27 September 2010


The recently concluded UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ended with world leaders adopting a declaration which promised intensified efforts by the UN member states to achieve Millennium Development Goals by 2015, (the declaration can be downloaded here

Leaders expressed confidence that the can be achieved, including in the poorest countries, with renewed commitment, effective implementation and intensified collective action by all member states and other relevant stakeholders,

Progress towards achieving the goals varies. On the positive side the number of people living in extreme poverty globally has been significantly reduced, although not in sub-Saharan Africa, but little or no progress has been made in reducing hunger. There has been progress in providing access to education, in addressing gender inequality, in reducing infant mortality and combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, but most goals are behind their targets and little or no progress has been reported in some parts of the world. As of 2005, not one region was on track to meet the target of reducing deaths in childbirth by three-quarters. In sub-Saharan Africa there had been almost no progress at all since 1990.

Failure to address climate change means increased loss of bio-diversity, continued environmental damage leading to a loss of livelihoods and the ability for communities to feed themselves, and the inhibition of efforts to provide access to safe drinking water. The number of people without improved sanitation is actually rising.

Pledges on the part of developed nations to provide funding has been greeted with scepticism by many given the failure of many countries to honour previous commitments, and given that very few have so far reached the UN target of allocating 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income as development aid.

For a more detailed report on progress towards achieving the MDG’s click here


The World Bank estimates that the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 1.9 billion in 1981 to 1.8 billion in 1990, and to about 1.4 billion in 2005. This significant reduction in poverty disguises large regional differences. Millions of people are trapped in poverty, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Students from Parade College in Melbourne, Australia expressing their support for Stand-Up day

According to the Overseas Development institute several African countries have made strong relative progress in reducing poverty, and the average proportion of people living in poverty declined from 52% in 1990 to 40% in 2008.

Ten African countries have already halved their poverty rate, including relatively populous countries such as Ethiopia and Egypt, and post-conflict countries such as Angola. Half of the African countries for which data exist have been reducing the poverty rate by at least two percentage points per year, which puts them on track to meet the MDG target of halving poverty. By contrast, in a small number of countries, such as Nigeria and Zimbabwe, the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty has risen.

With the encouragement of Edmund Rice International Edmund Rice Schools and members of the Edmund Rice Network around the globe joined in the Stand-Up Against Poverty campaign to demand action on the Millennium Development Goals. Other schools have actions planned to coincide with International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Oct 17th.

Students from Br Beausang Catholic Education Centre at Embulbul near Nairobi Kenya marching on Stand-Up day.


"The most recent figures concerning global hunger and malnutrition are alarming. More than one billion people are hungry. At least twice that number lacks the essential micronutrients that are needed to lead a healthy and active life. Deficiencies of iron, vitamin A, and zinc still rank among the top ten leading causes of death through disease in developing countries. One of three children born in developing countries is stunted. What makes this calamity a scandal is that it is not inevitable" said Professor Olivier De Schutter UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food recently.

The combination of high food prices and the financial crisis has pushed more people into poverty and hunger. Although international prices have come down from their record highs in 2008, they have yet to drop to their levels before the food crisis. The risk of volatility continues.

Unemployment and reduced wages, remittances and government services – by-products of the economic slump – threaten to add to the woes of the world’s poorest people, who already spend between 60 and 80 percent of their income on food.

Smallholder farmers, many of whom are women, are caught in a double bind, unable to afford the quality seeds and fertilizers needed to grow more crops to feed their families and improve their incomes.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is engaged in over 90 countries, helping to boost food production through the supply of improved seeds, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs and technical assistance.

The FAO also sponsors World Food Day each year on Oct 16th which aims to heighten public awareness of the problem of hunger in the world. The site includes background information about the issue, resources for teachers and students and an online petition.


According to Global Financial Integrity (GFI) a US based think-tank, developing countries are currently losing ten times the amount of money they receive in aid each year through activities such as bribery, theft, drug trading, tax evasion and mispricing of exports and imports.

Most of the misappropriated money finds its way into western economies.

This massive transfer of wealth out of poorer nations is the most damaging economic condition undermining poverty alleviation and sustainable growth efforts in these countries, which are home to 80 percent of the world’s population.

The enormous transfers of financial resources have been facilitated for decades by a shadow financial system that has expanded globally since the beginning of the 1960s.

Edmund Rice International has accepted an invitation to join a global coalition of organizations lending their names in support of the work of Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development a consortium of governments and research and advocacy organizations, founded by GFI to push for improved transparency and accountability in the global financial system.

Transparency rather than regulation is seen as the key to addressing the re-building of a fair global economic system.

7 September 2010


The following article is adapted from the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and is similar to one that appears in the September newsletter of Edmund Rice International

Edmund Rice school communities and other members of the Edmund Rice Network will be expressing their support for the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals through their participation in the Stand Up Against Poverty event later this month.

"Human rights are essential to achieving and sustaining development. The Millennium Declaration, adopted by all the world’s leaders in 2000 recognized the link between human rights, good governance and development.

Ten years after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established, it is clear that the objectives of human well being and dignity for all, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will not be achieved if the MDGs are pursued in isolation from human rights.

While some countries are on track to reaching a few of these Goals, more than a billion people are still trapped in extreme poverty. The challenges are most severe in the least developed countries and land-locked countries, some small island developing states and those vulnerable to natural hazards and armed conflict. Yet, even in countries scoring major successes, large disparities still persist, with millions of people left behind in the race towards achieving the MDGs. Poverty and deprivation is often exacerbated by poor governance and multiple deprivations of human rights.

With only five years until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it is essential to renew our commitment to a human rights-based development approach.

Preparations are in full gear for a high-level UN meeting in September 2010 to review progress towards achieving the MDGs. The 2010 high-level meeting should result in a renewal of existing commitments as well as galvanize coordinated action among all stakeholders to strengthen human rights and good governance as an integral part of global development efforts."


At the end of August the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination released its Concluding Observations following a review of Australia’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination(CERD).

The Committee welcomed a number of recent positive developments in Australia, including the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, the endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the commitment to “Close the Gap” in Indigenous health inequality, and Australia’s closer engagement with a number of UN human rights instruments and mechanisms.

The Committee raised serious concerns about a range of Australian laws, policies and practices, including the Northern Territory Intervention, the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act, the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and the impact of Australia’s counter-terror laws.

The CERD Committee also expressed its regret that many recommendations from previous reports have not been properly implemented in Australia, including in relation to deaths in custody, the socio-economic disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, gross over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the prison population, Aboriginal land rights and the mandatory detention of asylum seekers.

The Committee made over 20 recommendations for concrete action to address racial discrimination, disadvantage and inequality in Australia, including in relation to Australia’s legal framework, Indigenous peoples, refugees and asylum seekers, and multiculturalism and racial harmony.

All documentation relating to Australia’s appearance before the committee is available here


The Western Australian Government has signaled its intention to compulsorily acquire aboriginal land on the Dampier Peninsula near Broome in order to build a gas processing plant and pipeline.

Negotiations between the traditional owners and the Oil and gas company Woodside (along with joint venture partners Shell, Chevron, BHP-Billiton and BP) commenced in 2007 but traditional owners are divided over the project with some in favour of the economic benefits it will bring to their communities, whilst others are concerned about the preservation of registered Aboriginal heritage sites in the vicinity of James Price Point (Walmadan).

However by unilaterally deciding to compulsorily acquire the land and abandoning consultation with the aboriginal community, the government has potentially greatly reduced the level of compensation available to the community. Traditional Owners have united in the wake of this decision to condemn the move which is seen as a return to colonialism and a theft of Aboriginal Lands.

Get Up has launched an online petition in regard to the issue.


The Australian Catholic Bishops have issued a statement to mark Social Justice Sunday on Sep 26th.

The Statement, "Violence in Australia: A message of peace", considers how the Christian values of forgiveness and reconciliation lead to peace and non-violent ways of addressing conflict and divisions - a challenging task when so much of Australian culture encourages aggressive attitudes, promotes the need to succeed at all costs, or fosters the desire for revenge.

The statement points out that whilst Australia is essentially a peaceful country, with strong traditions of fairness and justice, there are also deep roots of violence in the Australian story: the dispossession of the Aboriginal peoples, the violence of its convict history, and the strand of racism that has been directed at immigrants at different times.

The Bishops draw on the Gospels, social teachings of the Church and examples of individuals and groups working for peace in the Australian context, and highlight the role of all in making a difference for peace as individuals, as a community and as a nation.

They also make clear how radical and central are Jesus’ teachings about peacemaking in the Gospel.

The Statement which is available through the website of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council gives practical suggestions and poses important questions that will help individuals, parishes and groups as they consider how a disciples of Christ they might help bring peace to our world.

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