Sunday, December 2, 2007

The 0.7% Challenge

Back in 2000, the United Nations set out a series of millennium development goals. It also postulated that 0.7% of rich world GNI would provide sufficient resources to meet these goals. To date, only 5 countries have met this goal: Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Sweden. To my great shame as a Canadian, our wonderful country has only contributed 0.26% of its GNI towards international aid. Keep in mind that we had a $14 billion surplus for the 2006-2007 fiscal year. In addition to falling far short of the 0.7% target, Canada does not have a detailed timeline for achieving this.

I'd like to propose to the readers of this blog that we take three steps.

One: please contact your member of parliament and let them know that meeting the 0.7% challenge is important to you. If you're in the United States, feel free to contact your member of congress or senator... with its present contribution of 0.16% of the GNI towards international aid, the U.S. has a long way to go too. Don't know how to get ahold of your MP? All you need is your postal code and this website. Email addresses are available too.

Two: I'd like to suggest that as individuals, we each make a commitment to donating 0.7% of our annual income to some charitable organization. Any charitable organization. For a Canadian physician with an average annual income of $200,000, that's about $1,400 a year. With that amount of money, you could sponsor 4 foster children for a year through Save the Children. You could buy 23 goats through Oxfam Canada for their livelihoods program which loans goats to families. Or you could buy mosquito nets which could protect up to 350 people in Uganda from malaria, or provide a girl in Burkina Faso with a scholarship for secondary school education through Plan Canada. The MDG Monitor is a great website which tracks the progress of developing countries toward the millenium development goals and also lists organizations which are helping to achieve these goals.

Three: If you agree with what I'm proposing, please spread the word. I've started a group on Facebook called the 0.7% challenge. You can post in the comments on this blog or on Facebook about what you've done to help. And there are sneaky ways of recruiting other people... I suggested to the other residents that we sponsor a foster child and they happily agreed.

In the United States, the most recent stats I could find show that Americans have spent 24.85 billion dollars on holiday spending from November 1-December 18 2007. Economists sugest that just $60-70 billion dollars would make a significant difference in the poorest countries in the world.

Where are our priorities, and what are the history books going to say about our generation?