What Americans Should Learn from Sk8 to the Finish

What Americans Should Learn from Sk8 to the Finish
In an age of airplanes and automobiles, biking 264 miles would be considered wildly inadequate. Yet Australian activist Michael Traffard will perform this task as a metaphor for Australia’s “inadequate” foreign policy, and Americans should be taking notes.

On July 7th, Traffard will begin his Sk8 to the Finish campaign, in which he will skateboard and BMX riders from the town of Emerald to the city of Gladstone throughout the following 20 days. Along the way, Traffard will be making appearances at churches and schools to raise poverty awareness. This will be taking place two months prior to Australia’s 2013 federal election in September.

Traffard is conducting this campaign to raise awareness of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals established in 2000 by the world’s developed countries. The Millennium Project is an initiative to halve global poverty by 2015, yet few nations are still meeting the requirements to make this possible. A target of 0.70% of each nation’s budget was established to make this goal a reality. Australia currently gives 0.36% of its budget to the cause: about half of what is needed.

Although Australia’s aid is lacking, they are not the only ones falling short. The United States may appear to be leading the pack by giving roughly 30 billion dollars for Official Development Assistance (ODA), but that figure isn’t as pretty when held relative to the nation’s Gross National Income (GNI). The United States currently gives 0.19% of its budget to the cause, which is almost half of Australia’s level of giving.

As of 2012, only five developed countries are meeting or exceeding the 0.70% requirement: Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Australia rests in 13th place when ranking countries by their degree of charity. The United States sits in 19th place.

One of the Millennium Project’s greatest enemies is a lack of awareness. Numerous citizens worldwide are not educated about the existence of the Millennium Development Goals, and political leaders are not informed of the issues as a result. Traffard hopes to give his audiences a clear understanding of the facts to take with them to the polls when election day arrives.

Traffard’s campaign does not mean to undercut the progress Australia has made in the past 13 years. Victories in global poverty have been numerous, including the eradication of smallpox and a 33% increase in life expectancy in the developing world. Traffard hopes his campaign will lead to an increase in aid that will be focused directly on life-saving programs.

Upon the conclusion of his trip, Traffard hopes to amass 3000 signatures for the Australian Movement to End Poverty Petition. The Petition currently has 57,968 signatures, and the Sk8 To The Finish campaign has already yielded 200 signatures.

Sk8 to the Finish is a perfect example of how an individual’s talents and passions can be utilized to combat global poverty. The Millennium Project’s goal to halve global poverty is well within reach if citizens of every applicable country demand it, and seemingly outrageous feats are effective in gathering attention. The United States needs to play catch up in order to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, so Traffard’s message should be heeded by American citizens as well. Even from thousands of miles away, the same principles can still be applicable.

– Timothy Monbleau

Sources: OECD, The Gladstone Observer, UN Millennium Project
Photo: Men’s Fitness