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Live Below the Line in House of Lords

 

Thanks to the leadership of Global Poverty Project Advisory Board Member, Jack McConnell, the UK's House of Lords yesterday debated extreme poverty.

You can read the full text of the debate in Hansard, and we've excerpted some highlights below:

"Next week, some members of this House will take part in an innovative campaign organised by the Global Poverty Project—an organisation on whose advisory board I am pleased to sit—called Live Below the Line. The Global Poverty Project seeks to abolish extreme poverty within a generation. It wishes to keep alive the spirit of the Make Poverty History campaign of 2005 but to deepen and widen that movement for change to involve many more people the world over in a movement that will finally eradicate extreme poverty. Live Below the Line is an awareness and fund-raising campaign. It involves a number of partners with the Global Poverty Project. It is supported by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for International Development, the shadow Secretary of State for International Development and many others."
   --- Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

"We are all here in the Chamber because we care about this issue. It is the reason that the noble Lord and I will be joining thousands of others across the world who are supporters of the Global Poverty Project by participating in the challenge to “live below the line” for five days next week." ... "Live Below the Line is one way of standing up for what we think is right in the world. In addition to the soup kitchen, next week the Lord Speaker will host an event in the River Room on Wednesday evening to which you are all most welcome. We cannot offer noble Lords lavish canapés, or even a glass of wine, but please join us at that event to learn more, or over lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and share with us our 33p or 40p meal."
   --- Baroness Jenkin of Kennington

"I am grateful to the Government for ring-fencing the aid budget, especially in the current economic climate. This decision reflects the continuing commitment of the British people to assist the world's poorest and affirms the United Kingdom as an example within the international community. I believe that churches and other faith communities with deep convictions and roots in poorer communities around the world will continue to uphold and monitor the Government's decision on the aid budget, even as other funding pressures are faced at home. I urge the Government also to encourage other EU and G20 Governments to uphold their commitments to the world's poorest, who inevitably have been most acutely affected by the global financial crisis."
   --- The Lord Bishop of Gloucester

"Yesterday in this House we spoke of the core curriculum. I was late in getting up and did not get my question in. Is there not a place for a global overview in the core curriculum? It is a small world compared to the one I was brought up in. It is a world in which there is so much poverty, but so much knowledge and so much to be learnt. I wonder if our children are learning about the great needs of this world in which we live. Is there not some way that the core curriculum could involve something such as international development or world need among its subjects? "
   --- Lord Roberts of Llandudno

"On 12 April the US Government announced a cut in their aid budget roughly equivalent to the aid the United Kingdom gives from its Exchequer every year. The United States still remains the largest global cash giver but it is the smallest contributor in terms of the percentage of its GDP of any major nation. Will the Prime Minister face down President Barack Obama at the G8 about his responsibility and that of his nation to ensure that development does not take place on the back of the poor, which is precisely what this Government said they would not do with aid?"
   --- Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick

"This is not a time for pessimism and cynicism. Great leaps forward have been made and more is certainly needed and possible in the battle that has to be waged against the endemic inequities which keep the people poor, excluded and powerless. Some countries have suffered serious setbacks and economic growth has been extremely unequal. The UN asserts that while the gaps in human development across the world are narrowing they remain huge. Now, however, is not the time to peddle doom and gloom about these issues, but rather to show that aid works and that effective development can and must be supported. That is why donors should focus on what they do best and should work with Governments on health, education, good governance, and support for justice and taxation systems."
   --- Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead

Posted by Simon Moss - GPP General Manager in Aid for column Live Below the Line on Apr 29th 2011, 09:07

The roots of poverty

 

We’ve published a few articles recently challenging the way development NGOs present poverty in their fundraising campaigns (here and here). Although destitute and desperate images tug on our heart, and therefore purse strings, the preconceptions and stereotypes that they create are inaccurate and unsustainable.

This was why I was so excited to see Christian Aid’s latest campaign, ‘To end poverty we need to get to the roots of the problem’. So excited in fact that I ripped it out of my Evening Standard and scanned it in. And then I realised that it was too hard to read ... so here's a copy direct from Christian Aid themselves.

This campaign literally shows us the roots of why the boy featured is living in poverty – a chain of causes which are all manmade and driven by a mixture of political, economic and social factors, none of which are under his control. He is a far cry from the traditional figure that fundraising campaigns present us with - i.e. a child wearing ripped clothing who desperately needs a new water pump to be installed in his village by an NGO, if we donate money his life will be transformed instantly. (Even if he was desperate for that water pump, as many people in the developing world are, this narrative wouldn’t tell us anything about why it isn’t there in the first place.)

It also effectively and simply gives us an overview of the work Christian Aid do – and could do with your donation. They are there at the surface providing relief and support, but also campaigning and lobbying for these root causes to be addressed.

The injustice that this campaign highlights isn’t just the existence of poverty itself, it’s that it’s preventable and changeable. So while it succeeds in inspiring people to donate funds, it also equips and inspires an informed public to have a conversation about the causes of poverty – and to take actions such as campaigning and lobbying, volunteering, and making ethical purchases which can help address them. That’s what’s so exciting.

If you're aware of any organisations who you think are advertising well like this - let us know by posting on our facebook wall at www.facebook.com/globalpovertyproject or by commenting below.

Posted by Francesca Rhodes (Guest Blogger) in Aid for column Perspectives on Poverty on Apr 20th 2011, 10:33

Knowing where the aid money goes

 

The Australian government are about to announce the findings of their review into foreign aid. The UK has just released theirs. Both have focused on aid transparency - making sure that the public, officials and poor country government and citizens can know where the money has come from and where it's going. In this blog, we look at what's happening in the world of aid transparency.

Recently a new standard was agreed to for the publication of aid to developing countries. This may not sound too interesting, or effective but it has lasting implications for the aid sector. Working just like resource transparency legislation that the British government announced that it would be supporting, a uniform aid standard makes it far easier to trace where money is being spent, because with an increased level of accountability citizens are empowered with a vital source of information with which to hold their governments to account.

Currently, there is no mandatory standard outlining what to publish, how to publish it and what form that takes.

Such an outcome has been the result of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). Launched on September 4, 2008, IATI is a coalition of donor governments, governments of developing countries and NGOs whose aim is to make information about aid spending ‘easier to access, use and understand.’ Currently there are 18 donors who are IATI signatories including the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme and countries such as Sweden to Australia. In addition 19 developing countries have endorsed IATI from across the world Honduras to Ghana and Papua New Guinea.

So what do the standards require?

The new standards establish universal definitions setting out how much money is being provided, when it was, or is, due to be paid out and how funds are expected to be used. They are part of the broader movement for aid transparency that aims to benefit recipient governments, donors and aid agencies and southern citizens and their representatives.

With the IATI, participating donors will publish their aid information in one place and one format. For recipient governments this greater aid transparency means that they are able to know how much aid is invested, from whom and where it being spent. Having the information available in one place is essential for their budget planning for two reasons; first, a lack of funds means that a government cannot implement it’s plans and second, a lack of predictability means that government’s are unable to effectively plan in the first place.

This problem has real world implications. For example, in 2007 the Sierra Leone government received $US 26 million less than it had budgeted – money that had already been budgeted for spending on poverty reduction.

For donors such as governments, aid agencies and private foundations, aid transparency ensures that their efforts will be most effective reducing the likelihood of overlap. An example of this occurred in 2000 when the United Nations Development Programme undertook a review of the aid spent on the Palestinian territories – most aid projects were focused on urban areas while rural and refugee camps –in the direst need of aid – were neglected. And it’s for cases like these that the IATI is focused.

For citizens in recipient countries greater levels of aid information benefit civil society as they provide another vital source of information enabling them to hold their governments to account. With another avenue that can potentially be abused for corruption no longer available civil society organisations can track and challenge the discrepancies between aid received and aid spent.

Lastly, aid transparency challenges existing misconceptions that currently exist in donor countries. As we blogged last week, many in America think that up to one-fifth of their budget is sent overseas as aid. And it’s a similar story in the UK. Here, people estimated that government spending on overseas aid was 18.55% when the actual figure is only 1.3%.

It’s these misunderstandings that drive people’s cynicism towards aid - because they don’t know how much is spent, or where the money goes, they are overestimating the amount and underestimating the effectiveness of aid.

That’s why the Global Poverty Project supports the IATI. As another mechanism for increasing transparency and accountability it empowers citizens of aid recipient countries to hold their governments to account. And, in the process, it dispels common myths surrounding aid and the real progress being made.  

Posted by Perrin Wilkins (Corruption Campaigner) in Aid for column Issue Analysis on Apr 13th 2011, 08:22

Our meeting with the PM

 

Last week I met with the Australian PM Julia Gillard, to discuss the Global Poverty Project's call to make the eradication of polio a priority issue at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being held in Perth this year.

I handed the Prime Minister a letter signed by over 700  Australians, outlining 10 reasons Australia should step up their efforts to eradicate this debilitating disease.

This meeting is the first of many taking place this year around the country (and the world) focused on the eradication of polio – a cause which has been making considerable progress since Australian Rotarians commenced their global eradication push in 1979.

Since then, we have seen incidences of the disease reduced by 99%, and the number of polio-endemic countries reduced to just 4 countries worldwide. We are now in a position where we could see this disease eliminated entirely by 2014. As I discussed with the Prime Minister last week; arguments in favour of eradication have never been more compelling. While the cost of health and vaccination investments needed to eliminate polio is estimated at $710 million, the cost of maintaining polio cases at current levels for the next 20 years is predicted to be $10 billion. Moreover, according to the World Health Organisation, if the goal of eradication were to be abandoned and replaced with that of containment, the number of cases of polio recorded could increase from 1,300 to as many as 250,000 per year.

An Australian commitment to eradication would be significant for a number of reasons. not only will it protect future generations from the paralysis, disability and death caused by this preventable disease, but it would also demonstrate  the investment value of foreign aid – highlighting the life-changing impact aid dollars have and emphasising the importance of our foreign aid program.

This was something that particularly hit a chord with the Prime Minister. Reflecting on a conversation she had recently with Melinda Gates, and recent media coverage - the Prime Minister agreed that it was important to highlight the positive impact of our foreign aid investment. With many leaders from developing countries expected to be present at this October’s CHOGM meeting, the Prime Minister said she was interested in CHOGM having a clear development focus, and said she would consider  including  polio eradication as an agenda item to be considered by  Commonwealth leaders at the meeting. It is my belief that with focused efforts and continued public attention on this important issue, we can build on the incredible efforts of Australian Rotarians since 1979, and create the momentum and public pressure needed for world leaders to make a commitment to eradicate polio from our world within 3 years.

As Bono once said “we can’t blame the politicians because we have to give them permission to spend what is in the end our money.”

This is why the Global Poverty Project, in partnership with countless Rotary clubs and districts around Australia, are embarking on an education and advocacy campaign in the lead up to this October’s CHOGM meeting, to raise public awareness about the unprecedented opportunity we have to see an End to Polio.

Globally, we stand on the cusp of a historic event. If eradicated, polio would be only the second disease to be eradicated from our world in the history of humanity. We now have the chance to finish what Australian Rotarians started in 1979 – and we look to leadership by the Commonwealth in bringing this about.

To join the Global Poverty Project’s campaign to End Polio, sign up below. Michael Sheldrick is the Australian Campaign Manager for the Global Poverty Project, an education and advocacy organisation  focused on ensuring both the public and private sectors in OECD nations take action to contribute to the end of extreme poverty.

Posted by Michael Sheldrick - Polio Campaign Manager in Poverty, Global Health, Aid for column Action Stories on Apr 5th 2011, 21:14

Finding Frames & the Live Aid Legacy

 
Do you remember Live Aid? I wasn’t even born in 1985, but I feel like I was there – we all know the words, we can all recall those pictures.
 
My bet is, that having just said ‘those pictures’ and ‘Live Aid’ in the same sentence, you’re now thinking of the images beamed into our living rooms from nearly 6,000km away in Korem, in Ethiopia, showing the devastating human impact of the famine of 1984.
 
More specifically, you’re probably thinking of “starving children with flies around their eyes, too weak to brush them off”. 
 
And what about Live8? When you look back on these hugely publicised events, which gave hours, if not days, of media coverage to the campaign to end extreme poverty, what is it that you remember now?
 
I ask because Monday saw the release of Finding Frames, a report which opens up a much-needed discussion into the way that we, the British public, engage with the issue of extreme poverty. Authors Andrew Darnton and Martin Kirk argue that there is a growing problem with this engagement. And it’s not simply a problem of awareness of the existence of poverty on a vast scale. Like I say, we’ve all seen those all too familiar images of masses of people who simply haven’t got enough food to eat.
 
And indeed, we’ve all responded to these images, frequently and generously, in the past. Only a few weeks ago, Comic Relief raised £74.3m – a record in its 23 year history - and in part, it did so by showing us these same kinds of images of starving children, with flies around their eyes, too weak to brush them off. Which leads you to ask the question, what’s changed since 1985? And here’s the problem. We got stuck in 1985. Our perceptions of poverty haven’t really changed since the 80s:
  • When asked, most respondents argued that the all we in the UK can do to help fight extreme poverty is to give money, which they believed probably wouldn’t reach those for whom it is intended
  • This assertion begs the question then, of why fundraising revenues have continued to rise? And the answer seems to be found in the way that charities increasingly engage with us, their supporters – a shift to what ‘Finding Frames’ aptly describes as ‘chequebook participation’.
Think about it. How many times a week, or even a day, do charities ask you for money? How many times do they ask you to do something else – to take a different form of action than simply reaching for your credit card? And if they do, does it extend to anything further than adding your name to a petition which seems to disappear off into cyberspace?
 
How well do they keep you informed about the development work that they do? The clue is in the word – ‘development’ – sometimes we seem to forget that we’re aiming at permanent, systemic change, and we forget in part because the organisations we support forget to tell us when it’s occurred, when progress has been achieved.
 
Frankly, it’s hard to stay interested and well informed on any issue unless that information is provided in an accessible, engaging manner. Just because most of us don’t have a degree in development studies, shouldn’t mean that we’re not familiar with the importance of the Millennium Development Goals, or how Fairtrade actually works.
 
By positioning themselves as ‘protest businesses’, with the emphasis on a monetary transaction as the sole or major medium through which we can engage with international development – “all we can do is give money” – charities seem to assume that we’re all motivated solely by wealth, status, or guilt. This focus on the ‘powerful giver’ donating to a ‘grateful receiver’ obscures the values of justice, of empathy and of community that motivate us to get personally involved in the campaign to end extreme poverty.
 
Framing involvement solely in terms of how much you can give isn’t just disempowering. It could even prove counter-productive. Campaigning that is openly based on positive values of justice are more likely to sustain long term engagement – and frankly, I find that it’s simply more interesting, more inspiring and motivates me to do more. But that’s just me – what’s your experience? Who gets it right in this regard?
 
This report raises all kinds of fascinating questions. For instance, are campaign actions that start and end with a single click actually going to engage people in our values, or is it just another transaction, rather than a genuinely public campaign?
 
Here’s why it matters:
  1. Because WE, the public, give NGOs and the Government a licence to take action on global poverty
  2. Because WE, the public, can and do make a difference through the choices you make every day – from buying Fairtrade, to volunteering, and lobbying for change
  3. Because WE, the public, help to open up space for debate on how we as a society can best our bit to end extreme poverty within a generation.
At the Global Poverty Project, we know that our supporters care passionately about creating a fairer world for every person who lives on this earth – that’s why we call our presentation ‘1.4 Billion Reasons’, to constantly remind ourselves of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty who give us 1.4 billion reasons to do something today.
 
We believe it’s important to build on the real successes of the past – from the eradication of smallpox to the civil rights movement – in the challenges we face today, remembering that permanent change is possible and has been achieved. We want to tell the real stories of lives that have been changed.
 
We campaign to end extreme poverty because it’s the right thing to do, and we know that you do. We want to show you how you can do simple things every day to make big changes. And we want you to let us know how we can best help you to help the world’s poor, as part of a conversation, not just a campaign.
Posted by Becky Driscoll (GPP Intern) in Aid for column Perspectives on Poverty on Mar 30th 2011, 08:17