This September, leaders from all around the world came together and agreed to work towards achieving 17 global goals – The Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are set to achieve some remarkable things by 2030 – End extreme poverty, Fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.
On the 20th of October, VGen and Campaign for Australian Aid joined forces to ‘Celebrate the Global Goals’, which generated discussions on what we want our world to look like by 2030.
Diplomats to academics, students to foreign ambassadors, general public to parliamentarians joined together for one reason. To see a better world by 2030. The panel comprised of Prof Gillian Triggs (President of the Australian Human Rights Commission), Ewen McDonald (Deputy Secretary of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)), Hon Andrew Leigh (Federal Member of Fraser), Marc Purcell (Executive director of Australian Council for International Development) and Paul Flavel from TEAR Australia. The panel was moderated by Dr Janet Hunt, former Director of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid.
All of the speakers agreed that every man, woman and child had a part to play in making a poverty free 2030 a reality. The importance of international collaboration in achieving these global goals were also deemed to be a necessity as we work towards a global solution. However, Mr Flavel recognised that global cooperation will not be a small feet. All the speakers found measuring progress of the goals effectively, both within and between countries, was a critical challenge.
Equality was widely discussed. Mr McDonald explained how Australian Aid was designed specially to facilitate gender equality and to empower women in many pacific communities. Mr Flavel warned us of the danger of increased financial inequalities hidden behind the optimism of the progress made in eradicating poverty. Prof Triggs pointed out that she’d like to see Australia work under a legal framework over the next 15 years to secure equal working opportunities for indigenous Australians, females, the elderly and the disabled.
Australian Aid was the hot topic of the night. Mr Flavel felt that aid existed to serve our national interest, and argued that it should remain a moral and altruistic cause. However, Hon Leigh was optimistic about the role Australian Aid could play in Africa, drawing on the success story of aid-supported prevention of vertical HIV transmission in African communities; while Mr McDonald reminded us that a focus in our region was crucial, as many pacific countries have not yet achieved the Millennium Development Goals, and it was much easier for Australia, given the close proximity, to forge partnerships with their local businesses and help them develop in a sustainable way.
When it comes to the Global Goals and the refugee crisis, Prof Triggs gave us insight into why addressing poverty helps. ‘Poverty leads to discrimination, which then leads to conflict, which results in displacement. There are currently 60 million people displaced due to wars’. We need to address poverty if we want to address this crisis at a fundamental level. She warned that Australia cannot stay away from this crisis just by setting up unilateral policies.
For many, this event was both encouraging and informative, as it brought together a community of conscious and committed individuals who make an effort to learn and care about people and policies beyond their immediate surroundings.
Caitlin Figueiredo (ACT Director, VGen) reminds us all of the life-changing impact Australia has and can continue to have overseas – something we should all be proud of.
In her closing remarks, Sashenka Lakshmanasingha, (National Director, VGen) was hopeful that this event “has begun conversation on a very important topic and will act as a catalyst for real action and change”. She said that “we all have a part to play in achieving the Global Goals” and encouraged everyone to “urge their leaders to ensure that Australia plays its part in a fairer and more just world”.
– Authors: Emily Han and Vishakha Nogaja –