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Decisions are being made today that will impact on all our futures

Right now world leaders are meeting to discuss how we are going to achieve a better world – and how we will finance that development.

Hans Zomer

IT SEEMS APT that One Direction are on board, because we only need to go one direction – and that’s towards a better world for everyone!

This year something quite spectacular is happening. There are some key decisions being made during 2015 which will impact on all our futures, and on the future of humanity itself.

Right now world leaders are in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to agree how we are going to pay for a better world – how we will finance that development. Another summit in New York in September this year will determine how we will achieve such a world – with less poverty, more equality and equal opportunities for all. It will set out 17 global goals – a challenge to us all, all over the world – a roadmap to the kind of world we all dream of.

But we can no longer separate ourselves from the sustainability of the planet that we live on – so in Paris in December, another summit will take place to decide how we will tackle climate change, the effects of which are undeniably all around us. These are important decisions. President Michael D. Higgins has therefore said that ‘2015 is on a par with 1945 in terms of the potential that it has to reshape how humanity deals with the challenges we face.’

We are at a critical moment in world history; facing a series of tests and choices that will determine not only the fate of millions of our fellow global citizens now, but tests and choices that will define the future of our planet.

The time is now. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also put it up to us when he was in Dublin Castle recently when he said, “I believe we are the last generation that can change this climate change impact… and the first generation that can put an end to poverty.” He commended the small island of Ireland for its tremendous contribution so far, saying: “Ireland’s imprint has been huge and historic, well out of proportion to the country’s size and your population,”  but he challenged the people of Ireland to go further, in the fight against poverty and climate change.

So – no pressure but there’s a lot riding on this generation. The good news? We’re halfway there already. It IS possible to change the world, but only if we act now. This is about action.

If 2005 was about ‘make poverty history’ this year is about ‘action’- Action2015. And all over Ireland during the European Year for Development 2015, people are taking action. People are campaigning for a better world, they’re getting involved, they’re getting informed, standing up for what they believe in. Even One Direction, the popular boyband who need no introduction, have now come on board as part of the Action 2015 campaign, encouraging young people all over the world to get involved in the fight against poverty and injustice, and to get involved in these global goals. This is a once in a lifetime moment.

We all dream of a better world – a world where no one goes to bed hungry, where boys and girls can go to school and reach their potential, and where people can live safely and happily. But, the question remains, how will we pay for it?

And that is why this week I will be with two of my colleagues, Lorna Gold from Trócaire and Sorley McCaughey from Christian Aid Ireland, in Addis Ababa. Because this matters.

So here’s three things you need to know about Addis and why it matters:

1. It’s about funding our future

No one knows what the future may bring, but we have to dream the best reality for humanity. We have to fight for the best it can be. And in order to do that, we need to invest in that future.

This summit in Addis Ababa is the third international conference where world leaders look specifically at how to finance the global goals, to build a better and safer world.

The first such meeting took place in Monterrey in Mexico, in 2002, and marked the first global agreement on countries’ responsibilities to work together on issues of trade, aid and debt relief. That conference gave rise to the “Make Poverty History” campaign and was responsible for an unprecedented increase in the amount of overseas aid that rich countries provide to developing countries.

The second summit took place in Doha, Qatar, in 2008 and it emphasised that aid alone cannot end extreme poverty and that developing countries need help in building up a sustainable tax basis, too.

The third summit, taking place in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, is meant to gauge whether countries have lived up to the commitments they made in Monterrey and Doha and to consider how the emerging new agreement on global development can best be financed. It all hinges on this. So what will Ireland’s report card be?

2. It’s working–we could be the generation to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 and Ireland has a big role to play

Did you know that extreme poverty has been halved in the last 15 years? That 91% of children are now enrolled in primary school? That we are making great strides in the fight against disease? This was the world’s report card from the UN this week on the success of the Millennium Development Goals. This is an incredible achievement, and one that Ireland has played a big part in.

Though so much has been achieved, there is still some way to go. People are still living in poverty. The world is full of injustices and we need to work together to make sure no one gets left behind. It is our moral duty as global citizens to ensure that every man, woman, and child, no matter where they live in the world, can have hope, can hope to lead a healthy and happy life.

So far, Ireland has been at the forefront of international efforts to come up with this radical, new agenda for the world. The negotiations at the UN have been led by Ireland and Kenya, and Irish diplomats have for many years now corralled and gathered political support for the new global plan for the future. This process has meant the world will now have a plan for the future – we have 17 global goals – the sustainable development goals – which we will all work towards to see if we really can be the generation to eradicate extreme poverty.

3. It’s about promises

‘Have you ever broken a promise? How did it make you feel? How did it make the other person feel? Why is it important to keep promises?’ these are just some of the questions asked in a recent Trocaire video where they stopped people on the street to talk about the importance of promises.

You can see that video here.

The reason this conference is all about promises, is that unfortunately, Ireland hasn’t kept its promise. A few years ago Ireland, along with many other countries, promised to commit 0.7% of its national income to overseas aid. Right now, Ireland is still falling far below that commitment. We are now just at 0.39% of our GNP in terms of overseas aid.

So we need to work to keep that promise – to work towards achieving the 0.7% target and playing our part completely, so that we can hold our heads high, and know that we did the right thing when our time came. Ireland has done so much to be proud of and contributed so much, but we cannot stop now.

This is about action. It’s about now. It’s about looking back on the year that changed everything. The year that was 2015.

Hans Zomer is Director of Dóchas, the Irish national platform of Development NGOs. Through Dóchas, Irish NGOs work together to improve the impact of their work, and to apply their collective experiences to inform government policy and practice.

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Hans Zomer

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