Global poverty and women health

Report on recent Forum held on 01 May 2010
Need to do more to address the issues of global poverty and women’s health

Report: Mohammed Ali, Canberra

The need to do more to address the issues of global poverty and women’s health was echoed at a recent forum in Canberra, organized by Forum Australia. The speakers at the forum included the Honourable Bob McMullan, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Dr Julia Newton-Howes, CEO Care Australia, and Professor Terence Hull, John C Caldwell Chair in Population, Health and Development, at the Australian National University.

The forum was organized by Forum Australia, a non government organization based in Canberra, to review the progress on Millennium Development Goals with the special emphasis on assessing whether ‘we are on track’ in achieving the desired goals.

Speaking at the forum, Dr Newton-Howes provided an overview of the Millennium Goals and reminded the participants that despite efforts towards eradication of poverty and global hunger, more than 1.2 billion people in our world, or one in six of human population still suffer from starvation, and 25,000 people die of hunger and malnutrition every day. She appreciated the achievements of the MDG program but was not much pleased with the progress in women heath, and women empowerment. She suggested four ways to make more effective progress in achieving the desired goals. These included: increase in global aid, addressing gender inequality, targeting aid more effectively, and increase support for NGOs.

Professor Terence Hull focused his talk on ‘progress and confusion in relation to the Millennium Goals indicators’. He said that ‘poor’ should not be targeted as being responsible for poverty. It is the set of conditions and factors around the poor which force them into poverty. He pointed that ‘statistics’ is not often helpful in understanding ground realities in the suffering countries. He was of the opinion that “death of even a single woman during child birth is too many”.

Hon Bob McMullan in his key note address highlighted the role and contribution of Australia in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but at the same time, confided with participants that the MDG was a ‘hard business’, given the complex situation in some of the developing countries.

Whether ‘we are on track’ in achieving desired goals, Bob said that the answer was essentially both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. The overall progress towards reaching the goals, he said, has been uneven. Some countries have achieved many of the goals, while others are yet to achieve. There has been an overall decrease in global poverty but lot is still desired. In response to a question, Bob said that international aid programs have to work with the agreement and assistance of the developing country’s government. The problem of corruption in any recipient country is the country’s internal problem and the country itself has to solve it.

The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include reducing extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development.

With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Goals, there is a need to boost progress globally. Falling short of the Goals “would be an unacceptable failure” as recently reminded by Ban Ki moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations.

The dignitaries who attended the MDG forum include High Commissioner of Pakistan, Ms Fauzia Nareen, Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan Mr Tasawar Khan, Ex High Commissioner of Pakistan to Australia Mr Khizar Hayat Kahn Niazi, representatives from AUSAID, representatives from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and representatives from Australian Red Cross and Fred Hollows International.

The executives of Forum Australia, Nick Ware, Mohammed Ali, Zakir Rahmani, and Javed Butt thanked all speakers and participants, particularly Mr Bob McMullan who was retiring from politics at the end of this year. In moderating the forum, Zakir Rahmani specially recognised the support Forum Australia has enjoyed from Mr Bob McMullan since its inception in 2005.

While mentioning Bob, it would be unjust not to mention support from and the ACT government also. And this mention would not be completed if the name of Hon Gary Humphries was not included.

[JB1]Report on recent Forum held on 01 May 2010

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