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Global Poverty Project launches in New Zealand

By Megan Anderson

A UN-backed movement to end global extreme poverty has reached New Zealand, and those involved are determined to break the apathy they see present in the country’s global conscience.

The Global Poverty Project (GPP) is the brainchild of Australians Simon Moss and Hugh Evans (former Australian of the Year); a team who were also behind the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign last year in Australia.

Instead of gathering aid, the project is aiming to educate and inspire people to make achieving the UN’s Eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by 189 nations in 2000, a reality by 2015.

University of Auckland student Andrew Ridler, 22, who is part of an offshoot group of the movement, says the project will also work through NGOs and political advocacy to “help catalyze the movement to end extreme poverty”.

He says the project is focused on the “positive side” of the world’s poverty outlook.

While about 20 per cent of the world still live in extreme poverty (as defined by the World Bank), this number has plummeted since 1981, where 52 per cent of the population lived on less than $1.25 per day (at 2005 prices).

“We have come a long way,” says Ridler.

The project also arises from fear the global recession will become an excuse for governments to ignore their commitments to the MDGs.

“The campaign to end extreme poverty has lost momentum, partly because of the focus on climate change,” said Hugh Evans in a press release last year.

The Global Poverty Project was introduced in New Zealand two months ago, winning the support of 750 signatures and resulting in the formation of GPP committees in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

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The project has already been adopted in Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Netherlands and the UK, and is in the process of being introduced in the US and Canada.

“It was crazy how the support grew really quickly,” says Ridler.

“It’s constantly evolving – even the scope of it is changing all the time.”

Ridler joined the movement after a school exchange in 2005 prompted him to volunteer for an aid organisation in Brazil last year, working in the favelas (slums) in Rio de Janeiro.

“The movement just made sense to me. It was something I could see having real impact.”

Ridler’s Auckland GPP group, with members aged 22-26, is organising events aimed to educate and encourage New Zealanders to actively participate in making the MDGs a reality.

The events will take place across the country in September, centering around a slideshow presentation aimed to educate the public on extreme poverty and how to take action to end it.

The GPP presentations, staged around the world, are expected to culminate in a documentary-style film of the movement, narrated by Australian actor Hugh Jackman.

The film is hoped to act on a similar level as Al Gore’s documentary on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth.

Ridler says that achieving the eight MDGs is “definitely possible”.

“If people are pushing for the fulfillment of each government’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, then they’d have to take notice.

“It’s not like the resources don’t exist, it’s just not currently a priority for them.”

At present New Zealand contributes 0.3 per cent of its gross national income (GNI) to foreign aid, ranking it 17 out of 22 OECD nations.

“It’s pretty shocking,” says Ridler.

The UN target for countries signed up to the Millennium Development Goals is for 0.7 per cent aid by 2015.

Australia has just increased its aid from 0.25 to 0.35 per cent GNI, aiming to get it up to 0.5 per cent by 2015. This renewed commitment was a direct result of the MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign.

Ridler hopes to see the GPP making a similar mark on the New Zealand Government.

“Hopefully we just see it growing, getting more people involved, and breaking through some of the apathy that’s present in New Zealand.”

Megan Anderson is a journalism student at AUT


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