The world is winning the war on poverty despite the fact that research shows two-thirds of Australians believe global poverty is getting worse or, at best, maintaining the status quo, according to World Vision chief executive Tim Costello.

Drawing on data contained in a new World Vision report, Mr Costello says that despite public perceptions about global poverty, millions of people are being lifted out of extreme living conditions, numbers of child deaths are falling and scores of communities are being able to access health, education and sanitation services for the first time.

DISCUSSING AUSTRALIA'S GENEROSITY: World Vision chief Tim Costello speaking at the National Press Club. 


“If Australia had kept up with the average country effort of all other donors we would have provided $21 billion more for the world’s poorest.” 

- Tim Costello 

“The number of people surviving on less than $US1 a day has dropped by 135 million since 1990 and some 34 million more children in poor countries have been able to go to primary school since 2000,” he says.

“Health programs have saved at least five million children since 2000 while the number of people accessing AIDS drugs has jumped from 250,000 to two million people in just four years to the end of 2006 - which alone is saving 5000 lives a day.” 

The World Vision report - Island Nation or Global Citizen? - was released at the National Press Club in Canberra this week. While acknowledging that great strides have been made in addressing global poverty, the report does note that there is still “a long way to go” with more than 900 million people still living on less than $1 a day.

Issues yet to be addressed include that of Third World debt - which it says is only “half resolved”, the AIDS epidemic and the fact that aid given to developing nations is still often “uncoordinated, short term, unpredictable or comes with too many strings”. 

In addition, the report notes the impact of climate change on development is only now beginning to be understood, that corruption and poor governance continue to plague many developing nations, and that there remains a significant number of humanitarian crises in the world, including Darfur and Zimbabwe.

The report also notes what has become increasingly obvious to those watching progress toward the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals - a series of targets in relation to issues such as extreme poverty, education, gender equality, HIV/AIDS and child mortality to be reached by 2015. It says that not all countries are likely to achieve their MDGs and adds that "not all donor countrues are living up to all of their promises". 

While noting that individual Australians remain among the most generous people in the world and that Australian aid is “certainly heading in the right direction”, the report says the Australian Government is lagging behind other developed nations in efforts to reduce global poverty.

Mr Costello says the Government's response puts it in equal 15th place when compared to the aid programs of the world’s 22 most developed nations.

“If Australia had kept up with the average country effort of all other donors we would have provided $21 billion more for the world’s poorest.” 

The report shows that Australia - along with Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States - remains one of only six of 22 of the world’s most developed nations not yet to have made a commitment to lift aid to 0.7 per cent of national income. In 2006, Australia contributed 0.3 per cent of national income.

The report also highlights a gap between the actual level of government aid and the perceived level. It found that one in five Australians thought the proportion of the federal budget spent on aid was 10 per cent when the real figure was just 1.3 per cent.

In addition, a survey commissioned for the report found 60 per cent of people believe Australia ranks in the top 10 donors in the world with one in four believing the country ranks in the top five.

The same research found that Australians believed the government should do more to tackle global poverty with 74 per cent saying they believed Australia should meet the international commitment of 0.7 per cent of national income. It also revealed that some 63 per cent of Australians want the country to be a world leader on aid and 71 per cent want it to be among the top 10 donor nations. 

Mr Costello says the research shows that Australians “want their Government to follow their lead”.

“Australians understand there is self-interest in aid funding as well as a moral imperative to take action - it promotes stability in our region, reduces refugee numbers and costly military interventions and fosters emerging new markets for Australian business.”

World Vision is calling on the Australian Government to increase its volume of aid as well as to increase its support for the fight against HIV/AIDS. 

It’s also calling for the government to work more cooperatively with other donors to support the national development plans of developing countries in line with the Millennium Development Goals, to work with international aid initiatives such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and to build greater dialogue with Pacific communities and to focus more on the promotion of human security for Pacific peoples.