The Micah Challenge coalition in Australia has welcomed the Federal Government’s continued commitment to overseas development assistance in the 2009-10 aid budget announced on 13 May, but says that there is a long way to go in securing justice for the poor.
“In a time when there are multiple financial pressures, the government continues to hold to their promise to increase overseas aid levels to 0.5 per cent of gross national income ( GNI ) by 2015”, said John Beckett, Australian national coordinator of Micah Challenge - an alliance of churches and Christian groups working for change.
Tim Costello, co-chair of Make Poverty History and part of the Micah Coalition, added his voice, declaring: “In tough economic times it is easy to lose sight of the original vision of the Millennium Development Goals, which involves a commitment by developed nations to provide 0.7 per cent of gross national income for overseas aid. As economic stability and prosperity returns in coming years, we hope this promise to the poor will not be forgotten.”
While the government’s commitment to reaching 0.5 per cent holds firm, the previously announced timetable for reaching that figure has slipped, say campaigners.
"This is going to make it increasingly difficult for the government to meet their commitments in subsequent budgets and even more difficult for them to reach the 0.7 per cent that Australia needs to do its fair share internationally," a Micah spokesperson said.
Particularly pleasing in this year’s aid budget, say activists, is the renewed attention for maternal and child health, with funding of $370 million Australian dollars.
“This shows a strong commitment to addressing the reality that Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 (related to child and maternal health) are lagging badly behind other goals. This increase in funding will have a direct impact on the lives of women and children in our region and beyond”, said Micah's John Beckett.
He continued: “We call on the government to continue to show leadership in this area. The commitment of $3.8 billion – or 0.34 per cent of GNI – in 2009-10 still represents less than half of what we are asking the government to commit to.”
The World Bank now estimates that 200-400 thousand more children will die each year if the global financial crisis continues. In such a time, when the world’s poorest are hit the hardest, Australian Christians must continue to call on our leaders to ‘act justly and love mercy’, say Christian leaders.
Micah Challenge is a global movement of Christians which aims to deepen engagement with the poor by integrating social justice as an essential aspect of faith.
It declares: "We want to encourage the leaders of all nations to fulfil their commitments to the Millennium development Goals to halve absolute poverty by 2015. We believe that we have made a promise to the poor and are capable of upholding our commitment. If every Christian chooses to act with justice and kindness, walking humbly with God (Micah6:8), imagine the impact we can have."