s campaigns as time goes on. Apparently, they’re planning on running some really great campaigns this year, including one calling for greater support to combat Malaria. But the Global Poverty Project needs funds to make that happen - funds raised during Live Below the Line.
“Will you Live Below the Line with me?” - that simple question is powerful. Even if your friends choose not to participate in the challenge with you, they will often offer to sponsor you or end up taking part next year.
And the great thing about Live Below the Line is that it makes it really easy to start up conversations with your friends about the issue of extreme poverty.
Picture this... Your friends ask you around for dinner, but you’re Living Below the Line. You explain to them that you can come, but you will have to bring your own bowl of plain rice.
Naturally, the conversation will evolve from why you are bringing that plate of rice, to why you care about ending extreme poverty.
This May, these conversations will be happening around thousands of dinner tables across Australia, the UK and the US. People will post on Facebook, Tweet and blog about their experiences Living Below the Line. Imagine it, an army of Live Below the Line champions, bringing a glimpse of extreme poverty to people across the developed world.
So the folks at the Global Poverty Project have come up with some great resources for us to use to help get the word out and challenge more people to Live Below the Line. There are videos to share, sample Facebook posts and Tweets, profile pics, banners and more. Find them here.
Through these actions, we will reach out to people who have never before considered that they can make a difference against extreme poverty. Some will donate, sign up to Live Below the Line or become passionate advocates for an issue they’d never given a passing thought to before.
Live Below the Line is building a movement of people from all over the world who are dedicated to seeing the end of extreme poverty within a generation.
So if you’re going to Live Below the Line this May, share this blog with your friends. And if you haven’t signed up yet, click here to register or to find out more.
This letter was sent to Senator Bob Carr on 22 March, 2012, shortly after he was sworn in as the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Congratulations on your recent appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Given your responsibility to oversee Australia’s expanding aid budget, we are heartened by your strong and continuing commitment to international development, and look forward to working with you.
As a collective of civil-society organisations that support Australia’s increasing leadership on issues of global health, we urge you to make the battle against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria a priority. In demonstrating this, we request the Australian Government to contribute an additional $AUD 100 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) this financial year.
1. The Global Fund – a decade of life-saving aid
Established in 2002, the Global Fund is the leading international funding mechanism for AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria: supporting over half of all those on antiretroviral treatment and representing 83 percent of international commitments for TB and two-thirds for malaria. Since its inception, the Global Fund has helped to save nearly 8 million lives - an estimated 4,000 lives saved every day, making it one of the most successful public health efforts in history.
In the fight against AIDS alone, 6.6 million people in low and middle-income countries now have access to life-saving AIDS treatment, up from 200,000 a decade ago. Today, 48 percent of all people on AIDS medication depend on the Global Fund for their treatment. According to recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) the numbers of deaths from TB and malaria have also fallen dramatically thanks to the Global Fund. Such progress would not have been possible without the funding provided by the Global Fund over the last decade.
2. Funding crisis threatening Global Fund’s life-saving work
Against this backdrop of success and impact, the Global Fund’s live-saving work is now at risk. Following lower than expected financial contributions by some developed countries – not matching the pledges they made in 2010 - the Global Fund Board meeting in November 2011 was forced to cancel its next round (Round 11) of grant-making and announced that it would not be in a position to make any new grants until 2014. This not only prevents the needed expansion of activities but threatens many existing programs.
Much of our own experience in many of the world’s poorest countries, coupled with the latest scientific evidence, makes clear that this funding crisis could not have arrived at a worse time. 2011 not only brought the first reduction in fatalities from HIV/AIDS, but also a series of major scientific breakthroughs against the disease, including a landmark scientific trial which showed that treating HIV positive people early with life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART) has the added benefit of preventing sexual transmission of the virus by 96%. Expanding access to ART could thus be one of the best ways to turn the AIDS epidemic around.
Additionally, despite the emergence of ever-more resistant forms of TB, efforts to expand effective diagnosis and treatment for people with drug-resistant TB will now be further delayed as a direct result of the shortfall in funding being faced by the Global Fund. The introduction of better treatment for young children with malaria that could save many more young lives, as recommended by WHO in 2011, might also now be delayed. For each of these three diseases the downward trend in their morbidity graphs achieved over the last two years will now inevitably be reversed to an upward trajectory as the current successful impact of the programs in place will be reduced.
3. Opportunity for Australian leadership
We applaud the Australian Government for increasing its contribution to the Global Fund by 57 percent at the last replenishment round in 2010. This established Australia as a significant player in the international donor community. We now ask that you continue this leadership role by working with other key donors - such as the United Kingdom and United States - to provide supplementary funding to the Global Fund. Specifically, we request the Government to contribute an additional $100 million this financial year. Such a commitment will actively encourage other donors to do the same, generating sufficient new funding so affected countries get a new opportunity to submit proposals in 2012, in particular for HIV and drug-resistant TB treatment scale-up.
In addition to contributing an additional $100 million to the Global Fund this financial year, Australia should continue to explore ways to increase funding for bilateral HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria programs in those countries in our region most in need. In particular, we encourage AusAID to scale up HIV and drug-resistant TB programs in countries that will be most impacted by the Global Fund shortage, such as Myanmar. Finally, any additional funding announced this financial year should not detract from the need for Australia to contribute its fair share - a significantly increased amount over that pledged in 2010 - in full at the next crucial replenishment round of the Global Fund, currently scheduled to take place next year. Our per capita support for the Global Fund is currently $3.40(USD) per Australian – too low given the proven effectiveness of the Global Fund and considering the size of the challenges from these three diseases. In comparison, Norway is contributing $16.40 per Norwegian this year, France $7.30 and Canada $5.30.
Ultimately, the Australian public want an aid program that is focused on delivering real results for the world’s poorest. By demonstrating leadership through contributing additional funds to the Global Fund, Australia has the opportunity to draw public attention to the life-changing impact that our foreign aid dollars are having. Such a life-saving intervention will highlight very clearly, and publically, that aid can and is making a huge difference, buoying public support for the Government's commitment of achieving the Millennium Development Goals through increasing foreign aid spending to 0.5% of gross national income by 2015-2016.
Under your leadership, Australia has the opportunity to lead the world closer to the end of three horrific diseases which currently kill over 4 million people each year, by ensuring that the Global Fund has the resources it needs right now to continue to fund the expansion of effective, high-impact, life-saving programs. Australian leadership—in contributing additional funding to the Global Fund alongside other key donors—will determine the future of the fight and the futures of millions of people around the world. We look to your support in helping to bring this about and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this request in person.
Bill Bowtell, AO
Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Médecins Sans Frontières Australia/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)
World Vision Australia
Rob Lake and Don Baxter
Executive Director and Advisor for International Programs
Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO)
Global Poverty Project
Results International (Australia)
Dr Brenda Crabb
CEO Burnet Institute
in Global Health
for column GPP - Australia
on Mar 26th 2012, 01:25