Home > Blog

GCAP Australia Meets PM to Ensure Poverty is on the Agenda

Major Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to be held in Australia - GCAP meets Prime Minister to ensure poverty will be on the agenda

Michael Sheldrick, Australian Campaign Manager for the Global Poverty Project, reports on his meeting with Julia Gillard “

Last week I met with the Australian PM Julia Gillard, to discuss the Global Poverty Project’s call to make the eradication of polio a priority issue at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being held in Perth this year.

I handed the Prime Minister a letter signed by over 700 Australians, outlining 10 reasons Australia should step up their efforts to eradicate this debilitating disease.

This meeting is the first of many taking place this year around the country (and the world) focused on the eradication of polio – a cause which has been making considerable progress since Australian Rotarians commenced their global eradication push in 1979.

Since then, we have seen incidences of the disease reduced by 99% and the number of polio- endemic countries reduced to just 4 countries worldwide.

We are now in a position where we could see this disease eliminated entirely by 2014. Arguments in favour of eradication have never been more compelling. While the cost of health and vaccination investments needed to eliminate polio is estimated at $710 million, the cost of maintaining polio cases at current levels for the next 20 years is predicted to be $10 billion. Moreover, according to the World Health Organisation, if the goal of eradication were to be abandoned and replaced with that of containment, the number of cases of polio recorded could increase from 1,300 to as many as 250,000 per year.

An Australian commitment to eradication would be significant for a number of reasons. Not only will it protect future generations from the paralysis, disability and death caused by this preventable disease, but it would also demonstrate the investment value of foreign aid – highlighting the life-changing impact aid dollars have and emphasising the importance of our foreign aid program.

This was something that particularly hit a chord with the Prime Minister. Reflecting on a conversation she had recently with Melinda Gates, and recent media coverage - the Prime Minister agreed that it was important to highlight the positive impact of our foreign aid investment. With many leaders from developing countries expected to be present at this October’s CHOGM meeting, the Prime Minister said she was interested in the meeting having a clear development focus, and said she would consider including polio eradication as an agenda item. It is my belief that with focused efforts and continued public attention on this important issue, we can build on the incredible efforts of Australian Rotarians since 1979, and create the momentum and public pressure needed for world leaders to make a commitment to eradicate polio from our world within 3 years.

As Bono once said “we can’t blame the politicians because we have to give them permission to spend what is in the end our money.”

This is why the Global Poverty Project, in partnership with countless Rotary clubs and districts around Australia, are embarking on an education and advocacy campaign in the lead up to this October’s CHOGM meeting, to raise public awareness about the unprecedented opportunity we have to see an End to Polio. Globally, we stand on the cusp of a historic event. If eradicated, polio would be only the second disease to be eradicated from our world in the history of humanity. We now have the chance to finish what Australian Rotarians started in 1979 – and we look to leadership by the Commonwealth in bringing this about.”

Michael Sheldrick is the Australian Campaign Manager for the Global Poverty Project which forms part of GCAP Australia and is an education and advocacy organisation focused on ensuring both the public and private sectors in OECD nations take action to contribute to the end of extreme poverty.