This week we announced that Stevie Wonder, Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys and John Mayer will headline the second annual Global Citizen Festival, September 28, on the Great Lawn of Central Park in New York. Presented by Cotton On Foundation -- which has helped build the best performing schools in Uganda, providing education and long lasting change to those most in need -- this year's Festival is about more than amazing music. It's about working together to end extreme poverty. Today, 1.2 billion people survive on less than the equivalent of US$1.25 a day and are deprived of their basic rights and opportunities. This is unjust, and unacceptable. And while we have reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty by half since 1990, there is still much to do.
The Global Citizen Festival is a chance to celebrate the success we've already had fighting poverty, while accelerating progress on the core issues of education, women's equality, global health, and demonstrating how global partnerships can contribute to ending extreme poverty.
Like last year, Global Citizens can take action on globalcitizen.org to earn points for a chance to receive a ticket to the Global Citizen Festival. By sharing articles, videos and infographics about the core issues, as well as signing petitions and sending emails to world leaders, Global Citizens can be part of a movement that will create real change for those living in extreme poverty.
This year we will also campaign for systemic policy changes in the core areas of education, child and maternal health, and women's equality, which we know are fundamental to ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can lift themselves out of poverty. We know that our goal is possible: the UN's High Level Panel of Eminent Persons -- a 27-member advisory group chaired by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono -- recently suggested our world could see the end of extreme poverty by 2030.
Together with Global Citizens, we will campaign for:
Leaders to commit the funds needed to uphold their pledge to put every child into primary school by 2015, including the 57 million children who currently go without.
Leading financing agencies to answer the calls from African Governments for the funds needed to train and deploy hundreds of thousands of community health workers.
The telecommunications industry to step up and ensure that no health worker has to pay for airtime when a patient's life is at stake.
Governments to invest in a future where all children are fully immunized by increasing efforts to provide all vaccines recommended by the World Health Organisation to children everywhere.
The global community to embrace a bold, ambitious post-2015 development agenda that places the empowerment of girls and women as its core priority.
Our goals are both ambitious and bold. And, to be clear, it's not certain that we will be successful in getting everything, or indeed anything, we're asking for. History tells us that without strong public support, the chance of realizing any of our goals is low. Political leaders tend only to reach as high as we push them.
That's why this year's Global Citizen Festival is so crucial. It provides the platform to grow the Global Citizen movement into an unstoppable force that pushes world leaders -- as they deliberate at the UN General Assembly -- to fulfill the promises they made at the dawn of the century.
In the past 13 years, we have seen the biggest progress against extreme poverty ever made. Now we have the chance to bring the number of people living in extreme poverty down to zero ... forever. This vision will only become our reality if we -- as Global Citizens -- demand much-needed action from our leaders.
Hugh Evans is a social entrepreneur and an internationally renowned development advocate. Hugh is the Co-Founder and CEO of the Global Poverty Project.
Michael Sheldrickis an accomplished campaigner, commentator and speaker, Michael Sheldrick has been advocating on issues of extreme poverty since high school. He previously worked on high impact campaigns in Australia with Make Poverty History and The Oaktree Foundation, helping to secure the largest ever increase in Australian aid.
2013 presents a truly momentous opportunity in the fight against extreme poverty. With mass public awareness behind issues of global hunger through the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign; the UK's commitment to spend 0.7% of national income towards international aid; and with the UK Presidency of the G8 to focus on Tax, Transparency and Trade - 2013 looks to mark a truly significant moment in the fight against extreme poverty.
Amongst these opportunities for real social change, one in particular has exemplified the role we as global citizens can play in tangibly improving the livelihood of the world's poorest. The global programme for polio eradication.
One might be forgiven for thinking polio is a problem of the past. The disease hasn't been endemic in the UK for over 40 years, and fortunately over the last 20 years, polio cases have been reduced by an astonishing 99%- from more than 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 223 in 2012.
However progress remains perilous. As an infectious disease that invades the nervous system, causing paralysis and even death, largely amongst children under the age of five, polio continues to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable communities around the world. Indeed, the impact of polio is still very much felt in the remaining endemic countries of: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.
Despite the unparalleled progress seen in the last two decades towards the eradication of polio, recent years have been plagued with a number of structural challenges. Chief amongst these has been a funding gap of $5.5 billion over the next 6 years for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (the public-private partnership which leads eradication efforts). Moreover, acute financial constraints in 2012 forced the GPEI to scale back activities in 24 high-risk countries, and with the expiration of the UK's 5-year financial programme towards polio eradication in 2012- the expansion of polio cases worldwide remains a very real threat.
It is, however, in response to this longstanding humanitarian crisis that we as global citizens have shown a renewed resilience.
With the concerted international efforts of the Global Poverty Project, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF, this year truly marks the beginning for the end of polio.
In particular GPP's The End of Polio campaign has done much to raise awareness for the permanent eradication of this entirely preventable disease, by encouraging targeted grass-roots action; advocacy; public and parliamentary debate; and calling for the UK to join world leaders and fully-resource the fight against polio.
Some achievements from The End of Polio campaign include:
Political advocacy work through the Protecting 0.7 campaign, seeing the UK Government commit to spending 0.7% of national income towards international aid, confirming it as the first G8 nation to do so.
Hosting The End of Polio Parliamentary Diaspora Event- bringing together MP's, Peers, diaspora organisations, and the UK Department for International Development to discuss the urgent need for more sustained polio funding.
The incredibly committed work of the Global Poverty Project Ambassadors, which resulted in gathering over 3,500 signatures in just a few weeks for The End of Polio petition.
These efforts, cultivating support from within local communities, engaging with schools, faith organisations and civil society to maintain pressure on politicians to act has resulted in some truly meaningful change...
At the Global Vaccine Summit in April this year, the UK Government outlined their plan for a world without polio. A renewed commitment to spend £50 million per year, for the next 6 years to eradicate polio. That's £300 million to represent the livelihoods, futures and dreams of 360 million children. Incredibly, together with unprecedented international support, a total of US $4bn was pledged towards permanently eradicating polio by 2018.
It is this collective effort, from individual action to that of nation states, which should strengthen our resolve in our common global humanity.
Whilst of course we must ensure that funds are properly directed to those concerned; that we focus on the eradication and not just containment of polio; and that we continue to support the inspiring work of polio vaccinators across the world, we must also remember that:
"(Whilst) the last mile (in eradicating polio) is not only the hardest mile; it's also much harder than expected…(but) by doing something really hard for each other, we will demonstrate what is best about humanity. And that will inspire us to be more ambitious about what is possible in all our endeavors".
(Bill Gates, speaking at the 2013 Richard Dimbleby Lecture entitled, The Impatient Optimist).
With your continued support; campaigning, petitioning and advocating for change, together we as global citizens can ensure that polio remains where it belongs… firmly placed in the realms of history.
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
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?