Australia failing its own poverty pledges

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 17 Oct 2007

Australia lags behind most developed countries in the amount of overseas aid it gives and has failed to fully implement more than half of its commitments to the global blueprint to combat poverty, a report by anti-poverty coalition Make Poverty History has found.
The Millennium Development Goal 8 Review – which reviews Australia’s progress towards meeting its commitments under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals – also paints a bleak picture of the faltering battle to beat poverty in the Asia Pacific.
Many of Australia’s neighbours in the Asia Pacific are so off track with their efforts to cut child mortality, at current rates it will take 30 years to achieve their targets, rather than the expected seven years.
The report found that if Australia did meets its MDG aid commitment it could have a profound impact in the region, leading to:

  • 140,000 fewer child deaths annually
  • 4,200 fewer maternal deaths
  • at least 29,000 less AIDS deaths each year
  • an average of 31,000 less deaths from tuberculosis each year
  • almost 37 million more people with access to safe drinking water
  • over 200,000 more children receiving basic education

Make Poverty History co-chair Andrew Hewett said despite some improvements, more aid is needed and Australia needs to work harder to ensure its aid program is truly poverty-focused.
‘Australia still only gives 0.3 percent of national income in aid, making it equal 15th out of the 22 richest countries in the world in terms of giving,’ said Mr Hewett. ‘In countries like Cambodia where child deaths continue at very high levels – 140 deaths per 1000 births – the Australian Government gives just $2 per capita in aid.’
‘As a nation we have taken steps in the right direction in our efforts to fight poverty. But we are at a stage now where steps won’t do – we need leaps and bounds.’
Co-chair Tim Costello said, ‘aid volume alone does not make for a great aid program. However, even the best aid policies and implementation require adequate resources. The Australian aid program as it currently stands has far from adequate resources.’
The report revealed the dire state of many of Australia’s neighbours: Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Burma, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Timor-Leste are all off track in their efforts to combat poverty, particularly in their efforts to cut child deaths, maternal deaths and in providing access to clean water.
Mr Costello said the Australia’s aid program needed to be more closely aligned with the Millennium Development Goals in order to properly assist these nations.
‘Australia has still not adequately incorporated the Millennium Development Goals into its aid planning, country support and evaluation and has failed to take adequate action in a number of areas, such as the provision of clean water and sanitation, climate change adaptation and debt relief,’ said Mr Costello.
However the report did provide some positives for the Australian aid program, finding that since 2006 it had improved its performance in funding for basic education and basic health, had better coordination with other donors, and had improved monitoring and evaluation of aid programs. Overall, Australia scored 48% in the Make Poverty History assessment, up from 35% in 2005 and 2006.
To improve Australia’s progress on the Millennium Development Goals, Make Poverty History is calling on whichever party wins government to:

  • increase the proportion of aid expenditure in developing countries
  • assist developing countries adapt to the impact of climate change
  • significantly increase funding for basic health
  • more than double funding to improve access to clean drinking water and sanitation.

The release of the Millennium Development Goal 8 Review coincides with the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. To mark the day, thousands of Australians will take part in STAND UP events, asking that Australia meet its commitments to the Millennium Development Goals. Millions of people will participate in similar events across the globe.
Last year the event set an official Guinness World Record for the most number of people ever to stand up for a cause.
For more information or an interview with Andrew Hewett call Ian Woolverton on 0409 181 454