Students campaign to reduce global poverty
28 September 2009
GlobalHOME, established in 2006 by medical students at the University of Sydney, used the opportunity of its recent conference to promote both its Kevin 0.7 funding campaign, and the importance of cross-sector involvement in efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The conference "Breaking Silos, Integrated approaches to achieving the Millennium Development Goals" was held at the University on September 20.
GlobalHOME's Kevin 0.7 campaign (kevinpoint7.com) is pressuring the Federal government to boost its funding of international aid to 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income. It is an ambitious target, requiring Australian international aid to more than double over the next six years. In the Budget this year, 0.34% of GNI was spent on what is called Overseas Development Assistance, with a Government commitment that the amount will rise to 0.5% by 2015-2016.
But students believe the Kevinpoint7 campaign is an important starting point for increasing discussion about international aid and national obligations. They hope it will encourage better understanding of Australia's aid expenditure and of the need for increased spending if the MDGs are to be achieved.
The keynote speaker at the event was Mr Bob McMullan, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance. Other presenters included Sydney Medical School's Associate Dean (International), Dr Lyndal Trevena, and Dr Joel Negin from the School of Public Health.
Mr McMullan reminded the audience that 'whilst we are gaining ground on the Millennium Development Goals there is still much to be done'. Despite the current government's promise to increase spending on aid, particularly after the budget is balanced, this commitment will require substantial support from the community.
"Australian taxpayers will rightly want to know that their money is being spent wisely. Community awareness and support will need to be strong if aid is to be spent in reducing extreme poverty and maternal and child mortality," he said.
Mr McMullan reminded the audience that in many parts of the world there has been very little improvement in Millennium Development Goal 5 - maternal mortality - and this would be a focus for his department. He also advised that Australian aid would be focussing on ensuring universal primary school education to all children - since this has been shown to provide the greatest return on investment for all.
"Our nearest neighbour Papua New Guinea has only half of its children attending school and only half of those will complete their education."
Panel members and audience participants represented a range of faculties such as medicine, nursing, agriculture, economics and engineering from the University of Sydney, UNSW and UTS. Interstate speakers included Alwyn Chilver from AusAid and Alan Hauquitz from James Cook University. NGOs such as Oxfam, Water Aid, Engineers without Borders and RESULTS were also represented.
The United Nations eight Millennium Development Goals have become a focus for international efforts to reduce global poverty by 2015.
"Breaking Silos was about promoting innovation and intersectorial discussion. We've spent a lot of time talking about the problems, we wanted to focus on how we might be able to influence outcomes," said Fred Hersch, a final year medical student and conference organiser. "The success of the day was that it brought people together and showed the importance of cross sector relationships," he said.
Mr McMullan stated that "the role of universities on this topic is to lift people's eyes to the horizons and engage intellectual debate and find sustainable solutions. Universities are in a unique position to advocate as impartial contributors to policy and public debate."
The event was sponsored by the Office of Global Health, Sydney Medical School, the Menzies Centre of Health Policy and the Institute for Sustainable Solutions.
Contact: Michelle Wood
Phone: 02 9351 3191