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High time to up the ante in fight against poverty

By Maree Nutt - posted Friday, 5 April 2013


Today  - April 5th - marks 1000 days till the end of 2015.

December 31, 2015 is also the symbolic deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); eight global objectives ranging from providing universal primary education to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS through to halving extreme poverty.

The MDGs were agreed to at the United Nations in New York in 2000 by 180 world leaders, including then Prime Minister John Howard. They have created a massive global framework for improving the lives of those less fortunate and unprecedented public and political will from donor and poverty-afflicted countries alike.

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The focus on the MDGs resulting in greater aid and domestic investments, as well as advances in trade and technology, has undoubtedly helped make the world a better place.

According to the Millennium Development Goals Report from 2012, the target of reducing extreme poverty by half has been reached well ahead of the 2015 deadline.

In 2012, UNICEF reported that in the last two decades, the number of young children dying before their fifth birthday has been slashed from 12 million a year to 7 million. That's 14,000 fewer children under five dying each day than in 1990. Some of the biggest improvements in child mortality have occurred in the Asia-Pacific.

More children than ever before are now enrolled in primary school and the global gender gap is narrowing, with 95 literate young women for every 100 young men.

These results represent a tremendous reduction in human suffering and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon believes these milestones are a "clear validation of the approach embodied in the MDGs."

For its part, Australian aid has played a significant role. A three year $200 million aid commitment made in 2011 to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (the GAVI Alliance), will provide 7 million lifesaving child immunisations.

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The impact of our aid in countries closer to home has been strong. In 2011, half a million people in Indonesia were helped to access safe drinking water thanks to Australian aid and over the next 3 years will provide 300,000 young people with places in junior secondary school.

The benefits to Australia of aid efforts to help to control infectious diseases like tuberculosis in the developing world cannot be underestimated. The fact is that sixty per cent of the global burden of this air borne killer lies in the Asia Pacific region and in the case of Papua New Guinea, literally kilometers from our shores. This means that addressing such problems are not only our regional responsibility, but also in our best interests.

It has been said that in total our aid reaches more people than the population of Australia. Not a bad effort from a funding pot that comprises only 1.4 per cent of the federal budget.

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About the Author

Maree Nutt is the National Manager of RESULTS International (Australia), a non-partisan, non-profit, international network of volunteers whose purpose is to generate the public and political will to end poverty. She has worked closely with politicians on both sides of government and advises aid agencies like AusAID on proven and effective methods of poverty alleviation.

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