NEWS - Australia to launch anti-poverty push The Age
Australia will be the launch pad for a global anti-poverty project this year.
"We are not out to raise money, we are out to raise awareness," said Melbourne-based Simon Moss, co-founder of the UN-backed project, which will open in Melbourne on July 4 before travelling around the country, leading the way for similar presentations around the world.
"We are out to have a conversation with the Australian public.
"This generation has an unparalleled opportunity to reduce extreme poverty to zero."
There is a long way to go to achieve that goal.
An estimated 1.4 billion people, or about 20 per cent of the world's population, live on less than $1.25 a day, the World Bank's definition of extreme poverty.
But there is cause for optimism - that rate is half what it was 25 years ago.
"Australia is a remarkably compassionate country," said Moss.
"Per capita we are the second most generous in the world after Ireland.
"People gave $250 million in a month after the Victorian bushfires, in the middle of a recession.
"I don't think that it stops at our borders."
The Global Poverty Project, driven by Moss and former young Australian of the year Hugh Evans, will make about 150 presentations of a free 90 minute slide show in the Pacific region.
They hope to reach over 30,000 Australians directly and a further six million through media coverage.
Organisers also plan a feature film of the project's journey, inspired by Nobel laureate Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.
They hope to do for global poverty what Gore did for climate change.
"Helping to eradicate poverty is not only the right thing to do morally," said Moss, "it's also in our own interests.
"Some of our major trading partners had big issues with poverty 40 years ago."
He cites the example of South Korea, the world's third poorest country following the Korean War and now among the richest 20.
He also points to the improvement in poverty levels in Asia, due mainly to the growing wealth of economic powerhouses like China and India.
Asia's level of extreme poverty had decreased from 82 per cent in 1981 to 16 per cent now, he said.
But Moss and Evans believe the campaign to end extreme poverty has lost momentum, partly because of the global recession.
The US government bailout of Wall Street represents enough money to form the 21st largest economy in the world, they point out.
The Bush plan to underwrite $US700 billion worth of bad loans has a price tag that surpasses the combined gross national products of the 26 countries that make up middle and western Africa.
Great gains have been made - more babies are receiving life-saving immunisations, more kids are in school and more people have access to safe water than ever before.
"But at the rate we're going, we will fail to meet the UN millennium development goals that we set in 2000 in order to halve extreme poverty by 2015," said Evans.
"To put that in human terms, if we fail to meet the aid target of 0.7 per cent, it could mean the lives of 200,000 children in our region."
At last year's landmark UN meeting on poverty, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and other world leaders were told that at the halfway point to the target date of 2015, the richest G8 countries had delivered only 14 per cent of their promised aid increase.
"We've seen what popular grass roots action can do with the issue of climate change," said Evans.
"We want to place similar pressure on our politicians to deal with the equally important issue of extreme poverty.
"We need to let politicians know that bailing out Wall Street while selling out the world's poor is bad policy and bad politics.
"We must hold them to account on one of the key questions of our time: we have the resources but do we have the will?"