The new Sustainable Development Goals - a plan for a brighter future.
What most Australians remember about the year 2000 is those four little words that cemented our national pride and identity forever, “best Olympic Games ever!”
But for people working hard to overcome the unjust barriers of poverty, the highlight of 2000 was the international agreement and signing of the Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs) – a series of 8 targets to end extreme poverty in all its forms by 2015.
The world has made great progress over the last 15 years, including halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, has declared the MDGs ‘the most successful anti-poverty movement in history’.
Together, through Australian aid, we have played a part in that story. We’ve saved thousands of lives and improved the quality of life of millions of others by providing a steady supply of food, clean water, health services, education, economic development and agricultural assistance.
Everyone needs good neighbours
Unfortunately, however, MDG progress hasn’t been a universal success and we have much more to do in helping our neighbours in the Pacific region to reach their fullest potential.
As World Vision’s Advocacy Manager, Nancy Waites, reported last month only two of the 14 countries within the Pacific Island Forum – Cook Island and Niue – are expected to meet all the MDGs by the deadline. Three countries – Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands – won’t achieve any.
In particular, there’s been a real lack of progress in reducing maternal, newborn and child deaths (MDGs 4 & 5). With the Pacific’s many islands and mountainous terrains, accessing healthcare is difficult. In Papua New Guinea alone, one in 16 children won’t make it to their fifth birthday.
We must stop at nothing to ensure our neighbours are not left behind, and yet, a shrinking aid budget means Australia is shying away from partnering with the world’s poorest people and helping them to become economically independent.
A new plan. A new hope.
In September, world leaders will meet at the United Nations in New York to agree to a new set of Global Goals for the next 15 years that will continue the good progress being made around the world. These goals are not just for ‘developing countries’ – they’re for all people everywhere.
Will the new Global Goals help us create a fairer, safer and more sustainable world by 2030? That will depend on how governments and world leaders respond.
Australia has always played its part on the world stage. Whether it’s in moments of anguish like the Boxing Day Tsunami or moments of triumph like the birth of East Timor, Australians are there. It’s part of who we are. And there’s never been a more critical time than now to play our part.
1. Keeping our promise
Australia’s leaders should agree to a bi-partisan commitment and robust plan to reach the promised level of aid by 2030 and restore the Australian aid budget.
2. Working with purpose
The Australian Government should focus aid in areas where we can have the biggest impact (like in our own Pacific Neighbourhood) breaking down the barriers of poverty for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, and work in partnership with other governments to do the same.
3. Committing to progress
The Australian Government commits to a program of accountability, reporting to our parliament on the size, effectiveness, impact and plans for the Australian aid program.
No-one will deny the Global Goals are ambitious. But Australians always rise to a challenge. The Sydney Olympics was no exception. And our neighbours in need are relying on us to win gold.