“Did you say we could end extreme poverty in 15 years?”

Campaigning for change article written on the 25 Sep 2015

School kids in Tial village raise their hands for Sustainable Development Goals

By Joy Kyriacou, Natural Resources and Finance for Development Manager.

“Surely that’s not possible: an end to extreme poverty by 2030?” I wouldn’t blame you if this was your reaction. But the short answer is: yes, we can!

And the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that can get us there are about to be approved at the United Nations over the next few days.

I’ve been counting down the days to this moment for weeks now. Thinking about the amazing speeches that are going to be made, wondering who’ll promise what, and who’ll come bearing gifts in support of our 17 global goals that’ll transform the world.

Many people (possibly most), aren’t aware just how effective the consistent and coordinated delivery of global aid has been in reducing extreme poverty around the world since 2000. In just the past 15 years we’ve helped halve extreme poverty; now we need to finish the job. This weekend is the first step towards this: with world leaders signing-off on the SDGs.

Seeing as there’s 17 new Global Goals, I thought I’d set myself the challenge of listing 17 reasons why these goals are so damn important.

So, here goes…

1. The global goals aren’t just trying to reduce extreme poverty but eradicate it by 2030!

2. These new goals get to the root causes of poverty. They tackle the underlying structures that currently prevent many poor communities from overcoming poverty (despite their best efforts to do so). These new goals have the power to truly transform peoples’ lives.

3. Human rights are at the core of almost every one of the 17 goals that world leaders are signing up to. This includes issues as broad as overcoming poverty and hunger, as well as malnutrition, access to education, land rights, women’s rights and ensuring the right to decent work and fair conditions.

4. Inequality prevents people reaching their full potential. It can be the source of conflict and instability. Why should just 80 super-rich individuals own as much as the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet? The goals will commit governments to tackling this economic inequality.

5. Unlike the previous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the new global goals firmly recognise the importance of our planet. They include a call for real and decisive action on climate change, as well as commitments on sustainable use of land and water resources.

6. While we’re on the topic of the MDGs, our new goals build on these by ensuring the unfinished business around combating HIV and other diseases, getting kids to school, and improving maternal health, are not forgotten.

7. The goals call for an end to all forms of violence against women and girls. All governments are about to commit to this. What more needs to be said?

8. The goals are for everyone, everywhere. Not just developing countries. They are universal and come with an implicit responsibility for all governments, including Australia’s.

9. These new goals also draw in new players by calling for collaboration between governments, civil society organisations, communities and now the private sector. The private sector plays a big role in development. Their actions have the potential to help lift millions of people out of poverty. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, the private sector multinationals can plunge people into poverty and take advantage of influence, rules and systems leading to rising inequality. These goals strive for action by the private sector to help end poverty and protect human rights. If implemented, they could mean positive outcomes for countless people.

10. Everyone has had a say! As successful as they were, the previous MDGs were decided by a limited group of people behind closed doors. By contrast, our new global goals were negotiated over a period of years, with consultations involving every nation, as well as many communities, NGOs, academics, civil society and businesses. That makes them more inclusive, more responsive, a better reflection of the challenges people face, and subsequently, better able to combat poverty.

11. Our new goals will provide continuing momentum. Because of the MDGs, we know that goal-setting works. Even in the poorest countries, the MDGs led to progress in areas including access to clean water and rising vaccination rates. Our new global goals will help to sustain this momentum to overcome poverty and injustice in each of the 17 areas they cover.

12. They will help you and me to ensure Australia keeps its promise to properly fund our aid budget. If all rich countries had kept their promise to provide the mere 70 cents out of every $100 we earn in aid, then billions more could have helped reduce poverty by 2015. Sadly, only a few wealthy countries have lived up to that promise so far. The new global goals restate the commitment to providing 70 cents in aid for every $100 of our national income. Given Australia has just made the largest ever cuts to our aid budget there is no time like now for us all to jump up and down and call on the our local Members of Parliament to ensure we really do do our fair share. As a nation, we are rich. We can afford it.

13. The goals encourage fair and sustainable use of the world’s resources. This means that in future maintaining global development and ensuring everyone gets enough to eat should be possible, both in the short and long-term.

14. These goals are based around the principle of not leaving anyone behind. With the poorest and most marginalised communities being prioritised, these goals aim to ensure everyone has the opportunity to move beyond merely surviving; instead allowing the world’s poorest communities — many of whom are our neighbours — to create an economic base on which to build a future for their families and communities.

15. Floors. These are good to walk on. But in the new global goals, they mean something quite different. The new global goals require the implementation of a series of social protections for the world’s poorest people. They are a social “safety net” but also help people to re-enter their local economy rather than languishing at the bottom of society.

16. Peace and justice. This is one of my personal favourites among the new goals. In a world where conflict is driving one of the largest movements of people since the second World War, conflict affected and fragile states find it extraordinarily difficult to lift people out of poverty, even years after conflicts have ceased. Our neighbour, Timor-Leste, has led the charge to make sure the new global goals included a stand-alone focus on peace and justice in Goal 16, which includes commitments to building the fundamentals of inclusive societies and institutions.

17. Our Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, will stand on the podium and pledge Australia’s support towards achieving these goals, both domestically and globally. This is a chance for Australia to recalibrate and show the world that Australia really does care about its neighbours. This starts with words in New York this weekend with actions to back this up over the next 15 years.

18. … wait! I know there are only 17 goals, but I just had to add this final one; it’s important because it involves you. It’s not just Julie Bishop who gets to pledge her support to a better world by 2030. You can too.

Show your support for no poverty by 2030 by signing the pledge, right here, right now.