Wednesday, 15 September 2010

How I tried to get the British Government to do something

Ahead of next week’s UN Summit on the Millennium Goals ONE, Results UK and the Global Poverty Project (GPP) teamed up to show British politicians why continuing to increase overseas development aid spending when everything else is getting slashed is the right thing to do, even in these tough economic times.

I co-presented with GPP’s Elisha London “1.4 Billion Reasons” – a ground breaking, multimedia explanation of the causes and solutions to global poverty.

It took a fair amount of learning. I was at a wedding in Tuscany last weekend and had to leave friends drinking in a vineyard to go practice in an olive grove, declaiming to the sun my thoughts on how to solve global poverty. A fairly self-induldgent if not Messianic way to spend one's holiday but also an interesting process. How do you talk about the 1.4 billion people who live in abject poverty without sounding smug, patronising, boring and worthy?

I don't know but a bit of passionate realism never hurt anyone. Also some good videos and visuals which are inspiring, along with real people telling their stories helps.

That's what GPP do and it's so clever I wanted to get involved. They re-work the script and the content depending on audiences so it can be targetted at faith groups, businesses and students from 4-40 and any age in between and above. They're funded by the Gates Foundation which I find impressive for a bunch of Australians in their 20s and have all done remarkable things from getting Bono to perform at their Make Poverty History gig, to getting Hugh Jackman to become their patron to projecting anti-poverty messages on Sydney Opera House.

And they don't just talk about stuff they get on and do it - 40,000 people have already seen this presentation. I sometimes feel that working in politics you never actually see what change anything you talk about is actually having. What excited me about GPP is that it's a bottom-up process. If you can get people inspired off the back of an hour's presentation to do something they wouldn't have done otherwise that's about as close as you can get to helping change the world.

They asked me to help out with their political work - if you're going to tell MPs and Ministers what to do it's best to have a British accent. We also rewrote and shortened the presentation to make it more appropriate to them.

In addition to Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell (photographed above with ONE members) over 20 MPs attended from all major parties – several of whom invited us to bring “1.4 Billion Reasons” to their constituencies and the Houses of Parliament in the future.

Along with the MPs and other attendees, ONE members were there in full force and had a chance to grab Andrew Mitchell ahead of the event to tell him about ONE’s new Baby Protest – our campaign to ensure no child is born with HIV after 2015.

ONE Member Alan Riegler said:

“Meeting with Andrew Mitchell was great, we explained to him our hopes for the upcoming summit on the Millennium Development Goals in New York City – that with the right plan and access to simple medicines, we can ensure an HIV-free generation by 2015.”