In 2000, the global community came together at the United Nations and set a target to halve world poverty by 2015. It was a truly ambitious target, and one that necessitated the creation of a set of goals now known as the Millennium Development Goals.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of 8 goals covering issues from extreme poverty and hunger to gender equality, HIV/AIDS, Malaria environmental sustainability, universal primary education and more. Every goal has a number of targets to meet, and provide a way to measure global performance in achieving the MDGs.
Millennium Development Goal eight, develop a global partnership for development, calls on developed countries to work in partnership with developing nations to achieve the MDGs. As a part of this goal, it asks all developed nations to commit to allocating 0.7 percent of gross national income to overseas development assistance – 70 cents in every $100.
Why 0.7 percent?
The longstanding target of 0.7 percent is not something that is brand new. As far back as 1970, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that said:
Each economically advanced country will progressively increase its official development assistance to the developing countries and will exert its best efforts to reach a minimum net amount of 0.7 percent of its gross national product at market prices by the middle of the decade.
Over the past 40 years, this commitment has been reaffirmed a number of times. Most recently, the Monterrey Conference in 2002, which focused on international financing for development, urged “developed countries that have not done so to make concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNI) as ODA to developing countries.”
Only five countries have reached this target so far: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. A few other countries, such as Britain, are on schedule to reach the 0.7% target by 2015, and beyond this target as economic conditions allow.
Australian Aid in focus
- Two-thirds of the world’s poor, approximately 800 million people, live in the Asia Pacific region. As such, Australia’s foreign aid primarily focuses on our region, with programs also undertaken in Africa, the Middle East, South America and the Caribbean.
- The average Australian contributes approximately $3.30 in taxes every week to our aid program – about the cost of a coffee.
- In 2012-2013, Australia will provide $5.2 billion dollars in foreign aid – this remains at 0.35 percent of gross national income, or 35 cents in every 100 dollars.
- There is bipartisan support to lift aid levels to 0.5 percent of gross national income. Up until 2012, this target was to be met by 2015. However, under the 2012 Federal Budget, this target has been delayed by one year to 2016-17. Australia's total foreign aid spending will equal approximately $8 billion for foreign aid in the 2015-16 financial year, and approximately $9.1 billion for the 2016-17 financial year.
- Since 2007, the government has made significant progress in increasing aid from 0.28 to 0.34 percent of GNI.
- With a delay in increasing foreign aid spending to 0.5 percent of gross national income, Australia still lags behind other developed countries in its commitment to foreign aid and the Millennium Development Goals. Britain, though the impact of the Global Financial Crisis and financial hardship across the Eurozone has taken its toll, has pledged to lift aid spending to 0.7 percent by 2013.
Why aid is effective
With funds available through official development assistance, 11 out of 29 countries in the Asia-Pacific region are on track to meet the MDG target of cutting child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
Across the world, over 34 million extra children are able to attend and complete primary school. Countries like Uganda and Tanzania have been able to achieve universal primary education due to aid and debt relief, which has enabled them to abolish school fees that would otherwise put a primary education out of reach for most.
And over 4 million people suffering from HIV/AIDS are now able to access life-saving antiretroviral treatment. This is up from less than 300,000 9 years ago.